Speakers and Events

We also have a number of upcoming conference events : click here!

Arthur Brooks Speaking Event

UW Madison; Pyle Center Alumni Lounge
October 17th, 2019 – 4:30pm

Free tickets can be obtained here.

Special Thanks to our UW-Madison Co-Sponsors: The Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy, The La Follette School of Public Affairs, and the American Enterprise Institute Executive Council

Dr. Arthur Brooks is Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership at the Harvard Kennedy School and Arthur C. Patterson Faculty Fellow at the Harvard Business School.  He most recently served for 10 years as President of the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), a public policy think tank in Washington, DC.  His career includes serving as a columnist for the Washington Post, a host of the podcast “The Arthur Brooks Show,” and the bestselling author of 11 books on topics including the role of government, fairness, economic opportunity, happiness, and the morality of free enterprise.  Dr. Brooks will be joining us to discuss his latest book, “Love Your Enemies – How Decent People can Save America from the Culture of Contempt.”

George Will

UW-La Crosse, The Bluffs, UWL Student Union
October 17, 2019

George Will, whose newspaper column has been syndicated by The Washington Post since 1974, will discuss “Civility, Partisanship and Conservatism in America” from 6 to 7:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 17, in The Bluffs at the UW-La Crosse Student Union. Will’s column appears twice weekly in about 400 newspapers in the U.S. and Europe. He also serves as a contributor for MSNBC and NBC News. His most recent book is titled “The Conservative Sensibility”.

The event is free and open to the public.

Michael J. Isham Jr. – The Native American Presence in the Red Cedar Watershed, Past & Present

UW Eau Claire, Barron County;  Ritzinger Hall
October 17th, 2019

Michael J. Isham will speak about Tribal history of the Ojibwa in the Red Cedar Watershed area, including pre-treaty days, treaty making and the post-treaty era. He will include some modern day connections to the area, and how Native American treaties and public policy connect. Isham has years of experience in the areas of treaty rights, natural resources, and land rights as they relate to natural resources. His education and experience in public and tribal policy make him a thoughtful and knowledgeable representative who can speak with authority on these topics.

Why Does College Cost So Much?

UW Madison; Discovery Building, the De Luca Forum
October 24, 2019;  4:00pm

The Tommy Thompson Center is pleased to be co-sponsoring an event with PROFS, WISCAPE, and ASPRO which examines college costs, in particular what is driving their dramatic rise and what the implications of this added expense is.  Also examined will be the pressure this has created on the state to increase funding levels and on universities to raise funds and pursue partnerships.
The Panel presentation will consist of:

David Feldman – William & Mary Professor of Economics
Laurent Heller  – University of Wisconsin-Madison Vice Chancellor for Finance and Administration
Tracey Klein      – University of Wisconsin System Regent

and will be moderated by:

Nicholas Hillman – University of Wisconsin-Madison Professor of Educational Leadership & Policy Analysis

A link to the Facebook events page can be found Here.

Karen Ray – The Three “Rs” of Developing Collaborations that Work: Results, Relationships, Resilience

UW Superior;  Yellow Jacket Union – Great Room
November 1st, 2019

Collaboration is a mutually beneficial and well-defined relationship entered into by two or more organizations to achieve results they are more likely to achieve together than alone”. In times of shrinking resources and strident disagreements on many issues, public leadership requires the willingness and ability to initiate, support, and implement successful collaborations. Such collaborations will be essential to improving Wisconsin’s future and are  inherent in the Wisconsin Idea. The proposed talk with Karen Ray will address:

• Reasons to collaborate and why collaborations are so often difficult
• Examples of collaboration that have had a positive impact in Wisconsin communities
• The key discussions and actions essential to starting a collaborative venture (and how to go back and amend them later)
• And how to keep a balanced focus on collaborations three key components : results, relationships and resilience

Temple Grandin – The World Needs All Kinds of Minds

UW Stevens Point; Sentry Insurance Theatre
December 3rd, 2019

Temple Grandin is a world-renowned activist for autism and neurodiversity more generally. She has published six books on the topic, and her life story was featured in HBO’s 2010 film Temple Grandin. In her talk, Grandin will explain the needs for different types of cognition and provide a first-person view into the mind of someone living on the autism spectrum. She will share how she is able to build a bridge of understanding between humans and animals, as well as between people on and off the autism spectrum. For example, she speaks of how she thinks in pictures rather than language. In order to solve the energy crisis or develop cures for new diseases, Grandin advocates that society begin to appreciate different types of minds: sensory thinkers, pattern thinkers and abstract thinkers.

Brian DeVore – Wildly Successful Farming: Public Policy and the New Agricultural Land Ethic

UW Eau Claire, Barron County; Ritzinger Hall
January 30th, 2020

Brian DeVore will describe farmers in Wisconsin, Minnesota and across the Midwest who are balancing profitability and food production with environmental sustainability and a passion for all things wild. These farmers are using innovative cropping and livestock production techniques and strategies to develop their “wildly” successful farms as working ecosystems and are adhering to the principles of the “land ethic,” which Aldo Leopold discussed in the 1949 book, A Sand County Almanac.  Discussion will also focus on the role public policy can play in promoting and supporting the kind of regenerative agriculture that produces numerous environmental and economic benefits in local communities.

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Past Speakers and Events

Emily Ladau – Both Sides of the Disability Disclosure Line

UW Superior;  Yellow Jacket Union – Great Room
September 17th, 2019

As someone whose disabilities are both visible and invisible, Emily Ladau rolls on both sides of the disclosure line. Her body and use of a wheelchair automatically reveals part of her disability, but her experiences go well beyond what’s seen at surface level. In her talk, Emily discussed how her experiences as a woman with a visible disability have led to her move beyond shame regarding what’s hidden, and why it’s important to be open about disability as part of identity. She also addressed the need to foster a culture of support for people with all types of disabilities, and through a personal lens, shared practical pathways toward progress and (self-) acceptance.

Speaker Emily Ladau giving a presentation

Transportation & Innovation Expo

May 23, 2019; 8:00am – 4:00pm
Alliant Energy Center – Exhibition Hall
1919 Alliant Energy Center Way, Madison WI

Wisconsin Clean Cities, Alliant Energy, and the City of Madison are partnered to put together a conference and expo featuring sustainable energy industry leaders. The event included a breakfast and lunch and access to exhibit booths and vehicle displays. Breakout sessions featured throughout the morning and afternoon.

While not directly sponsored by the Thompson Center, this event aligned well with the discussions featured at the Thompson Center’s Future of Transportation in Wisconsin conference this past April.

Energy Innovation and Our Wisconsin Economy

May 22, 2019; 9:00am
State Capitol, Madison WI

Thompson Center Director Ryan Owens moderated a legislative panel at a state capital briefing. Progress has been made in Wisconsin to realize economic opportunities presented by energy tecnologies but more remains to be done.  The events discussion focused on:
The economic benefits that could be made by an expansion of Wisconsin’s innovation in the energy markets;
How current state laws and policies influence innovative energy technologies; and
Highlighting potential policies that could improve the success rate and accelerate expansion of these opportunities.

This event was supported by Citizens’ Climate Education, The Wisconsin Conservative Energy Forum, and the Midwest Renewable Energy Association.

Wisconsin Women in Government Gala

May 15, 2019; 5:00-8:00pm
Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center
1 John Nolen Dr., Madison WI 53703

Wisconsin Women in Government hosted its 2019 Scholarship and Recognition Gala, held at the Monona Terrace Community & Convention Center on Lake Monona. WWIG  presented this year’s gala in partnership with the Tommy G. Thompson Center on Public Leadership and the Wisconsin Historical Society, as they celebrated the 100th anniversary of Wisconsin’s ratification of the 19th Amendment.

The keynote speaker for this event was Kristen Soltis Anderson;  a pollster and co-founder of Echelon Insights, a research and analytics firm. She was one of TIME‘s “30 Under 30 Changing the World” and has been featured as one of ELLE‘s 2016 “Most Compelling Women in Washington.” Anderson is also an ABC News political contributor, columnist at The Washington Examiner, and is the co-host of The Pollsters, a bipartisan weekly podcast. She regularly appears on programs such as Morning Joe, Fox News Sunday, Real Time With Bill Maher and more.

Austin Channing Brown

April 24, 2019; 6:00pm
UW-Superior – Yellowjacket Union Great Room
1605 Catlin Ave, Superior

Austin Channing Brown is a leading new voice on racial justice, and author of I’m Still Here: Black Dignity in a World Made for Whiteness. Austin is committed to exploring the intersections of racial justice, faith, and black womanhood. Most recently she served as a Resident Director and Multicultural Liaison at Calvin College.

Ramez Naam

April 22, 2019; 4:00pm
UW-Stevens Point – DUC Laird room
1015 Reserve Street, Stevens Point

Author, lecturer, and energy Investor Ramez Naam was at the UW-Stevens Point campus to talk about “The Exponential Energy Revolution: How Clean Energy is Disrupting the $6 Trillion Energy Industry” as part of a wider Earth Day event at UW-Stevens Point.

Alberto Gonzales, Dean Strang, and Criminal Justice Reform

April 18, 2019; 4:00pm
Discovery Institute – H.F. DeLuca Forum
330 N. Orchard St. Madison, WI 53715

The Tommy G. Thompson Center was very pleased to host former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Attorney Dean Strang to speak about criminal justice reform at UW-Madison’s H.F. DeLuca Forum in the Discovery Building.

WI Ideas conference

April 12-14, 2019
UW-Madison, Union South
1308 W. Dayton St., Madison WI

The Tommy G. Thompson Center will be sponsoring two scholarships to be awarded to UW-System students.  Competition for these scholarships will involve first signing with the WI Ideas Conference, which can be done here; and then later submitting an essay based on a writing prompt.  Thompson Center scholarships will be awarded to two UW students who submit a well essay relating to leadership and the future of transportation in Wisconsin.  Along with receiving the scholarships, the selected students will be offered the opportunity to discuss their essay and thoughts in a short presentation at the Thompson Center’s “Future of Transportation in Wisconsin” conference.  (April 26, at the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee)

The Inclusive Economy: How to Bring Wealth to America’s Poor

April 15, 2019; 4:00 P.M.
Discovery Building – Orchard View Room
330 N. Orchard St. Madison, WI 53715

The UW Institute for Research on Poverty will host Michael Tanner, a Senior Fellow at the CATO Institute on April 15. The event will feature a discussion of the topics of his newest book, which examines poverty in America and critiques the political Right and Left on what they get wrong in addressing the issue.  A reception will be held after the event.

This event is also sponsored by the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy and by the Thompson Center.

Frederick Hess

April 9, 2019; 6:00pm
UW-Platteville, Ullsvik Hall
1 University Plaza, Platteville

Frederick Hess is Resident Scholar and Director of Education Policy Studies at the American Enterprise Institute. He spoke on the key lessons he’s learned about education reform over 20 years, illustrated by his experiences talking to politicians, philanthropists, and school leaders around the world.

Jonah Goldberg

April 9, 2019; 7:00pm
UW-Parkside, Student Center Ballroom
930 Wood Rd, Kenosha, WI

Jonah Goldberg Ross Astoria

Author and political commentator Jonah Goldberg (Left) was at the UW-Parkside to talk about his new book, “Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics Is Destroying American Democracy.” This free Q&A session was moderated by UW-Parkside Political Science and Law Professor Dr. Ross Astoria (Right).

John McCormack

April 4, 2019;  4:30pm
UW-La Crosse, Student Union Theatre
521 East Ave. N., La Crosse

John McCormack and student Dinner group     John McCormack and College Republicans

John McCormack a Washington D.C. correspondent at the “National Review” kicked off a new UW-La Crosse lecture series that aims to bring some civility back into political discussion.

John will spoke on “A Crisis of Civility: How the left and the right are damaging political debate in America” at an engaging event attended by around 70 students, faculty, and members of the public.

John McCormack has appeared on a variety of radio and TV news programs, including MSNBC’s Morning Joe, CNN’s Inside Politics, HBO’s Real Time, NPR’s On Point, and several Fox News shows, including Special Report with Bret Baier.

Karl Rove and David Axelrod Point-Counterpoint

April 3, 2019;  6:00pm
UW-Green Bay, Weidner Center
2420 Nicolet Dr, Green Bay, WI 54311

David Axelrod, Karl Rove, and Moderator

National political strategists and former senior advisors to Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, David Axelrod and Karl Rove, were on the UW-Green Bay campus for a Point-Counterpoint Conversation on Wednesday, April 3.  Over 700 students, faculty, and members of the Green-Bay community and beyond registered to attend this event.

The event consisted of an hour of Q.A. with UW-Green Bay students and was followed by a larger free public event designed to provide and promote civil, non-partisan and thought provoking conversation about election polling and strategy, politicians and presidents, red and blue culture, the state of our democracy, the media and more.

Fox News 11 and ABC 2 news both aired stories on this event.

Fox News 11


Donna Brazile and Kelly Ayotte

April 1, 2019;  7:00pm
UW-Milwaukee, UWM Union, Wisconsin Room
2200 E Kenwood Blvd. Milwaukee, WI

Kelly Ayote and Donna Brazile

Donna Brazile, an American political analyst, and Kelly Ayotte, a former U.S. senator, spoke at the UWM Union Wisconsin Room on Monday, April 1, 2019.  They lead a conversation spanning across political parties with a focus on women in leadership and politics. Over 150 students, faculty, and members of the public attended this excellent event.  The Thompson Center would like to thank the University of Milwaukee for their substantial assistance in putting this together.

Michael Murphy Speaking Event

March 29, 2019
Fluno Center
601 University Avenue,  Madison, WI 53715

The Tommy G. Thompson Center was thrilled have Michael Murphy deliver a talk regarding the state of contemporary politics in America.  The conversation spanned presidencies, elections, the future of the democratic and republican parties, the rise of the “I’m right, you’re evil” mentality prevalent in current political discourse.

Charlie Sykes

March 21, 2019  7:00PM
UW-Parkside – Student Center Ballroom

Conservative pundit and former WTMJ-AM radio host Charlie Sykes discussed his book How the Right Lost its Mind and engaged in an extensive question-and-answer session at a forum about overcoming partisan politics for the public good.

Sykes is an NBC and MSNBC contributor, a contributing editor at the Weekly Standard and the host of the magazine’s Daily Standard podcast. He is also author of nine books and was co-editor of the National Review College Guide.

Wisconsin Civics Games

February 2, 2019
UW-Madison, Union South
1308 W. Dayton St., Madison WI

In an effort to foster civic engagement in Wisconsin youth, the Wisconsin Newspaper Association Foundation  launched the Wisconsin Civics Games, which took place during the second semester of the 2018-19 school year and were open to all Wisconsin high schools.  The Thompson Center sponsored the regional Wisconsin Civics Games at UW-Madison’s Union South. Center staff in attendance felt they were a smashing success, and were greatly impressed by the calibre of student participants who took part in the competition.

A Badger’s Journey: A Talk with Tommy Thompson

November 15   6:00pm-8:00pm

Address: One Alumni Place, 650 N. Lake St., Madison WI

Governor Thompson and his biographer Doug Moe were in Madison to talk about their new book, and to hold a question and answer session with the audience.  The Governor engaged the audience with stories from his childhood, from his early days running for office, and of some of his experiences as both Wisconsin’s Governor and Health and Human Services Secretary. Following this was a reception and book signing.

Debate and Election Night Viewings

October 26
October 29
November 6

The Tommy G. Thompson Center sponsored debate and election night viewing events at UW-System campuses around Wisconsin!  These events bring together UW students from across the political spectrum to view the American political process in action.

Come Fix the Debt Interactive Event

October 25

The Tommy G. Thompson Center was pleased to partner with the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget (CRFB) to put on an exciting, fun, and free public event at UW-Madison’s Education Building!  Attendees were asked to solve the federal debt crises.

Judge Jeffrey S. Sutton  September 25, 2018

Judge Jeffrey Sutton was on the UW-Madison campus and delivered a talk to students and other attendees on September 25th.

Thompson Book Event  September 13, 2018

The Thompson Book Event celebrated Governor Thompson’s legacy of pragmatic policymaking, interest in tackling big issues, and willingness to work across the aisle.  Governor Thompson discussed his new book TOMMY: My Journey of a Lifetime and weighed in on contemporary policy matters. The event was largely sponsored by the Thompson Center, working in conjunction with WisPolitics.com.


The Center hosted Dr. George Koonce in May of 2018. Koonce is a former linebacker for the Green Bay Packers and shared with us his own story of challenges and finding the strength to overcome them.

Why Universities Must Defend Free Speech

Cosponsored with the Center for the Study of Liberal Democracy at UW-Madison. Professor Keith Whittington of Princeton University headline presented, with discussion from Professors Donald Downs, Howard Schweber, and Anuj Desai.

Introducing High School Principals to the First Amendment

Cosponsored event which provided information to principals on what the First Amendment allows in the public school setting as well as how the First Amendment will apply to students who go on to colleges and universities.

Professor Jennifer Doleac

The Center worked with the La Follette School to have Professor Jennifer Doleac present her research while in Madison for the Center’s criminal justice conference. She came to Madison a day early to teach La Follette’s  students about her discoveries.

School Choice

Cosponsored along with the Department of Economics and the Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, on the particulars and potential outcomes of school choice.  Caroline Hoxby of Stanford University headlined, and the discussion drew in students and faculty across the university.