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Past Speakers

2023: Erin Brockovich

Ever since Julia Roberts portrayed her in the Oscar-winning Hollywood movie of the same name, Erin Brockovich has been a byword for grit, determination, and dogged persistence. The film turned an unknown legal researcher into a 20th century icon by showcasing her role behind the largest medical settlement lawsuit in history. Brockovich’s exhaustive investigation uncovered that Pacific Gas & Electric had been poisoning the town of Hinkley, California's water for more than 30 years. The resulting 1996 tort injury settlement was the largest of its kind: $333 million in damages to more than 600 residents.

Brockovich realized she could use her recognition to spread positive messages of empowerment. Her subsequent success as a “New York Times” bestselling author, inspirational speaker, and activist has encouraged countless others to stand up and make a difference in the world.

2019: Michael McFau

Former U.S. Ambassador and bestselling author Michael McFaul will speak at Miami Regionals’ Alex and Lena Casper Memorial Lecture on “Russian Intervention in the 2016 Election: Separating Fact From Fiction.”

From January 2012 to February 2014, McFaul served as Ambassador of the United States of America to the Russian Federation. Prior to his position as Ambassador, he served for three years as the special assistant to the president and senior director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs at the National Security Council. McFaul is a professor of political science and director and senior fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies (FSI).

McFaul is an author and editor of multiple monographs including, most recently, From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia (2018), a best-selling inside account of U.S.-Russia relations from 1989 to the present.

2017: JD Vance

His lecture, “From Middletown to the Bestseller List: The Reality of the American Dream,” will be followed by a book signing, with books available for sale.

Vance grew up in Middletown, Ohio, and Jackson, Kentucky. After high school, he enlisted in the Marines and served in Iraq. He then graduated from Ohio State University and Yale Law School. Currently, he works as a principal at a leading Silicon Valley investment firm and lives in San Francisco. His writing has been featured in the National Review and The New York Times, and he has appeared on Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, and CNBC.  

In his book, he offers a personal account of growing up in a poor Rust Belt town with a broader, probing look at the struggles of America’s working class. The Vance family story begins hopefully in postwar America. Vance’s grandparents were “dirt poor and in love” and moved north from Kentucky’s Appalachia region to Ohio in the hopes of escaping the poverty around them. They raised a middle-class family, and eventually their grandchild (J.D.) graduated from Yale Law School, a conventional marker of their success in achieving generational upward mobility.

2016: Nadine Strossen

Nadine Strossen, former president of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), named twice by the National Law Journal as one of “The 100 Most Influential Lawyers in America,” is the current John Marshall Harlan Professor of Law at New York University Law School. Abortion, free speech, Black Lives Matter, NSA surveillance, police abuse and voting rights are just some of the topics she will address. The lecture will be relevant to many social and cultural difficulties facing our country.

Strossen has written, lectured and practiced extensively in the areas of constitutional law, civil liberties and international human rights. From 1991 to 2008 she served as president of the ACLU, the first woman to head the nation’s largest and oldest civil liberties organization.

Working Woman Magazine listed her among the “350 Women Who Changed the World 1976–1996.” In 1997, Upside Magazine included her in the “Elite 100: 100 Executives Leading the Digital Revolution.”

She was listed in Vanity Fair’s “America’s 200 Most Influential Women” in 1998 and Ladies’ Home Journal’s “America’s 100 Most Important Women” in 1999.

2015: Michael Chertoff

As the second secretary of Homeland Security, Chertoff worked to strengthen American borders, provided intelligence analysis and infrastructure protection and increased the department’s focus on preparedness ahead of disasters. He also implemented enhanced security at airports and borders and spearheaded a national cyber security strategy. Following Hurricane Katrina, he worked to transform FEMA into a more effective organization.

Chertoff also served as a federal judge from 2003 to 2005 on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit. Prior to his term as a federal judge, he was the assistant attorney general for the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice, where he oversaw the investigation of the 9/11 terrorist attacks and formed the Enron Task Force. Chertoff is now the executive chairman and co-founder of The Chertoff Group, a global advisory firm focused exclusively on the security and risk management sector.

2014: Steven Chu

Steven Chu, former U.S. Secretary of Energy and Nobel Peace prize-winning physicist, will present "The Innovation Imperative: How Leadership and Culture Foster Innovation" for the annual Casper Memorial Lecture.

Chu recently returned to Stanford University as the William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Physics and professor of molecular and cellular physiology in the medical school. From January 2009 until April 2013, he served as the 12th U.S. Secretary of Energy. Prior to his post, he was the director of Lawrence Berkeley National Lab, professor of physics and of molecular and cell biology, University of California Berkeley and professor of physics and applied physics at Stanford University.Previous to those posts, he was with AT&T Bell Laboratories.

During Chu’s time in the Obama cabinet, the Department of Energy (DOE) had an annual budget of approximately $26 billion and was entrusted an additional $36 billion through the Recovery Act. Under his leadership, DOE began ARPA-E, advancing high-potential, high-impact energy technologies that are too early for private-sector investment.


2013 | Dr. M. Joycelyn Elders, educator and US Surgeon General (former) | Event Photos

2012 | Ralph Nader, five-time candidate for President of the United State | Event Photos

2011 | David D. Cole, B.A., J.D., Yale, John Carroll Research Professor of Law, Georgetown | Event Photos

2010 | Dr. David A. Kessler, author, educator and Commissioner of the FDA (former) | Event Photos

2009 | Gary Hirshberg, President & Ce-Yo of Stonyfield Farm, Chair of Climate Counts | Event Photos

2008 | Richard Haass, President of the Council on Foreign Relations | Event Photos

2007 | Norman J. Ornstein, resident Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research

2003 | Richard Rodriguez, author and PBS commentator

2001 | Scott Carpenter, NASA Mercury astronaut and aquanaut

2000 | Phillip R. Shriver, President emeritus of Miami University

1999 | Benno Schmidt, President of Edison Project

1998 | Beverly Sills, New York City Opera (retired), Board of Lincoln Center (NYC)

1997 | Jonathan Kozol, author and educator

1996 | Clarence Page, Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, television commentator, graduate of Middletown High School

1995 | Robert Novak, columnist and television commentator

1994 | Sarah Brady, gun control advocate

1993 | Dr. Benjamin Hooks, retired executive director of the NAACP

1992 | Dr. Oscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize recipient and former president of Costa Rica

1991 | Daniel Schorr, journalist and NPR commentator

1990 | Edmund Muskie, Governor of Maine, Senator from Maine, US Secretary of State, Presidential candidate

1989 | Archibald Cox, Watergate prosecutor, President of Common Cause

1987 | Mortimer Adler, author, philosopher, Encyclopedia Brittanica editor

1986 | Elliot Richardson, Ambassador to the Court of St. James, US Attorney General, Secretary of Defense, Secretary of Commerce

1985 | Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., presidential advisor and Pulitzer Prize winning historian

1984 | Senator William Proxmire, US Senator

1983 | Dr. Leon Martel, Futurist

1982 | Dr. Linus Pauling, recipient of two Nobel Prizes, Chemistry and Peace

1981 | Juanita Kreps, Secretary of Commerce (Carter administration)

1980 | General William Westmoreland, US Army (retired)

1979 | Sir Harold Wilson, Prime Minister of Great Britain

1978 | Justice Arthur Goldberg, Secretary of Labor, US Supreme Court Justice, Ambassador to the United Nations

1977 | William B. Saxbe, Ohio Attorney General, US Ambassador to India

1976 | George M. Hook, retired president of Armco Steel

1975 | James J. Kilpatrick, columnist and commentator

1974 | Sander Vanocur, journalist

1973 | Justice William O. Douglas, US Supreme Court Justice

Office of Public Programming

Matthew Smith
Regional Director Public Programming