Friday | May 1, 2015

Friday May 1-2, 2015

Georgetown University, Edward B. Bunn Intercultural Center Auditorium


Friday, May 1

Civic Culture, Civic Engagement & The Public Square

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Introduction: Leo Casey, executive director, Albert Shanker Institute

Randi Weingarten, President, American Federation of Teachers, Albert  Shanker Institute

The Vital Role Of The Public Sector In The Economy

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Robert Kuttner, co-Founder and co-Editor, The American Prospect; Distinguished Senior Fellow, Demos
Mary Kay Henry, International President, Service Employees International Union watch her video
Jeff Madrick, Director of the Bernard L. Schwartz Rediscovering Government Initiative; Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation

Saturday, May 2

American Democracy & Public Education

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Deborah Meier,  Founder, Central Park East Secondary School; New York University
Pedro Noguera, Peter L. Agnew Professor of Education, Steinhardt School of Culture, Education and Human Development; Executive Director, Metropolitan Center for Research on Equity and the Transformation of Schools, New York University
Tina Trujillo, Assistant Professor of Education, University of California at Berkeley

The Attack on the Public Sector & Public Sector Unions

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Craig Becker, General Counsel, AFL-CIO
Joseph McCartin, Director, Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor, Georgetown University
Lee Saunders, President, American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees 

The Public Sector, Social Services & Race

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Marian Wright Edelman,Founder, Children’s Defense Fund
Douglas McAdam, The Ray Lyman Wilbur Professor of Sociology, Stanford Universit
John Powell, Professor of Law; Professor of African American Studies and Ethnic Studies; Director, Haas Institute for a Fair and Inclusive Society, University of California at Berkeley

Closing Session

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Rev. William Barber, Pastor, Greenleaf Christian Church, Disciples of Christ, Goldsboro, NC; leader, “Moral Mondays”
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E.J. Dionne columnist, Washington Post; senior fellow, Brookings Institution



A robust and vibrant public square is an essential foundation of democracy. It is the place where the important public issues of the day are subject to free and open debate, and our ideas of what is in the public interest take shape. It is the ground upon which communities and associations are organized to advocate for policies which promote that public interest. It is the site for the provision of essential public goods, from education and health care to safety and mass transportation. It is the terrain upon which the centralizing and homogenizing power of both the state and the market are checked and balanced. It is the economic arena with the means to control the market’s tendencies toward polarizing economic inequality and cycles of boom and bust. It is the site of economic opportunity for historically excluded groups such as African-Americans and Latinos.

And yet in America today, the public square is under extraordinary attack. A flood of unregulated, unaccountable money in our politics and media threatens to drown public debate and ravage our civic life, overwhelming authentic conceptions of the public interest. Decades of growing economic inequality menaces the very public institutions with the capacity to promote greater economic and social equality. Unprecedented efforts to privatize essential public goods and public services are underway. Teachers, nurses and other public servants who deliver those public goods are the object of vilification from the political right, and their rights in the workplace are in danger. Legislative and judicial efforts designed to eviscerate public sector unions are ongoing.

In response to these developments, a consortium of seven organizations – the Albert Shanker Institute; the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME); the American Federation of Teachers (AFT); the American Prospect; Dissent Magazine; the Kalmanovitz Initiative for Labor and the Working Poor of Georgetown University; and the Service Employee International Union (SEIU) – has organized this conference. It will bring together prominent elected officials, public intellectuals and union, business and civil rights leaders “in defense of the public square.”