Previous Distinguished Speakers

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Lesley Stahl

Emmy Award-Winning Journalist, 60 Minutes CBS Correspondent, Best Selling Author

Renowned journalist Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes wowed the crowd at the Arizona Biltmore on April 26, 2017 at the O'Connor Institute Distinguished Speakers Series luncheon. In collaboration with WINGS Women’s Board of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Foundation, Stahl captivated the audience with her investigative journalist approach to being a grandparent.

After four decades as a reporter, she noted that her most transformative experience was surprisingly not covering the White House or interviewing Heads of State, it was becoming a grandmother.  She spoke of her Bestseller, Becoming Grandma: The Joys and Science of the New Grandparenting and shared insightful stories from interviewing scientists, doctors and anthropologists about the therapeutic effects of grandchildren.

Offering poignant accounts of her own experiences, she spoke of her husband Aaron and the remarkable benefits he experienced.  Following her remarks, Stahl was joined on stage for Q&A with the founding Dean of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at ASU, Christopher Callahan who discussed her book and illustrious career.

To view photos from the event, please click here.

To view video of the event, please click here.

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Justice and Kasparov

Garry Kasparov

World Chess Legend, Russian Pro-Democracy Leader and Chairman of Human Rights International

World Chess legend and Global Human Rights champion Garry Kasparov enlightened attendees at the April 10, 2017 O'Connor Institute Distinguished Speakers Series luncheon.  He came to international fame at the age of 22 as the youngest world chess champion in history in 1985.

Kasparov’s was one of the first prominent Soviets to call for democratic and market reforms and was an early supporter of Boris Yeltsin’s push to break up the Soviet Union. Kasparov has been a contributing editor to The Wall Street Journal since 1991 and is a regular commentator on politics and human rights. He speaks frequently to business and political audiences around the world on technology, strategy, politics, and achieving peak mental performance.

He is a Senior Visiting Fellow at the Oxford-Martin School with a focus on human-machine collaboration. Kasparov’s observations on American democracy was an inspiration to all.  Following his remarks, he was joined on stage for conversation and Q&A moderated by McCain Institute Executive Director, Ambassador Kurt Volker.

To view photos from the event, please click here.

To view video of the event, please click here.

 

F.W. de Klerk

Nobel Peace Prize Recipient, Former President of South Africa

President F.W. de Klerk, who shared the Nobel Peace Prize with Nelson Mandela, delivered an inspiring speech September 26, 2016 at the O'Connor Institute Distinguished Speakers Series.

U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, who served a mission for the LDS Church in South Africa during the Apartheid era, introduced President De Klerk and greeted him in Afrikaans, the native language of South Africa. The sold out audience heard President F.W. de Klerk reflect on developing leadership across the world.

Following his remarks, Senator Flake and President De Klerk participated in an enlightening Q&A session with questions from the audience. The O'Connor Institute thanks Ambassador Barbara Barrett, together with collaborative partners Arizona State University, Thunderbird School of Global Management and Claremont Lincoln University for their support with this remarkable event.

Click on the image to the lower left to view program and remarks.

Click here for event details and sponsors.

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Donald Kurangwa, a top student selected to represent the Thunderbird School of Global Management at the luncheon wrote to the O'Connor Institute following the event:

“His speech touched on some of the most critical issues on the Leadership challenges in developing nations which are hindering progress in these countries. It was also inspiring to note that among his generation there are some leaders who are taking the initiative to try and drive change in governance in developing nations particularly Africa. It was also very touching to hear his views and comments on my country's (Zimbabwe) leadership challenges of which I share the same sentiments.”

Thank you,
Donald Kurangwa 

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His Excellency Cui Tiankai

Ambassador to the United States People’s Republic of China

The O'Connor Institute, McCain Institute and PCFR were please to host Ambassador Tiakai.

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Chris Matthews

Author and host of MSNBC's Hardball

Chris Matthews, author and host of MSNBC's Hardball spoke Monday, March 21, 2016 at the O'Connor Institute Distinguished Speakers Series luncheon on the topic of his bestselling book, TIP AND THE GIPPER: When Politics Worked. Mr. Matthews, former Chief of Staff for former House Speaker
Tip O'Neill, fascinated the audience with remarkable "behind the scenes" stories from the Reagan era.

Humorous and poignant anecdotes were followed by an insightful Q&A session with O'Connor Institute Board Chairman Peter M. Hayes, who ironically was a Senior Advisor to House Minority Leader John J. Rhodes during the same period, and who worked with Mr. Matthews on Capitol Hill. Captivated guests at the Camelback Golf Club were happy to receive a copy of the book to take home.

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Dr. Richard Kurin

Smithsonian Provost

Friday, November 20, 2015, the O'Connor Institute welcomed Smithsonian Institution Provost Dr. Ricahrd Kurin. A sold out audience at the Montelucia Resort was captivated by Dr. Kurin's presentation. Dr. Kurin began his career at the Smithsonian in 1976 and shared his remarkable wealth of information including over 100 images of curated items. Guests were educated and delighted as Dr. Kurin certainly embodies the mission of the Smithsonian, "the increase and diffusion of knowledge" and the O'Connor Institute was honored to welcome him to Arizona.

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Duncan McNabb

Four-Star General

Thursday, February 5, 2015, the O'Connor Institute welcomed General Duncan McNabb. The luncheon and program at the Arizona Biltmore covered a variety of global topics. From global security threats and crises to international disaster relief, General McNabb has commanded the military supply chain into the most difficult regions of Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan during Operation Desert Storm and Operation Desert Shield as well as United States humanitarian efforts for the catastrophic 2010 Haiti earthquake and 2011 tsunami in Japan. Gen. Duncan J. McNabb served with distinction as Commander, USTRANSCOM, and the single manager for global air, land and sea transportation for the Department of Defense.

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Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga

Former President of Latvia

On October 14, 2014, the former President of Latvia, Dr. Vaira Vike-Freiberga, delivered a stirring address at our Distinguished Speakers Series Luncheon, held at the Arizona Biltmore. During her U.S. visit, she most recently spoke at Harvard and Stanford universities before coming to Phoenix.

She was introduced by Ambassador Barbara Barrett, who noted her remarkable biography. Born in Riga, the Latvian capital, in December 1937, Europe was immersed in the conflict of World War II, with Latvia finding itself occupied by the Soviet Union, then by Nazi Germany, then again by the USSR. President Freiberga lived her childhood in the difficult conditions of German refugee camps. Later moving to Canada, she became a distinguished academician, followed by a meteoric rise to leadership for her native Baltic nation, Latvia.

She played a key role in Latvia’s NATO membership and its ascension to the European Union. During her presidency, Dr. Vike-Freiberga was a Member of the Council of Women World Leaders and was a Special Envoy to the Secretary General on United Nations reform, as well as an official candidate for UN Secretary General in 2006. President Freiberga is the current president of Club de Madrid, which includes nearly 100 former heads of state, presidents and prime ministers.
President Freiberga provided keen insight into world affairs and a deep knowledge on Russia and the Ukraine.

Following her address, Ambassador Kurt Volker of the McCain Institute moderated the Q&A session which was well received by the inspired audience. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor provided closing remarks, expressing appreciation to everyone in attendance.

O’Connor House thanks its luncheon sponsors Jerry Hirsch and the Lodestar Foundation, Ambassador Barbara Barrett and Dr. Craig Barrett, Francis Najafi, Joe Anderson, the Arizona Community Foundation and Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations for their support.

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Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Alan Simpson

U.S. Senate legends

A civil yet lively dialogue ruled the day as the two U.S. Senate legends, Senator Sam Nunn and Senator Alan Simpson participated in a candid conversation with National Governors Association Executive Director and former Congressional Budget Director Dan Crippen. "Working Across the Aisle: Creating A Functioning Democracy" was the theme for thier conversation, which took place Wednesday, April 30, 2014 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown. They shared insight, personal experiences, triumphs and frustrations as their wit and wisdom brought many rounds of applause and a standing ovation. The event was a collaboration with The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

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Admiral James Stavridis

Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and U.S. Naval Institute Chairman of the Board

Four-Star Admiral (Ret.), Dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and U.S. Naval Institute Chairman of the Board James Stavridis shared an informative and comprehensive global perspective on security, including cyber security. The luncheon and program featuring the former NATO Supreme Allied Commander, took place Thursday, February 27, 2014 at the Arizona Biltmore.

McCain Institute Executive Director, Ambassador Kurt Volker came to Phoenix from Washington, D.C. to serve as moderator for a robust Question & Answer session following Admiral Stavridis’ remarks. He was joined on the stage by Justice Sandra Day O’Connor who shared opinions on the various topics discussed. The event was a collaboration by the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, The McCain Institute and the Pakis Family Foundation.

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David Gergen

Harvard Kennedy School, Professor of Public Service and CNN Senior Political Analyst

Harvard Kennedy School, Professor of Public Service and CNN Senior Political Analyst David Gergen kicked off the 2014 Distinguished Speakers Series on Monday, Janaury 27, 2014 at the Sheraton Phoenix Downtown. Mr. Gergen shared personal stories with the crowd, including his first unexpected meeting with Justice O'Connor in Washington, D.C. Justice O'Connor joined Mr. Gergen on stage for a friendly Question and Answer session following his remarks. The event was in collaboration with the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership and Flinn Foundation.

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Colin Powell

Retired Four-Star General and Former Secretary of State

Retired Four-Star General and Former Secretary of State, Colin Powell spoke on "Leadership: Taking Charge" on April 23, 2013 at the Phoenix Convention Center to a sold-out crowd of 1,200. General Powell was personally invited by Justice O'Connor to participate in our Distinguished Speakers Series in collaboration with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce.

General Powell inspired everyone in attendance. His remarks on topics of leadership, civil discourse and the mission of O'Connor House had enormous impact on everyone present. Listen to General Powell and Justice O'Connor's interview on KJZZ.

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David Ignatius

Foreign Affairs Columnist and Associate Editor for The Washington Post

David Ignatius, Foreign Affairs Columnist and Associate Editor for The Washington Post, participated in our Distinguished Speakers Series on February 26, 2013 at the Camelback Inn. In collaboration with the Phoenix Committee on Foreign Relations, Mr. Ignatius spoke on foreign policy and participated in an on-stage conversation with Justice O'Connor.

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Mikhail Gorbachev

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev

Former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev spoke on global leadership on April 28, 2012 at the Arizona Biltmore to an audience of approximately 1,000.  Opening remarks were provided by US Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, Chairman and CEO of the Center of the Future of Arizona Lattie Coor, and Ambassador Barbara Barrett, who also was the primary force behind getting our speakers.  The event was in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU), The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, Thunderbird School of International Management, and KAET-TV.

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David McCullough

Pulitzer Prize Winner

David McCullough, who has been writing novels since the 1960s, won the Pulitzer Prize for his biographies, Truman, in 1993 and John Adams, in 2002.  McCullough served as keynote speaker during a luncheon titled “History as a Source of Strength” on March 7, 2012 at the Sheraton Phoenix to a sell-out crowd of 600.  After the lecture, Hugh Downs moderated a discussion between Justice O’Connor and David McCullough. The event was in collaboration with Arizona State University (ASU), The Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, and KAET-TV.  To view a clip of the lecture, click here. (we are working to get this video for our own Vimeo channel)

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Condoleezza Rice

66th United States Secretary of State

Condoleezza Rice, 66th United States Secretary of State, participated in our inagural Distinguished Speakers Series, March 3, 2011 at the Arizona Historical Society Museum at Papago Park.

Secretary Rice spoke on foreign policy, global issues and national security. Justice Sandra Day O'Connor and Secretary Rice discussed a number of current issues.

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