The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Public Program

American Capitalism after the Volcker Shock of 1980

On Tuesday, February 5, 2019, University of Chicago history professor and economic historian Jonathan Levy spoke at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center. His talk, titled “Instability and Inequality: American Capitalism after the Volcker Shock of 1980,” touched on the importance of the United States Federal Reserve in global economic policymaking, the links between inequality and the Great Recession, and the roots of contemporary economic transformations.

Levy said that in his field, economic history, “the action is back in history departments” after a temporary migration to economics departments in the 1970s and 1980s. “Especially since 2008 and the Great Recession, historians have become more interested in economic questions than they were in the past.”

Brooks Family Lecture: Bringing America Together

On Jan. 29, Arthur Brooks, president of the American Enterprise Institute, delivered the Brooks Family Lecture for the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences. His talk was titled “Bringing America Together.” Brooks has served as the president of the think tank since January 1, 2009. Before joining AEI, Dr. Brooks was the Louis A. Bantle Professor of Business and Government in the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University, where he taught economics and social entrepreneurship. Prior to his work in academia and public policy, he spent 12 years as a classical musician in the United States and Spain. Additionally, Brooks is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times and the bestselling author of 11 books on topics including the role of government, fairness, economic opportunity, happiness, and the morality of free enterprise.   

Deeds Not Words: Taking Action to Make Change

On Friday, January 25, 2019, Wendy Davis spoke with students in an afternoon session “Deeds Not Words: Taking Action to Make Change.” Wendy Davis is the founding director of Deeds Not Words, a non-profit that seeks to empower and activate the voices of young women in public and political discourse. She is a former Texas State Senator, 2014 Texas Democratic Gubernatorial nominee, frequent public speaker and author. Davis gained national prominence in 2013 when she strapped on a pair of pink sneakers and held a 13-hour filibuster to protect women’s reproductive freedoms in Texas. Her fight ultimately led to a successful and landmark decision in the U.S. Supreme Court, strengthening the landscape for abortion rights throughout the country.

Public Program: Youth, Design, and Juvenile Justice Reform

On Tuesday, January 22, 2019, human-centered designer and community organizer Chris Rudd spoke at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, delivering a lecture and presentation on the intersection between design and juvenile justice reform. The founder of ChiByDesign, a Chicago-based human-centered design firm, Rudd said he aims to see and shape a better world. 

Rudd’s interest in social justice began with his parents’ activism. “I grew up going to picket lines and strikes,” he said. “The Midwest is a big union place, so that was always a big cause in my family.” He added that he took on his own causes as a teenager, especially at his school. “Having to fight for better education, fight for better access, [and] organizing with [his] classmates” shaped his youth.

His work in juvenile justice began at the Mikva Challenge, where he headed a juvenile justice council made up of local students that was focused on reforming the system in Cook County. The problems, Rudd said, are “mostly centered around racism.”

A Conversation with Veterans Jason Hartwig ’06 and Brad Wolcott ’06

In honor of Veteran’s Day, the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center hosted a talk entitled “Imprints and Consequences of War: Personal Reflections of Dartmouth Alumni Veterans,” featuring Jason Hartwig ’06 and Brad Wolcott ’06. Both men were involved with ROTC during their time at Dartmouth, and both men went on to serve in the Armor Branch in the U.S. Army. The Armor Branch is an active combat branch with reconnaissance, surveillance, and infantry units. Armor soldiers are responsible for operating machinery, like tanks and helicopters, in combat and in intelligence-gathering activities.

Their paths do not represent the path of the average Dartmouth alumnus, nor do they represent the path of the average veteran. They were two in a handful of students involved with ROTC between 2002 and 2006, an experience Wolcott refers to as “idyllic.” Though most college-level ROTC programs focus on more technical aspects of army life, like marching and discipline, “we spent our entire time in the woods learning tactics, learning leadership, learning how to deploy soldiers in the field,” he says.

The Roger S. Aaron '64 Lecture by Rebecca E. Zietlow

Professor of Law and Values at the University of Toledo College of Law, Rebecca Zietlow, spoke at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center during the fall term, delivering the Roger S. Aaron ’64 Lecture. She invoked values and constitutional inspiration, discussing the antislavery movement, reconstruction and individual rights.

Looking back on her career, she said her interest began after she started looking into cases on Congress’s power to enforce the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Amendments, issues of freedom, sovereign immunity, equality and citizenship rights.

“I’m really writing about Congress and about politics,” Zietlow said. “The court – especially these days – seems more and more political. It always has been somewhat political, but the politics of the court are behind closed doors, in the confirmation process, in conference. It is coded in the ways they use doctrine. But when it happens on the streets, everyone is very open about it and people are debating some of the most fundamental values of our society.”

Character in Politics with Ramesh Ponnuru, Visiting Fellow, AEI

On Wednesday, October 3rd, Ramesh Ponnuru, a senior editor at the National Review and visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, reflected on the influence of character in politics to a packed audience at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy.

“I’m going to remember to turn off my phone in case the President texts me again,” he mused before launching into speech on the importance of a politician’s integrity, as well as their character flaws. “To what extent does the character of a public servant matter?” he asked the audience.

Mr. Ponnuru reflected that he has watched the two parties flip their position on politicians’ character. Over the past few years, conservatives have seemed to find a new sense of realism when assessing public servants. While on the left, “there is a new and real sensitivity to character flaws” notably since the #MeToo movement.

A Conversation with Sheila Bair and Peter Fisher

On October 9th, the Rockefeller Center hosted a conversation between Sheila Bair — former chair of the United States Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) — and Peter Fisher – Tuck School of Business professor and former Under Secretary of the United States Treasury for Domestic Finance. Ms. Bair’s tenure as chair of the FDIC overlapped with the Great Recession of 2008. Her conversation with Professor Fisher touched on indicators of economic growth and decline, structural economic changes that may have set the stage for the 2008 meltdown, and mistakes made in the aftermath.

In an interview prior to the event, Ms. Bair described her career trajectory and shared advice for students. As an undergraduate, Ms. Bair majored in philosophy, and upon graduation, she worked as a bank teller. She went on to law school, a teaching fellowship at the University of Arkansas, and then the General Counsel’s office at the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare (HEW).

R. Shep Melnick on Why Title IX Has Become So Controversial

R. Shep Melnick, the Thomas P. O’Neill, Jr. Professor of American Politics at Boston College, delivered a public lecture titled “Why Has Title IX Become So Controversial?” at the Rockefeller Center this past spring. During his talk, he focused on the purpose of federal regulation in removing institutional barriers to educational opportunity as well as the shifting focus on equality and gender roles, closely addressing issues of gender, sexuality, stereotyping and federal policy.

R. Shep Melnick began studying Title IX, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in any federally funded education program or activity, for a single chapter in his book on the growing “Civil Rights State” in the United States about nondiscrimination rules encompassing race, sex, disability, age and national origin. The regulatory apparatus operates differently than other programs to establish and enforce nondiscrimination laws, especially concerning the ways in which rules are made and the courts are involved. What he found, however, opened the gateway for a deeper study on the intersection of law, sex, gender politics, and public policy.

A Constitution Day Conversation with Senator Kelly Ayotte

In honor of Constitution Day, the Nelson Rockefeller Center hosted a conversation — touching on federalism and polarization in politics — between former Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH) and research assistant professor Dr. Herschel Nachlis. Senator Ayotte is this year’s Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor, an honor bestowed annually on a New Hampshire citizen who has made or is making an outstanding contribution in the field of government.

During her opening remarks, Ayotte paid homage to her friend and mentor the late Senator John McCain. She lamented the fact that American politics today is “not just in a place where we disagree with people, we have to insult them too,” urging the audience to follow McCain’s example and treat with respect those with whom they disagree. Compromise is both necessary and commendable, she said. Without either, the Constitution would have been impossible; the founders did not agree on everything.

The value of cooperation in politics is something that she grew to appreciate as she transitioned from serving as Attorney General for New Hampshire to representing the state in the United States Senate.

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