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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

Tani Cantil Sakauye


What the Future Holds for Californians: 
A Conversation with Tani Cantil-Sakauye

Thursday, February 29, 2024
12:30 PM PST
Caruso Auditorium

Leading California into the future requires a strong grasp of its present and a clear vision of where it needs to go. At the next President’s Speaker Series event, Tani Cantil-Sakauye, the president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California and former chief justice of California, will discuss her passion for access to justice, her experiences as a woman of color in a leadership position, and the importance of civil discourse to sound statewide public policy.


About the Speaker

Tani Cantil-Sakauye is president and chief executive officer of the Public Policy Institute of California, where she holds the Walter and Esther Hewlett Chair in Understanding California’s Future. From 2011 to 2022 she served as the 28th chief justice of California. As chief justice, Cantil-Sakauye was the first person of color and second woman to lead the judiciary as the chair of the Judicial Council, the constitutional policy- and rule-making body of the judicial branch. Before she was elected statewide as the chief justice of California, she served more than 20 years on California appellate and trial courts and was appointed or elevated to higher office by three governors. Earlier in her career Cantil-Sakauye served as a deputy district attorney for the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office and on the senior staff of California governor George Deukmejian, first as deputy legal affairs secretary and later as a deputy legislative secretary. She holds a BA and a JD from the University of California, Davis.


Past Events

David Schenker

Washington and the Crisis in the Middle East: A Conversation with David Schenker

David Schenker, the Taube Senior Fellow at the Washington Institute and director of the Linda and Tony Rubin Program on Arab Politics, discussed Washington and the Crisis in the Middle East.



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.”




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.



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.