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Speaker Paul Ryan

Paul Ryan

Speaker Paul Ryan joined the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss current policy priorities, including evidence-based public policies with the American Idea Foundation and opportunity zones designed to provide incentives to invest in Census tracts where poverty is persistent. Speaker Ryan provided insight on the rise of polarization, opportunities to revitalize civil society, and lessons for younger Americans. The conversation concluded with discussion on the first 100 Days of the Biden Administration and hopes for progress in divided government. Paul Ryan is a native of Janesville who served as Representative for Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District for two decades. He served in a variety of leadership roles including as Chair of the Committee on Ways & Means, Chair of the House Committee on the Budget, and ultimately as the 54th Speaker of the House of Representatives. In 2012, Speaker Ryan was selected as the Republican nominee for Vice President of the United States. Speaker Ryan also serves as an Honorary Fellow for the Thompson Center.

Sean Stevens

Sean Stevens joined the Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss findings from a 2020 survey on free speech on the college campus. The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE), College Pulse, and RealClearEducation released College Free Speech Rankings, a comprehensive comparison of student experiences of free speech on their college or university campuses. Dr. Stevens is a Senior Research Fellow in Polling and Analytics at FIRE and obtained his Ph.D. in Social Psychology from Rutgers. His research has focused on understanding how moral convictions produce motivated reasoning within the political domain, how this motivated reasoning can distort research in the social sciences, and how motivated reasoning can lead to political intolerance and create obstacles to political compromise. More recently, he has begun investigating the psychological factors that motivate support for censorship and self-censorship.

Representative Mark Pocan

Rep. Mark Pocan

Congressman Mark Pocan (D-WI) joined the Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss upcoming congressional priorities and opportunities for bipartisan consensus. A small business owner, union member, and lifelong advocate for progressive causes, Rep. Pocan was sworn in as the U.S. Representative for Wisconsin’s second congressional district in 2013 following 14 years in the Wisconsin State Assembly. Rep. Pocan is the Chairman Emeritus of the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC), the largest values based caucus in the Democratic Party, where he is a strong voice for progressive values in Congress.

Michael Ferris

Michael Ferris joined the Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss a data-based planning tool called “Wisconsin Expansion of Renewable Electricity with Optimization under Long-term Forecasts” (WEREWOLF) he developed with Thompson Center faculty research funding. (Learn more about his renewable energy tool.) Dr. Ferris then explained how the modeling has been adapted for use in Wisconsin’s COVID-19 vaccine delivery. Dr. Ferris is the John P. Morgridge Professor & Jacques-Louis Lions Chair of Computer Sciences & Stephen C. Kleene Professor in Computer Science and Mathematics and Industrial and Systems Engineering at UW–Madison and the Director of the Data Science Hub at the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery.

Shannon Jankowski and Diego Zambrano

Shannon Jankowski
Shannon Jankowski
Diego Zambrano
Diego Zambrano

In this episode, the Thompson Center was joined by Shannon Jankowski and Diego Zambrano to discuss the current reach of Anti-SLAPP statutes and the potential for further implementation. Shannon Jankowski is the E.W. Scripps Legal Fellow at Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, where she works to protect First Amendment freedoms and the newsgathering rights of journalists. Previously, she practiced in the areas of defamation, right of publicity, copyright and trademark litigation and assisted journalists in obtaining access to government and judicial records. Diego Zambrano is an Assistant Professor at Stanford Law School with expertise in transnational law and arbitration. He recently authored the Wall Street Journal article “Foreign Tyranny by U.S. Lawsuit: Dictators from Napoleon III to Fidel Castro have Taken Advantage of the American Legal System.”


Mondira Saha-Muldowney

Mondira Saha-Muldowney joined the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss her team’s timely study, Academia and Industry Collaboration During the Early Onset of COVID-19 Pandemic: Success Stories and Barriers Encountered. The study was funded by the Thompson Center and a summary is linked here. Mondira is the Manager of the Dissemination and Implementation Launchpad at the UW Institute for Clinical and Translational Research. She has an extensive business background and serves as a strong advocate for representing customers and stakeholders voices. From working for Fortune 100 companies to almost two decades in the healthcare field, she specializes in new product and service development, marketing, training, finance and sales.


Christine Rosen

The Thompson Center was pleased to be joined by Christine Rosen to discuss her recent article, “You Will Be Re-Educated.” Christine is a senior writer at Commentary magazine and received her PhD in History from Emory University. She is a senior editor of The New Atlantis, where she writes about the social and cultural impact of technology, as well as bioethics and the history of genetics. Her essays and reviews have appeared in the New York Times Magazine, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New Republic, American Historical Review, and New England Journal of Medicine.


David Clark and David Stark

David Clark
David Clark
David Stark
David Stark

David Clark and David Stark joined the Tommy G. Thompson Center to discuss the real estate industry, namely through trends observed during this pandemic public emergency. Dr. Clark is the Executive Associate Dean and Professor of Economics at Marquette University with expertise in urban and regional economics with an emphasis on housing markets and household migration behavior. Mr. Stark is the longtime President of Stark Company Realtors who comes from a line of prominent realtors. The company was founded in 1908 and primarily serves South Central Wisconsin.

Dennis Dresang

Professor Emeritus Dennis Dresang

Professor Dennis Dresang joined the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership to discuss his new book on the life and legacy of former Wisconsin Governor Patrick J. Lucey. Dresang discussed Lucey’s hand in the reforms to the University of Wisconsin structure, the growth of the Democratic Party in the state, and notable moments from the governor’s life and leadership. Dennis Dresang is Professor Emeritus of Public Affairs and Political Science at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and founding director of the La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Wilfred Reilly

Part of the Balancing Law Enforcement and Civil Liberties series, Wilfred Reilly joined the Thompson Center to discuss interactions between police and citizens. Dr. Reilly is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Kentucky State University and shared his research on media narratives concerning law enforcement and race.

Jim Palmer

Part of the Balancing Law Enforcement and Civil Liberties series, Jim Palmer joined the Thompson Center to discuss the state of law enforcement in Wisconsin. Palmer is the Executive Director of the Wisconsin Professional Police Association and shared findings from their newly released report, “A Blueprint for Change: Opportunities to Evolve Policing in Wisconsin.”

Lisa Pugh and Beth Swedeen

Lisa Pugh
Lisa Pugh
Beth Swedeen
Beth Swedeen

In this episode the Thompson Center was joined by Lisa Pugh, Director of The Arc Wisconsin and by Beth Swedeen, Executive Director of the Wisconsin Board for People with Developmental Disabilities. Lisa and Beth revisited many of the topics discussed during the Thompson Center’s Increasing Independence for Persons with Disabilities series and spoke more generally about what was learned and where Wisconsin is in its ability to help those in need.

Ryan Walsh

Ryan Walsh

The Thompson Center was joined by Ryan Walsh, attorney and former Chief Deputy Solicitor General of Wisconsin to discuss the recent Supreme Court case on the Governor’s Safer-At-Home order. Walsh discussed the authority and power of agencies in the state government, and the process of properly exercising that power. He also discussed the takeaways from the Supreme Court’s decision, and its meaning for the future.

Governor Tommy G. Thompson and Senator Fred A. Risser

Governor Tommy Thompson
Gov. Tommy Thompson
Senator Fred Risser
Sen. Fred Risser

The Thompson Center was joined by former governor Tommy G. Thompson and Wisconsin State Senator Fred A. Risser, the longest serving lawmaker in American history. Tommy Thompson and Senator Risser reflected on their time in office and discussed changes they bore witness to during their time in office. Each also shared their thoughts on good governance and gave some advice for up and coming leaders of the future.

Charles Franklin

Charles Franklin

The Thompson Center was very pleased to be joined by Charles Franklin, Professor of Law and Public Policy and Director of the highly esteemed Marquette Law School Poll since its creation in 2012. Franklin discussed the most recent polling data from Wisconsin looking at the populations views on the presidential race, presidential job approval, Wisconsin Governor Evers approval, the economic outlook, various healthcare systems, and thoughts on the most recent stimulus package passed by congress.

David Robson

David Robson

In this Podcast Thompson Center Director Ryan Owens interviewed David Robson, author of The Intelligence Trap: Why Smart People Make Dumb Mistakes. Robson is an accomplished writer specializing in matters of the human brain, body, and behavior. His work has appeared at the BBC, The New Scientist, The Guardian, and The Atlantic.

Robson discussed the unique tools available to highly intelligent people to double down on mistakes. Further, higher levels of education as they are currently designed actually strengthen self-selection bias when looking at the evidence available to them, because the priority of the individual in to make a strong argument for their point of view. Robson went on to discuss the means and ways by which a person can avoid the intelligence trap, and be more effective in decision making.

Favorite Leader in History: Benjamin Franklin

Senator Mike Lee

Mike Lee Portrait

Senator Mike Lee of Utah joined the Thompson Center to discuss legislation relating to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and a set of provisions scheduled to expire on March 15, 2020. Senator Lee began his tenure in 2010 and is a member of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee.

Favorite Public Leader: Canasatego

Justice Rebecca Bradley and Justice Rebecca Dallet

Justice Rebecca Bradley
Justice Rebecca Bradley
Justice Rebecca Dallet
Justice Rebecca Dallet

The Thompson Center was thrilled to have the opportunity to interview both Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Rebecca Bradley and Justice Rebecca Dallet. The justices described the work they do and how it may be different from the public’s perception. They also weighed in on some of the key issues facing the court in the contemporary context. Additionally, the justices gave some tips and recommendations to attorneys when they bring a case to the Court.

Gordon Wood

Gordon Wood

Dr. Gordon Wood, professor emeritus at Brown University, joined the Tommy G. Thompson Center to discuss the 1619 Project. Wood discussed the importance of the 1619 Project, where it is accurate from a historical perspective, and where it misses the mark.  Wood shared his knowledge on a number of historical figures including Frederick Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, several Founding Fathers.

Favorite Public Leader: George Washington

Representative Joan Ballweg

State representative Joan Ballweg

The Thompson Center was honored to be joined by Representative Joan Ballweg of the Wisconsin State Assembly.  She is Chair of the committee for review of administrative rules, a member of the Speaker’s Taskforce on Suicide Prevention, a member of the Committee on Children and Families, the Committee on Colleges and universities, and other positions. She is also a former teacher and a co-owner of a farming business.

Representative Ballweg discussed the ongoing efforts of the Taskforce on Suicide Prevention.  After briefly discussing the most vulnerable populations and the causes of suicide in those populations, Rep. Ballweg discussed numerous proposals that had recently moved from the Assembly for consideration by the State Senate. Among these include educational initiatives, an expansion of the suicide prevention hotline awareness, the addition of trained peer programs for students, and additional funding for the WISH program and its affiliated ‘Hope’ squads.

Favorite Public Leader: Abraham Lincoln, John Adams, and the dynamic between Adams and Jefferson
Favorite Book: JFK’s Profiles in Courage

Margaret Raymond

Dean Margaret Raymond

The Thompson Center had the great pleasure of interviewing Dean Margaret Raymond, who has served as the Fred W. and Vi Miller Dean of the University of Wisconsin Law School since July 2011. Dean Raymond served as a law clerk to the late Justice Thurgood Marshall of the U.S. Supreme Court and the late Judge James L. Oakes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. Following her clerkships, she practiced as a commercial litigator and a criminal defense lawyer.

Dean Raymond’s scholarship focuses on constitutional criminal procedure, substantive criminal law, and the professional responsibility of lawyers. She is the co-author of a Professional Responsibility casebook, The Law and Ethics of Law Practice (with Hughes, 2d ed. 2015). From 2013 to 2019, she served as a member of the Standing Committee on Professional Ethics of the Wisconsin State Bar and she participates regularly in providing ethics CLE programming to Wisconsin lawyers.

Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin

Yuval Levin spoke with the Thompson Center about the breakdown of social institutions and cohesion in America, and the rise of populism that is both the cause and effect of this cohesion it. Discussion also focused on the status and modern development of the Democratic and Republican parties.  Levin also spoke on what the role of the federal government is to be part of the solution in addressing the problems of modern society. He also addressed federal spending and the agreement of both parties that nothing should be done to address deficits.


Kenneth Mayer

Thompson Center Director Ryan Owens discusses the latest news relating to the House impeachment inquiry with UW–Madison Professor Kenneth Mayer.  Discussion walked through a play by play of what had happened in this complicated story up to this point. (September 27, 2019) Discussion continued to go over the ramifications and context of what was going on, and what the potential consequences could be both as pertaining to the President and the 2020 election cycle.

Christopher Scalia

The Thompson Center is pleased to speak with Christopher Scalia, PhD.  Dr. Scalia is the Director of Academic Programs at the American Enterprise Institute. He is the co-author of Scalia Speaks: Reflections on Law, Faith, and Life Well Lived and On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer, in addition to regular political commentary in a variety of national media outlets. Dr. Scalia shared a variety of stories about his father Justice Antonin Scalia, including a few that occurred in Madison.

A Founder who Justice Antonin Scalia admired: George Washington

Representative Evan Goyke

Evan Goyke

The Thompson Center was pleased to speak with Representative Evan Goyke.  Representative Goyke spoke on his district and the city of Milwaukee and its importance to Wisconsin.  He also talked about some of his work in pursuit of statewide criminal justice reform, particularly housing reform as a way to reduce crime, but also reforms more broadly.  Representative Goyke also spoke on being a representative and the pressures faced by all lawmakers that make bipartisan solutions difficult to accomplish.  One of his key take-aways was that in passing bipartisan legislation the first step is the hardest and the fallout predicted by opponents to the legislation rarely materializes to the extent which was feared.

Favorite Leaders in History: Nelson Mondella, Desmond Tutu, Gary Goyke, William Proxmire

Representative Gordon Hintz

Gordon Hintz

The Thompson Center had a very insightful conversation with Representative and Wisconsin State Assembly Minority Leader Gordon Hintz.  Representative Hintz spoke on his time and experience working in the state legislature, and what it is like to be in a position of leadership among equals.  Hintz also discussed the barriers to bipartisanship in Wisconsin’s divided government, and the erosion of trust between the parties.  Other topics included areas of bipartisanship that could still be possible, the national Democratic Party, social media, and the problem of selection bias in where members of the public get their news.

Favorite Leaders in History: Barack Obama, Robert Kennedy, but more importantly public leaders on both sides of the aisle who are dedicated to problem solving with serious attitude towards that end, included former governor Thompson.

Speaker Robin Vos

Robin Vos - Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly

The Thompson Center was thrilled to have the opportunity to sit down with Robin Vos, Speaker of the Wisconsin State Assembly. Discussion included an update on what Speaker Vos was up to in the Assembly, his take the state of politics today, what we can do better, and how things are moving forward with divided government in Wisconsin.

Favorite Leaders in History: Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln

Joan Biskupic

Joan Biskupic

The Thompson Center was very pleased to hear from journalist, Supreme Court analyst, and author Joan Biskupic. Discussion centered on her new book The Chief: The Life and Turbulent Times of Chief Justice John Roberts.  Other topics included the nature of leadership on the court and areas of law the Supreme Court may or may not take up in the near future, notably affirmative action policies.

Scott Coenen

Scott Coenen - Director of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum

The Thompson Center was pleased to have a very interesting discussion with Scott Coenen, Director of the Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum.  Topics included the mission of the Forum, renewable energy technology and its falling costs, the feasibility of using renewable energy to augment the national grid, and how policy makers can approach the issue in a bi-partisan manner.

Favorite Leader in History: Ronald Reagan

Richard Brookhiser

Richard Brookhiser

The Thompson Center was joined by accomplished writer and Senior Editor of National Review Richard Brookhiser. Discussion centered around his new book and research relating to Chief Justice of the Supreme Court John Marshall.  Brookhiser discusses Marshall’s personality, his beliefs, and his leadership in shaping the Judicial branch of government we have today.

Favorite Leaders in History: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln

Christian Gossett

Christian Gossett - District Attorney for Winnebago County

The Thompson Center was joined by Christian Gossett, district attorney of Winnebago County. Discussion focused on criminal justice reform and the political, legal, and funding structures in place in Wisconsin that disincentives dramatic changes.

Favorite Leaders in History: Those who are willing to put their names out and question the norms.

Mona Charen

Mona Charen

In episode 6 the Thompson Center was joined by Mona Charen, Senior Fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center, to discuss contemporary feminism and the modern American family. Mona also shared her thoughts on the upcoming Democratic Party primary, and the state of demographics as they pertain to electoral fortunes.

Favorite Leaders in History: George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, Margaret Thatcher, Jeane Kirkpatrick

Representative Mike Gallagher

Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher

In episode five, the Thompson Center spoke with Wisconsin Representative Mike Gallagher. Representative Gallagher wrote a very interesting article “How to Salvage Congress” in November, 2018, calling for structural reforms to how the legislative branch conducts its work. Have a listen, and we recommend taking a look at the article itself as featured in The Atlantic.

Favorite Leader in History: Dwight D. Eisenhower

Senator Ron Johnson

Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson

In episode four, the Thompson Center heard from Wisconsin Senator Ron Johnson. Senator Johnson joined us to discuss why he got into politics, his views on a number of policies, his involvement with the Joseph Project, and more.

Favorite Leader in History: George Washington

Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch

Rebecca Kleefisch

For its third episode the Thompson Center spoke with Rebecca Kleefisch: Former Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin and currently Executive Director of the Women’s Suffrage Centennial Committee. This interview was timed for release to coincide with the celebration of the 100-year anniversary of women’s suffrage in Wisconsin. Ms. Kleefisch spoke briefly on the history of women’s suffrage in the United States, before discussing her views on a wide range of Wisconsin policies and topics including employment, taxes, healthcare, and others.

Favorite Leaders in History: Jesus Christ, Margaret Thatcher

Michael Murphy

Speaker Michael Murphy Face shot

In the Thompson Center’s second podcast we spoke with political commentator and strategist Michael (Mike) Murphy. Mr. Murphy discussed his experiences working on election and re-election campaigns, the upcoming democratic primaries, the future of the parties, public polling, and some of his political philosophy gained through experience.

Favorite Leaders in History: Winston Churchill, Georges Clemenceau, David Lloyd George, Lee Kuan Yew, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore ‘Teddy’ Roosevelt, Harry Truman, Richard Nixon, Charlie Munger

Governor Tommy G. Thompson

Tommy G. Thompson, former Governor of Wisconsin and former Secretary of Health and Human Services

For the Thompson Center’s inaugural podcast, we interviewed the Center’s namesake Tommy G. Thompson. Thompson discussed lessons he learned in his time in public service, his experiences practicing bipartisanship to improve Wisconsin, his current work on advocating for prison reform, his advice to Governor Evers, and much more!

Favorite Leaders in History: Abraham Lincoln, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Allan Thompson