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Pepperdine | School of Public Policy

The Quest for Community: Realizing the American Project

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Event Details

Friday, November 4–Saturday, November 5

Villa Graziadio Executive Center 
Pepperdine University
Malibu, CA

For more information about this event, please email sppevents@pepperdine.edu, or call 310.506.7490.

A conference originally planned for two years ago, the COVID pandemic has only highlighted the central importance of local governing agencies and community-based institutions to the flourishing of the nation as a whole. The success or failure of responses to policy issues ranging from education and public safety to homelessness and public health was often not due to federal action but in the strength (or weakness) of local faith-based institutions and effective local governments.

Of course, America's founders along with its observers from Tocqueville to Robert Nisbet understood the importance of this "communitarian" approach to politics and policy—one that requires a constitutionally limited and ordered government and an informed and engaged citizenry.

Hosted by the American Project, this "Quest for Community" conference welcomes leading thinkers and policymakers to our Malibu campus to discuss and debate the future of this uniquely American perspective on politics in a time of national polarization.


  Sylvia Bennett-Stone

Sylvia Bennett-Stone
Voices of Black Mothers United

Sylvia Bennett-Stone serves as the Woodson Center’s director of the Voices of Black Mothers United (VBMU) initiative. After losing her daughter to senseless violence in 2004, Bennett-Stone began her life-long commitment to helping uplift the lives of others by founding the Innovative Approach Foundation and chronicling her own healing journey in her book Mindfields: A Healing Journey to Survive the Murder of a Child. It is from these committed efforts to serve the community that she started Voices of Black Mothers United. With Bennett-Stone at the helm as director, the VBMU initiative has grown to service thousands of mothers who have lost children and are implementing solutions to address community violence.

  Frances Hart Broghammer

Frances Hart Broghammer
Clinical Director of Inpatient Mental Health
Minnesota Department of Human Services

Francie Broghammer is a board-certified psychiatrist and a clinical director of Inpatient Mental Health for the State of Minnesota. She completed her residency training at the University of California, Irvine, including a two-year tenure as Chief Resident. Her academic and clinical interests lie in medical ethics, education, and human flourishing. She is a former Leonine Fellow, an American Psychiatric Association Leadership Fellow, and a board member for Pepperdine University’s American Project. Broghammer played Division I Women’s Lacrosse at the University of Notre Dame, and graduated magna cum laude with a degree in science pre-professional studies and Portuguese Language and Brazilian studies. She attended the University of California, Irvine for medical school and was elected to the Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society. 

  Bryan Crain

Bryan Crain
Chief Operating Officer
Orange County Rescue Mission

Bryan Crain’s passion for serving the homeless began when he started volunteering with a small ministry that served a hot chili dinner, once per week, to the homeless community in downtown Santa Ana. Over time, that ministry grew into the Orange County Rescue Mission’s Chili Van, which now serves hundreds of people each month in multiple locations. In 2015, Crain was hired as the chief operating officer, managing operations and student residential programs at all Orange County Rescue Mission sites and properties. His operational oversight includes financial analysis, business planning, risk mitigation strategies, and technology solutions. 

  Kevin Faulconer

Kevin Faulconer
Former Mayor 
San Diego

Kevin Faulconer is the visiting professor for community leadership and government innovation for 2021 at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. He comes to this position after serving as mayor of San Diego for two terms. Under his leadership, the city became known for taking creative, cross-sector approaches to a variety of public policy challenges. Recognized nationally for its use of technology to simplify government processes, the city has earned awards ranging from its naming as a top "Digital City" by the Center for Digital Government to its top ranking as the American City most "Equip to Innovate" by Governing Institute to its "Silver Certification" as one of nation's few "What Works Cities" in the category of data transparency.

  Michael P. Federici 

Dr. Michael P. Federici 
Professor of Political Science
Middle Tennessee State University

Michael P. Federici is a professor of political science at MTSU and former chair of the department of political science and international relations. He served on the faculty at Mercyhurst University from 1993-2017 (seven years as department chair and four as Faculty Senate President). He received his PhD (1990) and MA (1985) in Politics from The Catholic University of American in Washington, DC, and his BS in Economics from Elizabethtown College (1983). Dr. Federici has published six books including, The Challenge of Populism (1991), Eric Voegelin: The Restoration of Order (2002), The Political Philosophy of Alexander Hamilton (2012), and The Catholic Writings of Orestes Brownson (2019).
Federici has taught American Government for the Junior Statesmen Foundation at Yale and Georgetown Universities. In 1993 he won the Joseph Friedl Award at Concord College given to the professor who “Exemplifies the true essence of the college professor” and the “Distinguished Teaching Award” at Mercyhurst University in 2004. Dr. Federici has given public lectures at Georgetown University, Notre Dame Law School, Berkeley University, the McConnell Center at the University of Louisville, Hope College, New Mexico State University, Roanoke College, St Olaf College, Grove City College, Patrick Henry College, Edinboro University, The University of Tennessee-Chattanooga, and Palm Beach Atlantic University. He taught in Dungarvan, Ireland in the spring of 2010.
He serves on the Editorial Board of the journal Humanitas, and was president of The Academy of Philosophy and Letters. In August 2002, he delivered a paper at the Chinese Comparative Literature Association’s Conference in Nanjing, China. In 1993 he participated in a NEH Institute on Thomas Jefferson, held at UVA and William and Mary. In 2004 and 2005 he wrote a winning grant application to the US Department of Education for $984,920 and $499,736 grants from the Teaching American History Program. He served as the Project Director for both grants.
He has done more than one-thousand media interviews including C-SPAN, WNYC Radio, the Tennessean, the Philadelphia Inquirer, Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Christian Science Monitor, CQ Weekly, Harrisburg’s The Patriot-News, Scranton Times-Tribune, the Buffalo News.

  Michael Hendrix

Michael Hendrix
Special Advisor
to Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee

Michael Hendrix is a special advisor to Governor Bill Lee of Tennessee. He was formerly a senior fellow and director of state and local policy at the Manhattan Institute as well as a columnist for Governing. Hendrix also previously served as senior director for research and emerging issues at the US Chamber of Commerce Foundation. He holds an MA in international relations from the University of St. Andrews.

  Roberta Q. Herzberg

Roberta Q. Herzberg
Distinguished Senior Fellow
George Mason University
Roberta Q. Herzberg is a distinguished senior fellow in the F.A. Hayek Program in Advanced Studies in Philosophy, Politics, and Economics at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and emerita associate professor at Utah State University. She previously held faculty and administrative positions at Utah State University, Indiana University, Bloomington, and the John Templeton Foundation. Her research and teaching focus on political economy, public choice, and US health care policy and she has been an active participant in State-level policy processes.  She is a past president of the Public Choice Society (2014-2016), and a current board member of several professional associations.

  Byron Johnson

Byron Johnson
Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences
Baylor University
Distinguished Visiting Professor of Religious Studies and the Common Good
Pepperdine School of Public Policy

Byron Johnson is the distinguished professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University and the distinguished visiting professor of religious studies and the common good at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy. He is the founding director of the Baylor Institute for Studies of Religion (ISR) as well as director of the Program on Prosocial Behavior.  Johnson is a faculty affiliate of the Human Flourishing Program at Harvard University and is co-executive director of the Center for Faith and the Common Good at Pepperdine University. He is a leading authority on the scientific study of religion, the efficacy of faith-based organizations, and criminal justice. Recent publications have examined the impact of faith-based programs on recidivism reduction and prisoner reentry. He has been the principal investigator on grants from private foundations as well as the Department of Justice, Department of Labor, Department of Defense, National Institutes of Health, and the United States Institute for Peace. He is the project director of the Global Flourishing Study, a five-year panel study with annual data collection on approximately 240,000 people from around the world. He is the author of many journal articles and a number of books including More God, Less Crime (2011), The Angola Prison Seminary (2016), The Quest for Purpose (2017), Objective Religion: Competition, Tension, Perseverance (2021); The Restorative Prison (2021), Objective Religion: Problems, Prosociality, Progress (2022), and The Faith Factor and Social Problems: Rethinking Evidence, Practice, and Polity (2023).

  Seth D. Kaplan

Seth D. Kaplan
Professorial Lecturer 
Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University

Seth D. Kaplan is a professorial lecturer in the Paul H. Nitze School of Advanced International Studies at Johns Hopkins University, senior adviser for the Institute for Integrated Transitions, visiting fellow with the Mercatus Center at George Mason University’s Program on Pluralism and Civil Exchange, and consultant to organizations such as the World Bank, USAID, State Department, and OECD. He has written on social capital for publications such as National Affairs, Stanford Social Innovation Review, the Washington Quarterly, Discourse, the American Interest, and the Dispatch. His next book, Fragile Neighborhoods, will appear in 2023.

  John W. Lettieri

John W. Lettieri 
Economic Innovation Group (EIG) 

John W. Lettieri is a co-founder of the Economic Innovation Group (EIG) and serves as its President and chief executive officer. Under John’s leadership, EIG has grown from a startup think tank into one of the premier public policy organizations in the country, with a mission dedicated to forging a more dynamic economy for the benefit of American workers, entrepreneurs, and communities. Since its founding, EIG has been a source of nationally recognized ideas and research on the geography of economic well-being, economic dynamism, remote work, distressed communities, immigration, retirement security, population and migration trends, and more.

Lettieri’s career in public policy has included time in both the public and private sectors working with a diverse set of policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors, and global business leaders. Prior to founding EIG, John was the vice president of public policy and government affairs for a leading business association, where he oversaw the organization’s state and federal policy work on such issues as tax, trade, foreign direct investment, and manufacturing. Prior to that, John was director of public and government affairs for a global aerospace manufacturer. He previously served as a foreign policy aide to former US Senator Chuck Hagel, who was then a senior member of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Lettieri is frequently invited to testify before Congress and speak to audiences around the country on issues ranging from immigration reform to labor market competition to entrepreneurship and improving access to economic opportunity for all Americans. His commentary and analysis have been cited in the AP, the Atlantic, Bloomberg, CSPAN, CNBC, Daily Beast, Fast Company, Financial Times, Fox News, the Hill, NPR, New York Times, Tax Notes, Time, USA Today, Vox, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, San Francisco Chronicle, and others.

Lettieri is a graduate of Wake Forest University where he studied Political Science and Global Commerce. He has served in a number of outside leadership positions, including as a member of the board of regents at The Fund for American Studies, the board of directors for Lincoln Network, and the board of directors for Friends of the National Zoo. He was a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute from 2018-2020. 

  Kathy Lovin

Kathy Lovin
Public Affairs and Communications Manager
The Salvation Army, Western US

Kathy Lovin has been the public affairs and communications manager for The Salvation Army in the Western US since 2002. She is responsible for mentoring and equipping PR directors, and training and coaching leaders to address difficult issues with clarity and purpose. Prior to joining the Army staff, she managed the PR department at a Skid Row rescue mission, worked for a political campaign-consulting firm, did public affairs for Hill and Knowlton, and served on Ronald Reagan’s White House staff during his second term. Born in Los Angeles and educated at UCLA, Kathy is a life-member of the Jane Austen Society of North America, writes a Substack newsletter called Tough Talk, and is involved in animal rescue and wildlife rehabilitation.

  Jedd Medefind

Jedd Medefind
Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO)

Jedd Medefind serves as President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans (CAFO). Through CAFO, more than 200 respected faith-based organizations and a national network of churches unite in a coordinated action, working together to inspire and equip people of faith to effectively serve vulnerable children and families.
Prior to this role, Medefind led the White House Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives under President George W. Bush. In this post, he oversaw reform efforts across the government to harness the full strengths of community-based organizations and faith-based groups as full partners in all Federal efforts to aid people in need, from prisoner reentry to global AIDS. As described by the Harvard Political Review, these reforms "fundamentally changed the government's strategy for improving the lives of the downtrodden . . ."
Medefind has worked, studied, and served in more than thirty countries, and filled a range of posts in the California State Legislature. Jedd has written many articles and four books, most recently Becoming Home (Zondervan). Medefind and his wife Rachel live near Washington, DC, with their five children.

  Joshua Mitchell

Joshua Mitchell
Professor of Political Theory 
Georgetown University

Joshua Mitchell is currently a professor of political theory. He has been Chairman of the Government Department and was a member of the start-up team for Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service in Doha Qatar in 2005. During the 2008-2010 academic years, Mitchell took leave from Georgetown University and was acting chancellor of The American University of Iraq-Sulaimani. His research interest lies in the relationship between political thought and theology in the West.

He has published articles in the Review of Politics, the Journal of Politics, the Journal of Religion, APSR, and Political Theory. In 1993, his book, Not by Reason Alone: Religion, History, and Identity in Early Modern Political Thought, was published by the University of Chicago Press.  A second book, The Fragility of Freedom: Tocqueville on Religion, Democracy, and American Future, was published in 1995, also by the University of Chicago Press. Mitchell’s book, Plato’s Fable: On the Moral Condition in Shadowy Times, was published by Princeton University Press in 2006.  The University of Chicago Press also published his book, Tocqueville in Arabia: Dilemmas of the Democratic Age, in August 2013.  More recently, his book, American Awakening: Identity Politics and Other Afflictions of Our Time¸ was published by Encounter Books (2020). He is currently working on a book-length manuscript entitled, The Gentle Seduction of Tyranny.

In addition to teaching at Georgetown University, Mitchell is an avid conservationist, working to restore his farmhouse on the Eastern Shore of the State of Maryland, and working to develop the next generation of solar-electric sailboats.

  Grace Olmstead

Grace Olmstead
Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind

Grace Olmstead is a writer whose work has appeared in the American Conservative, New York Times, the Washington Post, and elsewhere. Her book is titled Uprooted: Recovering the Legacy of the Places We've Left Behind

  Pete Peterson 

Pete Peterson 
Braun Family Dean's Chair
Pepperdine School of Public Policy

Pete Peterson is the dean (Braun Family Dean’s Chair) of Pepperdine’s School of Public Policy, and a leading national speaker and writer on issues related to civic participation, and the use of technology to make government more responsive and transparent. He was the first executive director of the Davenport Institute for Public Engagement at the school and continues to lead public sector training programs for the Institute. He has co-created and currently co-facilitates the training seminar, "Public Engagement: The Vital Leadership Skill in Difficult Times" a program that has been attended by more than 4,000 municipal officials, and he also co-created and co-facilitates the certificate program, "Leading Smart Communities: Creating a Better Future through Emerging Technologies”. He serves on the Leadership Council of California Forward, the Healthy Democracies Advisory Council organized by Public Agenda, and chairs the governance committee for the Public Interest Technology-University Network. Peterson was the Republican candidate for California Secretary of State in 2014.

  Jeff Polet

Jeff Polet
Ford Leadership Forum at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation
Jeff Polet is the director of the Ford Leadership Forum at the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Foundation. Previously he was a professor of political science at Hope College, and before that at Malone College in Canton, OH. A native of West Michigan, he received his BA from Calvin College and his MA and PhD from The Catholic University of America in Washington DC.

In addition to his teaching, he has published on a wide range of scholarly and popular topics. These include Contemporary European Political Thought, American Political Thought, the American Founding, education theory and policy, constitutional law, religion and politics, virtue theory, and other topics. His work has appeared in many scholarly journals as well as more popular venues such as the Hill, the Spectator, the American Conservative, First Things, and others.

He serves on the board of The Front Porch Republic, an organization dedicated to the idea that human flourishing happens best in local communities and in face-to-face relationships. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Russell Kirk Center for Cultural Renewal. He has lectured at many schools and civic institutions across the country. 

  Jon Ponder

Jon Ponder
Founder & CEO 
Hope for Prisoners

In 2004, in a small jail cell in Las Vegas, Nevada, a man facing a 23-year sentence in federal prison made a determined decision that this would be the last time he would spend time incarcerated. Growing up in the streets of New York, Jon Ponder at a very young age became involved in gangs, addicted to drugs and alcohol, and was arrested for the first time at the age of twelve. Many years of this continued lifestyle resulted in multiple incarcerations and a general feeling of hopelessness. A three-time convicted felon, Ponder found himself at the most difficult point in his life in that cell.  As he prayed for God’s will to be done, he made a promise to God and to himself that he would change his life, to transform into the man he was created and destined to be regardless of the outcome of his upcoming sentencing.  As he went before the judge and was miraculously only given a five-year sentence, Jon spent his entire time in prison educating himself, learning and growing, and preparing himself for the day he would return home. As he reached the end of his sentence, the reality of returning home began to set in as he wondered what support would be there for him and how he would conquer all of the barriers that laid ahead.
Ponder had a vision while he was still in prison of one day building an organization with the sole purpose of helping others facing his same challenges. Out of his own personal experience, HOPE for Prisoners was born.  HFP is a nonprofit organization based in Las Vegas, Nevada that provides comprehensive reentry services to men, women and young adults who are returning to the community after incarceration. With a focus on mental, physical, and spiritual growth and development, the HFP organization wraps its arms around each client helping them to address and overcome all of the barriers that are faced during the reintegration process.  The goal of the program is to transform the men and women that they serve into tremendous leaders – leaders of themselves, leaders of their families and ultimately leaders in the community who are armed with the tools to succeed.  The program provides assistance through life skills and job readiness training, substance abuse treatment, vocational and educational opportunities, intensive case management and long-term mentoring.  HFP begins working with their clients while they are still incarcerated and continues their assistance for up to 18 months after release.
Over the years, Ponder's passion and determination to make an impact has brought an entire community together.  All levels of the judicial system, law enforcement, business owners and community leaders in Las Vegas have rallied together to support HFP and its clients and many volunteer members of the local police department serve as mentors to the formerly incarcerated clients in the program.
HFP has served nearly 4,700 clients since its inception in 2010 and boasts a 6% rate of recidivism. Ponder states “Our mission is to create a society of people who have come home from prison, who have not reoffended and who are living levels of life that most people only dream of—when we accomplish this, the people we have served can turn around and provide help to the next person facing the challenges of reentry”.  HFP is more than the name of the organization, it is a movement that began as a dream in a tiny prison cell that Ponder has been able to bring to fruition and that is now making a difference in the lives of thousands—truly bringing HOPE to prisoners. HOPE that there is an opportunity and a community that is waiting and willing to offer them a second chance.

  André M. Robinson

André M. Robinson
Director-Milwaukee Violence Free Zone
Milwaukee Christian Center

Prior to his employ as the Director of the Milwaukee Violence Free Zone (MVFZ), with the Milwaukee Christian Center (MCC), the Latino Community Center (LCC), and the Running Rebels Community Organization (RRCO), André Robinson dedicated 14 years to the Social Development Commission (SDC).  During those 14 years, Mr. Robinson held several key positions. He began his tenure with SDC as a “Research Assistant”, followed by a position responsible for the monitoring and evaluation of 145 programs administered by the agency.  Eventually, Robinson was promoted to “Planner III”, responsible for program development and subsequent grant-writing. Robinson also worked as a graphic design artist and communications specialist for SDC.  During that time, he was responsible for giving the largest community action agency in the State of Wisconsin its presence on the world wide web by developing and maintaining the agency’s very first webpage.  The technical experience derived from the communications position compelled Robinson to take on the challenge of becoming the Information Systems Manager for the agency.  In this position, he was responsible for the network maintenance of 14 remote sites in conjunction with helpdesk coordination for the administrative offices.
Since his departure from SDC, Mr. Robinson has been utilizing the wealth of knowledge he has amassed during his time at SDC to advance the efforts of the MCC (2013-Present), LCC (2005-2012) and the RRCO (2012-2013-Regional Director) as the Director of the Milwaukee Violence Free Zone (MVFZ).  At MCC, he is the overseer for program operations within five of Milwaukee’s largest, most challenged, high schools that have historically been plagued with gang violence, low attendance, low enrollment, and low, to non-existent, parent involvement.  Through the efforts of Robinson, his team and collaborative partners, the Milwaukee Chapter of VFZ is recognized as the flagship/model for all of the individual chapters of VFZ throughout the country; and he and his team are often called upon to train new VFZ teams in other cities. Robinson continues to make dents in the armor of poverty by showing the youth of his schools and community that their goals are indeed attainable.  Through his work with the MVFZ and the variety of community entities that he collaborates with, he will continue to assist the youth of Milwaukee and other cities across the country to realize and maximize their social and academic potential.

  Ryan Streeter 

Ryan Streeter 
Director of Domestic Policy Studies
State Farm James Q. Wilson Scholar
American Enterprise Institute
Ryan Streeter is the director of domestic policy studies and the State Farm James Q. Wilson Scholar at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI). Before joining AEI, he was executive director of the Center for Politics and Governance at the University of Texas at Austin. Streeter has previously served as a special assistant for domestic policy to President George W. Bush at the White House, deputy chief of staff for policy for Indiana Governor Mike Pence, and policy adviser to Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith. He has also served as a senior fellow at the Legatum Institute in London and as a research fellow at the US-based Hudson Institute. He is the author of Transforming Charity, coauthor of The Soul of Civil Society, and a contributor to the Stephen Goldsmith book, Putting Faith in Neighborhoods.

Dr. Streeter’s articles have been widely published in outlets including the Wall Street Journal, National Review, the Guardian, the Dispatch, and many others. His numerous television and radio appearances include CNN, MSNBC, Fox News, CNBC, and BBC News. Streeter has a PhD in political philosophy from Emory University and resides in Washington, DC.

  Rich Tafel

Rich Tafel
American Project

Rich Tafel is a strategist who builds bridges between unlikely partners to create successful coalitions to solve the most significant challenges of our day.

A minister by training, Tafel is the pastor of the Church of the Holy City in Washington, DC, where his ecumenical ministry translates spirituality for a rising generation. His spiritual entrepreneur training helps participants transform their inner life as they transform the world, training leaders in his Cultural Translator model to overcome polarization. A graduate of Harvard Divinity School, he served as an assistant minister at Harvard’s Memorial Church. He has served as a representative on the governing board of the National Council of Churches for the last seven years.

Tafel is a pioneer in the social entrepreneur field, having provided strategy to over one hundred social ventures. He facilitated the nation’s first statewide social entrepreneur competition for the state of Michigan. He serves as the director of Social Capital Advisers at Marcum LLP, where he works with for-profit and nonprofit entities to build business models to create transformative change.

He has long sought to bridge the divide in the public policy sphere in America. He has spent his career bridging divides and is the author of Party Crasher (1999, Simon & Schuster), where he built successful coalitions in the battle against AIDS and gay marriage. He has appeared on most major political programs. Before his work in Washington, DC, he served as adolescent health director for the State of MA.

He is co-founder of the American Project at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy and serves as a senior fellow at George Washington University’s Center for Excellence in Leadership. He serves as president of Citizen’s University, the premier national organization focused on educating the rising generation on civic engagement. He holds a master of Divinity from Harvard University. 

  Jean M. Twenge 

Jean M. Twenge 
Professor of Psychology
San Diego State University

Jean M. Twenge, professor of psychology at San Diego State University, is the author of more than 180 scientific publications and six books, the latest of which is iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy—and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood. She holds a bachelor's and master's from the University of Chicago and a PhD from the University of Michigan.

  Soledad Ursua

Soledad Ursua
Board Member
Venice Neighborhood Council

Soledad Ursua is a finance professional and elected board member of the Venice Neighborhood Council. She addresses social policy questions such as crime, homelessness, and drug addiction. She has written for many publications, including City Journal, Los Angeles Times, American Mind, and the California Globe. She holds a BA from the University of California, at Santa Barbara, and an MS from the New School for Management and Urban Policy.

  Scott Winship

Scott Winship
Senior Fellow and Director of Poverty Studies
American Enterprise Institute 

Scott Winship is a senior fellow and the director of poverty studies at the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), where he researches social mobility, economic insecurity, and inequality, among other issues. Before joining AEI, Winship served as the executive director of the Joint Economic Committee (JEC). During his time at the JEC, under Chairman Mike Lee (R-UT), he created the Social Capital Project, a multiyear research project to investigate the evolving nature of social relationships including families, communities, workplaces, and religious congregations. Winship has a PhD in social policy and a MA in sociology from Harvard University. He holds a BA in sociology and urban studies from Northwestern University.

  John Wood, Jr.

John Wood
National Ambassador of Braver Angels
Braver Angels

John Wood, Jr. is a leading figure in the civic bridge-building movement. He is the national ambassador for Braver Angels, the United States' largest grassroots, bipartisan organization dedicated to political depolarization. A nationally recognized public speaker on the subjects of political and racial reconciliation, Wood has spoken across America to a wide range of the nation’s most respected think tanks, universities, corporations, philanthropic organizations, and political associations including the Aspen Institute, the Manhattan Institute, CPAC 2019, Global Philanthropy Forum, the Philanthropy Roundtable, Upswell, Target, General Mills, LucasFilm, Oregon League of Cities, Institute for Local Government, and campus audiences including Pepperdine, Duke University, USC, Purdue, UC Berkeley and many others. An opinion columnist for USA Today, Mr. Wood’s written work has appeared in publications including The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Examiner, Quillette Magazine, Areo Magazine, Reflections (A Journal of the Yale School of Divinity), Real Clear Politics, Persuasion Magazine, The American Interest and many others. Wood is a cohost of the Braver Angels Podcast and host of the upcoming podcast Uniting America with John Wood Jr.

Prior to his work with Braver Angels, Wood was the state of California’s youngest active nominee for congress in the 2014 election cycle, challenging Maxine Waters in California’s 43rd district. His unifying campaign was covered by outlets including The National Review and The Larry Elder Show. After the election Wood was elected as 2nd Vice-Chairman of the Republican Party of Los Angeles, the largest Republican county party in America.

In addition to his work with Braver Angels, Wood serves as an advisor to The American Project (an initiative of the Pepperdine School of Public Policy dedicated to restoring the communitarian roots of conservatism), the Foundation Against Intolerance and Racism, the 1776 Unites Project, is a member of the Progress Network (an initiative of the New America Foundation) and is a field-builder with the New Pluralists Collaborative (a coalitional group focused on connecting and supporting organizations committed to depolarization and social justice). Wood has worked in support of educational opportunities for at-risk youth in inner-city Los Angeles in the areas of tutoring and private education. He sits on the board of directors for Strive Arts and Academics, a celebrated private educational facility in South Los Angeles.

Wood was raised in a musical family. His father is noted Jazz Pianist John Wood, and his mother is the popular Los Angeles-based R&B singer Deonda Theus. Wood’s grandfather was recorded industry pioneer Randy Wood, of Dot Records and Randy’s Record Shop fame. He lives in Los Angeles with his wife and three children.

  Robert L. Woodson, Sr.

Robert L. Woodson, Sr.
The Woodson Center 

Robert L. Woodson, Sr. founded the Center in 1981 to help residents of low-income neighborhoods address the problems of their communities. A former civil rights activist, he has headed the National Urban League Department of Criminal Justice, and has been a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Foundation for Public Policy Research. Referred to by many as “godfather” of the neighborhood empowerment movement, for more than four decades, Woodson has had a special concern for the problems of youth. In response to an epidemic of youth violence that has afflicted urban, rural and suburban neighborhoods alike, Woodson has focused much of the Woodson Center’s activities on an initiative to establish Violence-Free Zones in troubled schools and neighborhoods throughout the nation. He is an early MacArthur “genius” awardee and the recipient of the 2008 Bradley Prize, the Presidential Citizens Award, and a 2008 Social Entrepreneurship Award from the Manhattan Institute.

  Gary Wyatt 

Gary Wyatt 
Found and President 
He Brought Us Out Ministry Inc

Gary Wyatt is the founder and president of He Brought Us Out Ministry Inc aka North Hill Community House. A nonprofit, faith-based community organization established in January 2001. Wyatt was licensed and ordained into the ministry on March 10, 2001. He is the author and publisher of the true story From Dealing to Healing published in 2001, a story that tells how he was raised in the inner city surrounded by alcohol, drugs, and heartache and how he fell deep into an addiction to the drugs he was selling. After coming to the end of his life, with suicide on his mind, he finds his way out through his spiritual journey toward salvation.

He has been featured in “Ministry Empowers North Hill Community” (Akron Beacon Journal, March 2005), “War on Poverty” (Wall Street Journal, April 2005), and featured in numerous other articles. Wyatt has established several community outreach events such as the annual Toys for TotsProgram has been established since December 1991 to the present. He formed and organized local block watches for three area neighborhoods in May of 1998, which helped to shut down neighboring drug houses and has since brought back peace to the neighborhood. He was also involved with the Welfare Reform through the Faith base initiative for the Grassroots Leaders brought about by the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise {www.cneonline.org} and Governor Bob Taft in April of 1999. His most recent yearly outreach establishment Is the Night Out Against Crime in partnership with the City of Akron and the Back to School Community outreach. He established; the He Brought Us Out after-school Tutoring Program, Building Blocks Enrichment Summer Camp Program, HBUO Advocacy Youth Mentoring program, Certified Financial Literacy Instructor thru HSBC North America, and president and founder of the North Hill Community House. His most recent accomplishments are; Winner of the Good Neighbor Award given through Character Counts Akron and also selected as YMCA Adult Volunteer of the Year {East Akron} and The BlackPages: Honoring Excellence February 2006.

Wyatt served as an Advisory Committee board member for the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation for 3 years. The Black Achievers committee Board member East Akron YMCA. Member of the 100 Black Men of Greater Akron. Served on the 2009 56th Presidential Armed Forces Inaugural Committee Washington DC. Military escort for the NASA Astronaut Crew STS-126 crew. Winner of the 2009 Charles Salem Humanitarian Award, Certificate of Special Congressional Recognition TheHonorable Betty Sutton, Armed Forces 56th Inaugural Committee Certificate of Appreciation. United State Navy Reservist Retired 34 years. 2009 Federal Executive Board Employee Recognition Award. City of Akron 2009 Stimulus Advisory Board Committee member. Leadership Akron Class XXVII. Leadership Akron on the Main guest speaker. City of Akron beautification award. YMCA Rosa Parks Eric Gardenhight Memorial Community Service Award 2018. Appointed Akron Ambassadors Committee 2020. Appointed to the City of Akron Planning board commission by Mayor Dan Horrigan. Retired US Postal Maintenance Manager for 34 years. Appointed to the Police Chiefs Advisory Board for Hiringminorities.


Conference Schedule

Friday, November 4, 2022

8 AM: Check-in

8:45 AM: Welcome

9–10:15 AM: The Role of Local Government in Building Family Friendly Communities

10:30–11:30 AM: What Communitarian Thinkers Can Teach Today's Policy Makers

Noon–1:30 PM: Luncheon Talk—Tocqueville and Democracy in (Modern) America

  • Josh Mitchell, Professor of Political Theory, Georgetown University 

1:45–3 PM: What the Black Community Can Teach Us About Community

3:15–4:30 PM: Mass Flourishing: Building Social Capital Locally

5 - 6:30 PM: Networking Reception, Spruzzo Restaurant and Bar (29575 CA-1, Malibu, CA 90265)

Saturday, November 5, 2022

8 AM: Check-in

9–10:15 AM: The Blessed Community: Faith and Community-Building

10:30–11:45 AM: Loneliness: the Costs of Broken Community

Noon–1 PM: Lunch Conversation: Uprooted: A Community-Focused Politics for Today

  • Grace Olmstead,  Author, Uprooted: Recovering the legacy of the Places We’ve Left Behind

1–1:30 PM: Closing