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President's Speaker Series

President's Speaker Series

The President's Speaker Series welcomes distinguished scholars and thought leaders representing diverse points of view to examine topics and issues facing our communities and the world today. Driven by a desire to connect deeply with our community and inspire meaningful dialogue in the pursuit of truth, the series provides opportunities to cultivate an engaged and impassioned collective through civil discourse.


Recent Events

Richard Haass


The Future of American Democracy: A Conversation with Richard Haass

Richard Haass, president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations and senior counselor at Centerview Partners, explored “The Future of American Democracy.”


About the Speaker

Richard Haass, a veteran diplomat and respected scholar of international relations, is president emeritus of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is also senior counselor at Centerview Partners, an international investment banking advisory firm. He previously served as CFR’s president for 20 years, in the State Department under presidents George W. Bush and Ronald Reagan, at the White House under George H. W. Bush, and at the Pentagon during the Carter administration. He was US envoy to the Cyprus negotiations and the Northern Ireland peace process, and after 9/11 was US coordinator for the future of Afghanistan.

Haass is the author or editor of 14 books on American foreign policy, one book on management, and one book on American democracy. His latest book, The Bill of Obligations: The Ten Habits of Good Citizens, was published by Penguin Press in January 2023 and became a New York Times best seller. He also authors a weekly newsletter, Home & Away, available on Substack. 

A Rhodes Scholar, Haass holds a bachelor’s degree from Oberlin College, master’s and doctor of philosophy degrees from Oxford University, and numerous honorary degrees. He is the recipient of the State Department's Superior Honor Award, the Presidential Citizens Medal, and the Tipperary International Peace Award.



Rabbi Ari Berman


Challenges and Opportunities of Faith-Based Higher Education Institutions:
A Conversation with Rabbi Ari Berman

Rabbi Ari Berman, the fifth president of Yeshiva University in New York City, discussed his perspectives on the challenges and opportunities faced by faith-based institutions of higher education.



About the Speaker

Since his investiture in 2017, Rabbi Berman has grounded Yeshiva University in its Core Torah Values and laid the foundation for its next great era. Under his visionary leadership, the university has grown dramatically, introducing more than 20 new graduate degrees in emerging fields such as cybersecurity, health, and STEM and has established new academic centers such as the Emil A. and Jenny Fish Center for Holocaust and Genocide Studies and the Rabbi Jonathan Sacks-Herenstein Center for Values and Leadership. These efforts have produced significant increases in enrollment and academic rankings, as well as in philanthropic gifts, including funding for the Shevet Glaubach Center for Career Strategy and Professional Development and the new Belz building, the cornerstone academic center on the Wilf campus.

Rabbi Berman is an active and erudite spokesperson for the Jewish community. He lectures worldwide and writes extensively on contemporary Jewish thought, modern philosophy, and trends in higher education. Rabbi Berman is widely published in outlets such as Forbes, Newsweek, and the Wall Street Journal and recently published the book The Final Exam: Letters to Our Students.

About the Moderator

Reverend Johnnie Moore

Reverend Johnnie Moore is a popular speaker, businessperson, and acclaimed human rights and religious freedom activist best known for his consequential work at the intersection of faith and foreign policy, especially in the Middle East. He is president of JDA Worldwide and president of the Congress of Christian Leaders. Rev. Moore's many awards and honors include the Simon Wiesenthal Center's prestigious Medal of Valor. He was twice appointed to the US Commission for International Religious Freedom by the president of the United States. Rev. Moore’s peacemaking work in the middle east recently earned him the distinction of being one of the world Top 25 young visionaries by The Jerusalem Post.

He is a founding member of the ADL’s Task Force on Minorities in the Middle East, an advisory board member of the University of Haifa’s Institute for Religious Studies, a fellow at the Townsend Institute for Leadership and Counseling at Concordia University Irvine, and the vice-chair of the board of the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews. His own academic research focuses on religious Track II diplomacy in Arab and Israeli peacemaking.


Past Events

Jon Clifton

The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It: A Conversation with Jon Clifton

Jon Clifton, chief executive officer of Gallup, a global analytics and advice firm with a mission to help organizations create thriving workplaces, explored themes from his 2022 Wall Street Journal best-selling book, Blind Spot: The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It.




Michael J. Abramowitz Pepperdine President Speaker Series

The State of Freedom Around the World: A Conversation with Michael J. Abramowitz

In the first installment of the 2023 President’s Speaker Series,  Michael J. Abramowitz, president of Freedom House, a nonpartisan voice dedicated to supporting democracy, explored the growing threats to democracy across the world and the consecutive decline in global freedom over the last 16 years. Joining Abramowitz for the discussion was Kiron Skinner, Taube Professor of International Relations and Politics at the Pepperdine School of Public Policy, and president Jim Gash.



Jonathan Haidt Pepperdine President Speaker Series

Free Speech and the Academy: A Conversation with Jonathan Haidt

Jonathan Haidt, professor of ethical leadership at the New York University Stern School of Business and author of New York Times best-seller The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, led a discussion on the topic of free speech in the academy at the last installment of the President’s Speaker Series 2022.



Byron Johnson - Pepperdine University

The Impact of Faith on Human Flourishing and the Common Good: A Conversation with Byron Johnson

Byron Johnson, Distinguished Professor of the Social Sciences at Baylor University, led the second installment of the President’s Speaker Series with a discussion on the impact of faith on human flourishing and the potential for religion to facilitate and contribute to the common good of all humanity.



Matt Ford, Will Lockett III

The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America

The first installment of the 2022 President’s Speaker Series welcomed Will Ford III and Matt Lockett for a powerful exploration of their book The Dream King: How the Dream of Martin Luther King, Jr. Is Being Fulfilled to Heal Racism in America. The coauthors discussed the history of the civil rights movement, the power of prayer, and offered insights about healing the racial divide across the nation. 




Illustration of healthcare

Vaccines: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?

In light of the global and national focus on the development and distribution of COVID-19 vaccines, the President’s Speaker Series welcomed a panel of leading medical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnology experts who explored “Vaccines: Where Are We and Where Are We Going?” on March 29, 2021, via Zoom. 

The engaging panel discussion featured Stéphane Bancel, CEO of Moderna, Stephen M. Hahn, former commissioner of food and drugs at the US Food and Drug Administration, and Jonathan B. Perlin, president of the Clinical Services Group and chief medical officer of HCA Healthcare, in conversation about the current state of the vaccines. Dee Anna Smith (’86), CEO of Sarah Cannon, the Cancer Institute of HCA Healthcare, and chair of the Pepperdine Board of Regents, moderated the discussion. 



Bernard, Shirley, and Khalil Kinsey

The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection: "The Myth of Absence"

On February 24, 2021, the President's Speaker Series welcomed alumnus Bernard Kinsey (MBA '73), his wife, Shirley (MA '76), and their son, Khalil, who presented "The Kinsey African American Art & History Collection - 'The Myth of Absence.'" This event was part of Pepperdine's celebration of Black History Month that seeks to uplift Black voices, celebrate Black achievements, and serve as moments of reflection and remembrance of Black history in the United States.



Robert George and Cornel West

Honesty and Courage, Humility and Hope: Robert George and Cornel West in Dialogue

On January 12, 2021, Robert George, McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence and director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions at Princeton University, and Cornel West, professor of the practice of public philosophy at Harvard University and Professor Emeritus at Princeton University, discussed the deep character required to engage thoughtfully and respectfully in vibrant conversations that explore diverse viewpoints for the inaugural lecture of the President's Speaker Series.



Suggest a Speaker or Topic

The Pepperdine community is invited to participate in developing a robust roster of speakers with diverse backgrounds and perspectives for the President's Speaker Series. Submit a speaker or topic for consideration by completing the suggestion form. All submissions will be considered and evaluated based on programming needs.