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Archive, Presidential Dialogue Series

2023 Presidential Dialogues

Reimagined Community: Successful Agents of Change

Monday, March 27

About the Presidential Dialogue Series

Seth Goldman

Seth Goldman
Eat the Change, Co-Founder and Chief Change Agent
PLNT Burger, Co-Founder
Beyond Meat, Chair of the Board

Seth Goldman is a local, mission-driven entrepreneur first known for his creation of Honest Tea, which was sold to Coca-Cola for $43 million. Mr. Goldman is now the Co-Founder and Chief Change Agent of Eat the Change, which produces organic plant-based snacks.  He is also the Co-founder of PLNT Burger and Chair of the Board of Beyond Meat.  He recently launched his latest tea line by combining  “justice” with “tea” to create “Just Ice Tea.” He has been widely recognized for his entrepreneurial success and impact, including Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year in Greater Washington, the Washington DC Business Hall of Fame, the Beverage Industry Magazine’s Executive of the Year and the Partnership for Healthier America’s CEO of the Year. A long-term proponent of democratizing organic food and building business based on fair trade practices, Goldman has successfully merged his passion for social justice with  healthy, profitable products.

Seth and his wife, Julie Farkas, have also launched ETC Impactnew window, which is a donating $1.25M over three years into nonprofit organizations that educate and inspire consumers to make climate-conscious choices with their diet.  

Mr. Goldman is a graduate of Harvard College (1987) and the Yale School of Management (1995) and is a Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute. Seth and Barry Nalebuff are the authors, along with graphic artist Soongyun Choi, of The New York Times bestselling comic book, Mission in a Bottle.

Eat the Change logo

About the Presidential Dialogue Series

Local and global communities have weathered a series of devastating events over the last several years:  the coronavirus pandemic, worsening racial violence, and economic destabilization (inflation, supply chain challenges and underemployment) to name a few. Simultaneously, new openings in public discourse, changes in labor and consumer markets, and a growing intolerance for racism have all created opportunities for change. Some notable leaders have advanced proactive, critical approaches to directing our paths forward. They have reminded us how law, health, democracy, education, and media have been systematically constructed through history to create inequities and injustices. As we seek to chart a different course—a few visionary leaders have excelled at leveraging positive trends amid crises in an effort to create a better tomorrow.

Please join me for a new presidential dialogue series, “Reimagined Community: Successful Agents of Change.” My conversations with thought leaders in business, politics, education, and journalism will explore the values and structures essential to transform our communities and advance a shared sense of the public good. Throughout the series we will examine how the instability created by crisis can also create space for productive, progressive transformation –and how we can position ourselves as agents of such change. 
- Dr. Jermaine F. Williams, President, Montgomery College

2020-2021 Presidential Dialogues

Building Racial Justice

About Our Series

This year’s Presidential Dialogue Series will address the question of how to build racial justice in a multicultural society. The strength of recent national protests against police violence took some cities by surprise. In Montgomery County, Maryland, however, robust conversations about equity and inclusion have been going on for years.

But how do we move beyond the passion of protest to changes in laws, policies, and cultural moorings that have entrenched inequality so deeply? How do we disassemble the forces of privilege that have elevated some while disadvantaging others? In the wake of these protests, several topics have arisen that are components of the larger picture of racial justice: voter suppression, health disparities, food deserts, generational wealth building, policing practices, and educational access, among others. With the realities of COVID-19 exacerbating existing inequities, our nation has begun an overdue conversation about race and justice. Montgomery College will host its own spaces for reflections in the Presidential Dialogue Series. As we delve into the dynamics of how race functions—both institutionally and individually—in peoples’ lives, we will look for solutions and new partners in the struggle to create racial justice. The Presidential Dialogue series is sponsored by Bethesda Beat.

Bethesda Beat logo

Building Racial Justice Through Health

Travis A. Gayles, M.D., Ph.D.

Chief, Public Health Services and Health Officer for Montgomery County’s Department of Health and Human Services

Online Event: Thursday, January 28, 1 p.m.

The COVID-19 pandemic has drawn renewed attention to health disparities in our nation. While African Americans are only 30 percent of the population of Maryland, they make up 50 percent of COVID fatalities. Vulnerability to infectious diseases often correlates with social variables such as income inequality, access to affordable health care, housing, and transportation. Montgomery County Health Officer Dr. Travis Gayles discusses with Montgomery College President Dr. DeRionne Pollard the community’s response to the pandemic, delivering urgent messages to the community about transmission, treatment and vaccination.

Dr. Gayles

Dr. Gayles’ public health expertise lies at the nexus of infectious and non-communicable disease and the social and biomedical factors that impact health outcomes. A clinically trained pediatrician, he currently serves as the Health Officer and Chief of Public Health Services for Montgomery County, Maryland. He previously served as the Chief Medical Officer for the HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis, STD, and Tuberculosis Administration, and Division Chief for STD-TB Control for the District of Columbia Department of Health. Dr. Gayles provided oversight and clinical expertise for all aspects of the care and treatment continuums for each of these disease groups. In his educational journey, he earned a B.A. in Public Policy Studies from Duke University, Ph.D. in Community Health and M.D. from the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He completed his post-doctoral training in epidemiology at the National Cancer Institute. In addition to his clinical and research efforts, Dr. Gayles is a faculty member of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, University of Maryland, and New York University Wagner School of Public Service.

This event will be livestreamed. Viewers are asked to submit their questions by Monday, January 25th to

Congressman David Trone and Jeffery Robinson

Building Racial Justice Through Law

Online Event: Thursday, December 3, 2 p.m.

Racial inequities in criminal prosecution and sentencing have drawn increasing scrutiny in the US. Two guests with special expertise in this area will engage us in dialogue: Congressman David Trone representing the six district of Maryland and Jeffery Robinson, deputy legal director and the director of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) Trone Center for Justice and Equality. These guests bring legal acumen, political and trial experience, and a deep commitment to reforming criminal justice and building equity in all legal processes.

Congressman David Trone

Congressman David Trone

Rep. David Trone is an outspoken proponent of equal justice, championing legislation to invest in programs to reduce jail populations, reform pretrial justice systems, and ban the box on employment applications. He has also advocated for Pell grants for incarcerated individuals. For more than two decades, he has worked with the American Civil Liberties Union to expand voting rights for justice-impacted individuals and create job opportunities for those with criminal records. Rep. Trone was first elected to Congress in 2018 and is now in his second term serving the sixth district of Maryland.

Jeffery Robinson

Jeffery Robinson

A graduate of Harvard Law School, Jeffery Robinson’s almost four decades of work as a public defender and private practitioner have required him to navigate race, inclusion, and access in criminal and civil trials. His clients have included some of our society’s most vulnerable people, including a defendant at Guantánamo Bay, and led him to speak and write widely about equity and justice. Mr. Robinson’s work at the ACLU allows him to engage in national discourse around issues that challenge basic assumption around due process and equal protection. He is currently at work on a documentary chronicling racism in the US.

Marcus Jones

Building Racial Justice Through Policing

Montgomery County Chief of Police
Online Event: Wednesday, October 21, 7 p.m.

The last six months have been marked by heightened tensions between law enforcement and civilians. The deaths of George Floyd and several other civilians killed by police have drawn nationwide attention to use-of-force policies and the racial disparities revealed in these encounters. Montgomery County Police Chief Marcus Jones joined the Presidential Dialogue Series on October 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss these issues, the value of diversity in law enforcement, and the productive role of community policing. He discussed the role of race in police encounters and the disciplinary processes that exist for officers within the department. Chief Jones’ 35 years of service have included leadership in investigations, major crimes, drug enforcement, and the creation of diversity training. He is a former national chairman of the National Black Police Association and served on the board of the Montgomery County Domestic Violence Coordinating Council. As a current member of the Maryland Violence Intervention and Prevention Advisory Council, Chief Jones brings extraordinary depth and experience to this timely dialogue.


2019-2020 Presidential Dialogues

Through the Lens of Difference: Re-Narrating the Nation

View videos of past events.
100 Years Later: Women’s Fight to Win the Vote
Tuesday, February 11, 2020
Breakfast at 9 a.m., Program at 9:30 a.m.
Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus, Cultural Arts Center (CU)

The 19th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted American women the legal right to vote in 1920. The fight pitted women’s groups against one another; clashed with powerful political dynasties that sought their own survival over women’s full citizenship; and intersected with painful racial legacies that denied women of color full citizenship.

Elaine Weiss

Elaine Weiss is a Baltimore-based journalist, whose new book, The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote, has won critical acclaim from the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and The New Yorker. Steven Spielberg’s Amblin production company has optioned the book for adaptation. Ms. Weiss’ magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. She has been a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor. Her first book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War was excerpted in Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-Span and public radio stations nationwide.

Free copies of The Woman’s Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote will be available to the first 150 students who attend.

Elsa Barkley Brown

Elsa Barkley Brown is an associate professor of history and women’s studies and affiliate faculty in African American studies and American studies at the University of Maryland. Her expertise is in African American political culture, with an emphasis on gender. Dr. Barkley Brown is the author of pivotal articles in African American, cultural, urban, and southern women's history. An expert on the history of the black community of Richmond, Virginia, she is the coeditor of Black Women in America: An Historical Encyclopedia and Major Problems in African-American History. Her current research and teaching interests include cultural history and the arts and the documentary history of women in the Civil Rights movement.

Neil Nakadate
Dr. Neil Nakadate
University Professor Emeritus, Iowa State University
Tuesday, October 29, 2019
Reception at 6:30 p.m., Program at 7 p.m.
Rockville Campus, Science Center West (SW 301)

An award-winning professor, Dr. Neil Nakadate is a passionate scholar who joins history and culture with extraordinary insight. Professor Nakadate taught English and American literature for 40 years at Iowa State University, where he inspired a love of multicultural literature in many students—including MC President DeRionne Pollard. A popular professor to many, he also received the Iowa State University Foundation Award for Career Achievement in Teaching and served as president of the board of directors of Humanities Iowa. Dr. Nakadate has authored and edited several books, his most recent, Looking After Minidoka: An American Memoir, blends stories of his family with the history of three generations of Japanese Americans. As the US grapples with contemporary issues around nationalism, identity, and immigration, Dr. Nakadate’s book is a powerful lens through which to explore the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II. Dr. Nakadate’s writing has appeared in various publications, including Aethlon, Cottonwood, ISLE, and Annals of Internal Medicine. He has edited two books on Robert Penn Warren, co-authored two books on rhetoric and writing, and has written a critical study of novelist Jane Smiley. Dr. Nakadate holds the distinguished title of University Professor Emeritus at Iowa State University, reflecting his critical contributions to the institution.

150 free copies of Dr. Nakadate's book, Looking After Minidoka: An American Memoir, will be given to students who attend.
Freeman Hrabowski
Freeman A. Hrabowski III
President of UMBC
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
Reception at 6:30 p.m., Program at 7 p.m.
Germantown Campus, High Technology and Science Center - Globe Hall (HT)

Freeman A. Hrabowski III is a prominent advocate for racial equity in higher education, with a special emphasis on minority participation and performance. As the president of UMBC since 1992 he has received some of the nation’s highest accolades in higher ed leadership and advised the National Academies, NIH, and the National Science Foundation on building the pipeline of strong STEM students. Dr. Hrabowski was appointed by President Obama to chair the President’s Advisory Commission on Educational Excellence for African Americans. He has been awarded honorary doctorates by more than 30 institutions and co-founded the Meyerhoff Scholars Program with philanthropist Robert Meyerhoff in 1988. The program is open to all high-achieving students committed to pursuing advanced degrees and research careers in science and engineering, and advancing underrepresented minorities in these fields. Dr. Hrabowski was also a child-leader in the civil rights movement, and has been an advocate for racial justice on several fronts. His most recent book, Holding Fast to Dreams: Empowering Youth from the Civil Rights Crusade to STEM Achievement, describes the experiences that most critically shaped his character as an educator and leader.
2018-2019 Presidential Dialogues

The Politics of Radical Inclusion

View videos of past events.

Critical conversations about equity, democracy, and social justice

Isiah "Ike" Leggett
Isiah "Ike" Leggett
Former Montgomery County Executive
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
Reception at 7 p.m., Program at 7:30 p.m.
Rockville Campus, Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center (PA)

Isiah Leggett has been a force for radical inclusion in Montgomery County for several decades, advocating tirelessly for education and equity, as well as human rights. In addition to his 12 years as the Montgomery County Executive, Leggett also served on the County Council, as a White House Fellow, a law professor at Howard University, and the Chair of the Human Rights Commission. Public service has been a hallmark of his professional life, for which he has been recognized with more than 400 awards. He served in the Vietnam War and has taken on roles in countless local and national boards, where his experience has helped affect positive change through the work of non-profits. A cornerstone of his leadership has been dignity and respect for all people, which he has advanced through strategic policy decisions. He has been an outspoken supporter of Montgomery College’s mission, joining his spouse, Catherine to lend their names to a Legacy campaign that has raise more than $1.7 million for scholarships. The math and science center underway on the Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus will bear their names as well.

A free copy of Doris Kearns Goodwin's book, Leadership: In Turbulent Times, will be provided to the first 150 students at the event.
Arne Duncan
Arne Duncan
Managing Partner at Emerson Collective
Tuesday, March 5, 2019
Breakfast at 8:30 a.m., Program at 9 a.m.
Rockville Campus, Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center (PA)

As the US Secretary of Education under President Obama, Arne Duncan visited schools in all 50 states to promote public investment in education, recruit new teachers, and increase college enrollment through larger Pell grants. His tenure as secretary followed seven years as the chief executive officer of Chicago Public Schools, during which applications for teaching positions tripled and 100 new schools were opened. Duncan is currently the managing partner at Emerson Collective, an organization dedicated to removing barriers to opportunity for youth. The Collective’s work centers on education, immigration reform, the environment and other social justice initiatives. Through partnerships with local business leaders, community organizers, and nonprofit groups, it seeks to create inclusive communities for disconnected youth. Duncan graduated magna cum laude from Harvard University with a degree in sociology. He was also co-captain of Harvard’s basketball team. A free copy of Duncan's book, How Schools Work: An Inside Account of Failure and Success from One of the Nation's Longest-serving Secretaries of Education, will be provided to the first 50 students at the event.
Neera Tanden
Neera Tanden
President of the Center for American Progress
Tuesday, November 27, 2018
Reception at 6:15 p.m., Program at 7 p.m.
Rockville Campus, SW 301

Neera Tanden is President and CEO of the Center for American Progress, the largest progressive think tank in the United States. Before joining CAP, she worked as a key member of the health reform team of former President Barack Obama, where she helped to develop and pass the Affordable Care Act. She also managed all domestic policy initiatives during Obama’s first presidential campaign and has served in several leadership roles for former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. She has written extensively on policy issues for the The New Republic, and appears regularly on television as a political commentator. At CAP, Tanden is focused on building a domestic agenda that is inclusive of all Americans and expands opportunity. CAP’s attention to the accessibility of post-secondary education as well as high quality K-12, embodies a focus on inclusion. The Center is also engaged in progressive dialogues about race and ethnicity, gender, and sexuality and their implications for equity across the nation. The Center closely follows the evolution of these issues in political thought and action and encourages open, public dialogue about them.
Dave Zirin
Dave Zirin
Author of Things That Make White People Uncomfortable
Thursday, October 18, 2018, 7 p.m.
CAC Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus

New York Times bestselling author Dave Zirin is the sports editor for The Nation magazine. He has written ten books on the politics of sports. He is also the co-host of the radio show The Collision with Etan Thomas and hosts the Edge of Sports Podcast. His most recent book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, written with NFL player Michael Bennett, tackles issues of race and politics in professional sports—and in American communities. Bennett, who has refused to stand for the national anthem at football games, has used his talent and stature to draw attention to the issue of police violence, adding to a chorus of activists working to create public accountability. Zirin and Bennett write eloquently about the complexities of race and class in America and the necessities of dramatic action to challenge inequities.

A free copy of Zirin's book, Things That Make White People Uncomfortable, will be provided to the first 100 students at the event.