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

Public Programs

Tom Burack ’82 Delivers Perkins Bass Distinguished Lecture

Environmental attorney, 2019 Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor and former Commissioner of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Tom Burack ’82 arrived at the Rockefeller Center on Oct. 23, 2019 to deliver a talk, “Courageous Government: The Audacity of Collaborative Leadership,” about the importance of collaborative leadership in devising and implementing public policy. “It is only by working together, by collaborating in our efforts to find solutions, that we will find durable and lasting solutions that really allow us to address the big challenges that face us today,” Burack said.

During his time as the Perkins Bass Distinguished Visitor, in addition to speaking to the Rockefeller Center, Burack has visited public policy classes, participated in a panel at the Arthur L. Irving Institute for Energy and Society, and even performed Daniel Webster’s acclaimed peroration in a reenactment of the famous Supreme Court case Dartmouth College v. Woodward

Mariame Kaba Advocates for Transformation of the Criminal Justice System

On Tuesday, October 8, 2019, community organizer, educator, and prison abolitionist Mariame Kaba spoke in Filene Auditorium. Her talk, “Free Them All: Defending the Lives of Criminalized Survivors of Violence,” emphasized what she considers the tragic flaws in the United States criminal justice system by highlighting how its laws and legal systems structurally disadvantage some groups based on gender and race. 

Kaba grew up in New York City in the 1970s and 80s in what she called a “political family.” Her father was active in anticolonialism in Guinea and “was always talking about politics in some sort of way.” While still in high school, she began working in anti-police brutality work, and in college became active in the anti-apartheid movement at McGill University. “I’ve been working on the issues that I’ve cared about since I was a teenager to this day,” she said. 

Rather than focusing on broad negative trends in the criminal justice system, Kaba opted to drive home her point by focusing on the story of how the criminal justice system impacted one girl, Bresha Meadows. 

Bringing the World to Dartmouth

Each year, the Rockefeller Center hosts a robust agenda of public programs to complement students’ learning. These programs offer a close look at public policy and policymaking through the lens of public officials, distinguished scholars, political figures, journalists and other civically engaged leaders and activists. Invited guests serve as an important part of the educational experience for students by often taking the time to visit classes while on campus. During these interactions, they expose students to career experiences, sharing insights and perspectives from their fields.

“The public programs build on the material I learn in my classes, and provide enriching examples of the real-life implications of theoretical studies. I have been surprised by the level of access I have had to famous writers, prominent activists and policymakers, who sit down with us over lunch or dinner and share their experiences and expert knowledge,” says Olivia Bewley ’19.

Ambassador Tim Roemer and Congressman Zach Wamp Speak on Divided Government

On Wednesday September 25, 2019, former Ambassador Tim Roemer and former Congressman Zach Wamp spoke at the Rockefeller Center about the nature of partisan politics in the United States and presented solutions to this political dysfunction. Ambassador Roemer and Congressman Wamp are co-chairs of Issue One’s ReFormers Caucus, a bipartisan coalition arguing for cooperative and pragmatic solutions to the structural problems plaguing our political system. They enjoy the support of more than 200 current and former members of Congress and serve as an inspiration for the bipartisan Congressional Reformers Caucus in the House of Representatives. 

The lecture began with both Roemer and Wamp expressing alarm at the country’s current trajectory, with Roemer warning of an American democracy afflicted by discord at home and under assault by foreign powers and the rise of authoritarianism abroad. Wamp bemoaned that the U.S. had devolved into a “tribal environment” and that “confidence in our institutions is on the decline.” Congress is “institutionally corrupt,” he declared. 

Arthur Brooks Reflects on Capitalism in September Lecture at the Rockefeller Center

On Monday, September 23rd, 2019, former President of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Arthur Brooks, spoke at the Nelson A. Rockefeller Center, delivering a lecture on the nature of capitalism, specifically on whether it is a force for good or a system that encourages materialism and greed. 

Brooks approached this question in two parts, focusing first on the good that capitalism has wrought for the world’s poor. Brooks praises capitalism for being the “most effective” means to alleviate extreme poverty throughout the world, pointing to large increases in American income and the reduction of starvation-level poverty by 80% in his lifetime. 

Constitution Day Program with Boston College Professor Ken Kersch

This Constitution Day, September 17, 2019, Boston College Professor of Political Science Ken I. Kersch delivered the Brooks Family Lecture entitled, “Conservatives and the Constitution.” In addition to the lecture, Professor Kersch had lunch with a group of students.

The lecture focused on a subject explored in his most recent book, Conservatives and the Constitution: Imagining Constitutional Restoration in the Heyday of American Liberalism. The book focuses on the role “originalist” legal theory played in the coalescing of the modern conservative movement and on implications this history carries for modern-day politics. “It is a story about how the conservative movement ultimately becomes a key constituent of the Republican party and ultimately takes over the Republican party.”

Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar ’88 Visits Campus

On Friday, May 3, 2019, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar ’88 spoke at a fireside chat moderated by Professor Charles Wheelan ’88. The event, fittingly entitled “A Fireside Chat with Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar,” was targeted mainly at students. The following morning on Saturday, May 4, Secretary Azar attended a student breakfast, at which he spoke with a group of approximately 30 graduate and undergraduate students. At both events, he largely focused on his career path, his priorities as HHS Secretary, and his advice for students. 

Students at the breakfast represented a wide variety of interests and backgrounds, from healthcare management to practicing medicine to policymaking. This range was reflected in the diversity of their questions, which concerned policy issues like HIV prevention, climate change and epidemic control, the opioid epidemic, e-cigarettes, and outcome-based healthcare, as well as requests for career advice. 

Though he is “cautious of career advice people give about their own paths,” Secretary Azar advised students to view each step in their career path as an opportunity to develop their “personal brand.”

Ukrainian Journalist Sevgil Musaieva Discusses Restoring Trust in Media

On Wednesday, May 22, 2019, Ukrainian journalist, Nieman Fellow, and editor-in-chief of Ukraininan online newspaper Ukrayinska Pravda Sevgil Musaieva gave a talk at the Rockefeller Center titled “Truth is Our Math: How to Restore Trust in Media When the Society is Polarized.” In her lecture and an interview with the Rockefeller Center, Musaieva defended the freedom of the press, shared emotional anecdotes about her career as a journalist in a post-communist country, and discussed her experiences with the evolving nature of truth. 

She tied the history of the USSR to her reporting, noting that the people of her nation, the Crimean Tatars, were deported to Uzbekistan during World War II and only allowed to return to Crimea during the collapse of the Soviet Union. 

“The Tatars were not mentioned in Soviet history books or in Soviet newspapers,” Musaieva said. The fall of the Eastern bloc brought new openness in the media that shed light on the Tatar plight, yet just a few years later, due to the efforts of oligarchs, “the Ukrainian media market was under the control of the authorities and friendly businessmen.”  

History Professor Annelise Orleck and Photographer Liz Cooke Discuss Photography and History

On Monday, April 15, 2019, History Professor Annelise Orleck and photographer Liz Cooke gave a talk titled “Photography and History: A Conversation” at the Rockefeller Center, discussing their collaboration on a recently published book, We Are All Fast Food Workers Now: The Global Uprising Against Poverty Wages. The book and its accompanying photography “try to document the new global economy,” according to Orleck. 

Throughout the talk, the two cycled through a variety of photos of “those fighting for a living wage.” Professor Orleck described what she called a shift in perceptions since the 1980s: while companies used to care about their workers and communities, she asserted, now, their “highest priority” is their shareholders. She dates the beginning of the “fight for a living wage’ to 2012, which sparked her interest in this book. 

One image depicted McDonalds workers and “Fight for $15” activist Bleu Rainer showing scars on his arm to the camera. Orleck and Cooke said these scars are present for anyone who had worked at McDonalds and used a fry vat, something that unites otherwise diverse and disparate workers across cultures. 

Prof. Lee Epstein, Washington University in St. Louis, delivers Timbers Lecture

On Thursday, April 11, 2019, The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences hosted a public lecture with Ethan A. H. Shepley Distinguished University Professor Lee Epstein, who is a faculty member at the Washington University in St. Louis Center for Empirical Research in the Law. The Wiliam H. Timbers ’37 Lecture, entitled “The Evolving U.S. Supreme Court,” was co-sponsored by the Dartmouth Lawyers Association and the Dartmouth Legal Studies Faculty Group. 

Prof. Epstein largely focused on how the Kavanaugh nomination will affect the ideological balance of, and decisions made by, the Supreme Court. In forming predictions, she drew on her analyses of ideological trends within the Court, as well as evaluations of the idiosyncrasies of individual Justices.


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