The Reverend Dr. Robert Lawrence Civic Engagement Summit is designed to strengthen the social fabric of our community, region, and Commonwealth through conversations and dialogues. Speakers engage the audience in thought-provoking discussions designed to improve the quality of life in our communities through a collective process. Creating solutions to our communities' current and future problems starts with a true understanding our our assets and collaboration's role in building stronger communities from within.
Previous Keynote Speakers
2016: David Campbell
David Campbell is the Packey J. Dee Professor of American Democracy at the University of Notre Dame and the chairperson of the political science department. His most recent book is Seeking the Promised Land: Mormons and American Politics (with John Green and Quin Monson). He is also the co-author (with Robert Putnam) of American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us, which received both the 2011 Woodrow Wilson Award from the American Political Science Association for the best book on government, politics, or international affairs and the Wilbur Award from the Religious Communicators Council for the best non-fiction book of 2010. Dr. Campbell is also the author of Why We Vote: How Schools and Communities Shape Our Civic Life, the editor of A Matter of Faith, Religion in the 2004 Presidential Election, and a co-editor of Making Civics Count: Citizenship Education for a New Generation. As an expert on religion, politics, and civic engagement, he has often been featured in the national media, including the New York Times, the Economist, USA Today, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, Time, NBC News, CNN, NPR, and C-SPAN.
Rev. Brenda Girton-Mitchell is the founder and CEO of Girton-Mitchell Associates LLC. She previously served as the Director of the Center for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships at the US Department of Education from December 2010-January 2017. In this role, she provided leadership to help meet the goal of engaging community-based organizations, both faith-based and secular, in building a culture of high expectations and support for education. She also worked as part of the White House’s Office of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships to implement its mission in cooperation with the Centers for Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and 12 other federal agencies. She has worked as an elementary school teacher and served as the President of the Indianapolis Education Association. Rev. Girton-Mitchell has served as a legislative assistant in the US Senate; assistant executive director for Dr. Dorothy Height at the National Council of Negro Women; Director of Diversity for Mitsubishi Motors of America; and Associate Secretary for Justice and Advocacy for the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the US.
2015: Russell Krumnow
Russell Krumnow is the Managing Director of Opportunity Nation. He guides the strategy for Opportunity Nation’s diverse mix of initiatives, including coalition engagement, events, policy advocacy, and grassroots initiatives. He also leads the campaign’s work on the Opportunity Index, regularly presenting it to diverse audiences as a tool to drive positive change in communities and serve as an innovative frame for the opportunity movement in America. Prior to joining Opportunity Nation, Mr. Krumnow designed professional and leadership development programs with a consulting firm for clients that included members of the Obama Administration. Previously, with the non-profit Partnership for Public Service, he built a national outreach campaign aimed at inspiring college students to seek out public service careers, reaching over 5,000 students in its initial year. Before that, he planned and implemented student civic education programs serving thousands of students annually with the National Young Leaders Conference and wrote curriculum for a voter education effort during the 2008 presidential campaign. Mr. Krumnow is a graduate of Baylor University and earned a Master of Arts in political science at the University of Mississippi.
2015: Wendy Spencer
Wendy Spencer is the CEO of both Leadership Florida and the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS), a federal agency that administers AmeriCorps, the Social Innovation Fund, among other programs that engage more than five million Americans in service and volunteering to improve lives, strengthen communities, and foster civic engagement. Under her leadership, CNCS launched new partnerships, including FEMA Corps, School Turnaround AmeriCorps, STEM AmeriCorps, VetSuccess AmeriCorps, Justice AmeriCorps, and Financial Opportunity Corps; increased the agency’s focus on veterans and military families; and overseen the national response to a number of severe disasters. Ms. Spencer’s management career spans 32 years and includes leadership roles in government, non-profit, and private sectors. Prior to coming to Washington, D.C., she served as the CEO of the Florida Governor’s Commission on Volunteerism where she connected National Service and volunteer strategies to meet state prioritized needs and coordinated volunteer efforts in response to disasters, including eight record-breaking storms in 2004-2005. She also served as the Director of the Florida Park Service, where she oversaw natural resource and recreational management for 158 state parks spanning 600,000 acres.
2013: Ira Harkavy
Ira Harkavy is Associate Vice President and the Founding Director of the Barbara and Edward Netter Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Pennsylvania. As Director of the Netter Center, he has helped develop service-learning courses as well as participatory action research projects that have fostered university-assisted community schools in the University of Pennsylvania’s local community of West Philadelphia. He teaches in the university’s departments of History, Urban Studies, and Africana Studies. Dr. Harkavy is a member of numerous boards, including the National Science Foundation’s Advisory Committee on Equal Opportunities in Science and Engineering (CEOSE); Harvard College National Advisory Board for Public Service; Widener University Board of Trustees; the International Consortium on Higher Education, Civic Responsibility, and Democracy (US Chair); Anchor Institutions Task Force (Chair); and Philadelphia Higher Education Network for Neighborhood Development (Co-chair). He received his B.A. and his Ph.D. in history from the University of Pennsylvania.
2012: Robert Caret
Robert L. Caret is the Chancellor of the University system of Maryland. Prior to this appointment, he served as the President of the University of Massachusetts system from 2011-2015. Mr. Caret, a native New Englander, assumed the presidency after completing highly successful presidencies at San Jose State University and Towson University. He gained national acclaim for eliminating race-based graduation disparities at Towson. From 2003 to 2011, Mr. Caret served as the president of Towson University, where he previously served as a faculty member, dean, executive vice president, and provost during tenure, which spanned more than 25 years. Between 1995 and 2003, he left Towson to assume the presidency of San Jose State University. He is credited with helping to reinvigorate both Towson and San Jose State University campuses. While at San Jose State, he championed a joint city/university effort to build the Martin Luther King, Jr. Library in San Jose. As president of Towson, Mr. Caret created partnerships with regional businesses as well as nonprofit and civic organizations, raised student graduation rates, and undertook a capital fundraising and building campaign.
2012: Shirley Sagawa
Shirley Sagawa is the author of the book, The American Way to Change: How National Service and Volunteers are Transforming America, and co-author of two award-winning books, The Charismatic Organization and Common Interest, Common Good. She is a co-founder of sagawa/jospin, a consulting firm that has, since 2001, provided strategic counsel to nonprofits and foundations. Ms. Sagawa also serves as a Visiting Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress, where she is a leading expert on national service policy, and blogs regularly for the Huffington Post. Ms. Sagawa served as a presidential appointee in both the first Bush and Clinton administrations, and led the Obama Transition for the Corporation for National and Community Service. As Special Assistant to President Clinton for Domestic Policy, she was the lead architect of the legislation that created AmeriCorps and the Corporation for National and Community Service. After being confirmed by the Senate as the Corporation’s first managing director, she led the development of the new agency and its programs.
2011: Alan Khazei
Alan Khazei is the author of Big Citizenship: How Pragmatic Idealism Can Bring Out the Best in America. Along with his friend, Michael Brown, he co-founded the non-profit organization, City Year, which works to unite young adults, ages 17-24, from all backgrounds for an intensive year of full-time community service, mentoring, tutoring, and educating children. The non-profit, which was started in 1987, served as the model and inspiration for President Clinton’s AmeriCorps program. When AmeriCorps faced a drastic funding cut in 2003, Mr. Khazei joined with other service leaders to organize the “Save AmeriCorps” coalition, an effort that led to an increase of $100 million worth of funding for the program. Inspired by the success of the “Save AmeriCorps” campaign, Mr. Khazei launched Be the Change, Inc., a non-profit organization that creates national issue-based campaigns by organizing coalitions of nonprofit organizations, social entrepreneurs, policymakers, private sector leaders, academics, and citizens. In 2009, ServiceNation, the first campaign launched from this platform, played a key role in the enactment of the strongly bipartisan Edward M. Kennedy Serve America Act.
2010: John L. McKnight
John L. McKnight is Professor Emeritus of Education and Social Policy, co-founder of the Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD) Institute at the Institute for Policy Research (IPR) at Northwestern University, and a Senior Associate at the Kettering Foundation. The ABCD Institute was co-founded by Mr. McKnight and his colleague, Jody Kretzmann, in 1995. Mr. McKnight is internationally recognized for his critique of the ways in which social service and other organizations “problemize” people. In his view, seeing “needs” instead of “capabilities” and “assets” cripples not only those supposedly being helped, but their communities as well. By shifting their paradigm from needs-based to asset-based, communities and organizations could maximize their “human resources”. Mr. McKnight also co-authored Building Communities from the Inside Out: A Path Toward Finding and Mobilizing a Community’s Assets with Ms. Kretzmann. This book has become the “bible” of asset-based community development. Before joining the university in 1969, he directed the Midwest office of the US Commission on Civil Rights.
2009: Thomas Sander
Thomas Sander has served as the Executive Director of the Saguaro Seminar: Civic Engagement in America since its founding in 1996. The program is part of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and brings together leading practitioners and thinkers for a multi-year discussion to develop broad-scale, actionable ideas to fortify our nation’s civic connectedness. He was the project manager on the Social Capital Community Benchmark Survey – the largest survey of social capital to date (surveying over 30,000 Americans in 41 communities in 2000). Prior to taking this position, Dr. Sander was the Director of the Fund for Social Entrepreneurs at Youth Service America and served as a senior policy advisor on national service for the US Senate’s Labor and Human Resources Committee, where he played a major role in the enactment of the 1993 National Service Trust Act. Dr. Sander received his J.D. from Harvard Law School and his A.B. from Brown University.