Speakers for first talk: Denis McDonough, former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, and Mike Sommers, former chief of staff to Senate Majority Leader John Boehner

Virtual Sharp Viewpoint Speakers Series tackles bipartisanship

September 11, 2020

University News

Denis McDonough, former White House chief of staff under President Barack Obama, and Mike Sommers, former Chief of Staff to Speaker of the House John Boehner, are the first pair of speakers in this year’s Sharp Viewpoint Speakers Series.

The two will discuss American political bipartisanship in the Trump era, the state of the 2020 U.S. presidential race, and possibilities for compromise amid extreme political polarization, at 7 p.m. on Sept. 21 via livestream.

University of Richmond President Ronald A. Crutcher will host a series of conversations about pressing issues of our time with pairs of thought leaders from across the political aisle.

“The Sharp Speaker series provides us a unique opportunity to foster dynamic and critical conversations,” Crutcher said. “Each program this year will include two speakers from opposite sides of the political spectrum. I’m particularly looking forward to the energetic and thought-provoking conversation that will occur with both speakers together.”

McDonough is currently senior advisor at the Markle Foundation and served as White House chief of staff from February 2013 to January 2017. Sommers is president and CEO of the American Petroleum Institute and spent nearly 20 years working as an aide to Speaker Boehner, including serving as his chief of staff.

The series will continue on Nov. 11 with “The 2020 Elections: What Happened?” with Mary Kate Cary, former speechwriter for President George H.W. Bush, and Mary Anne Marsh, Democratic political analyst and consultant. Cary and Marsh will discuss the 2020 election results and their implications for critical national issues, including the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and response, economic recovery, and a new era of American civil rights activism. 

On March 26, Cornel West, philosopher, political activist, and professor at Harvard University, and Robert P. George, American legal scholar and professor at Princeton University, will explore “Friendship and Dialogue Across Difference.” West and George are friends and former colleagues who will discuss the importance of fostering dialogue and cultivating friendships across ideological and political divides.

Due to COVID-19, events will be held via livestream. All events are free and open to the public, and registration is required. To register for the Sept. 21 event, visit www.crowdcast.io/e/university-of-richmond/register.

The Richard L. Sharp Viewpoint Speakers Series was established in 2011 in honor of Richard L. Sharp, a nationally recognized entrepreneur, to present competing views on topics crucial to the nation and global society.