What does it mean to be strong? We live in a world being put to the test, and seemingly on the brink — so how can we make our systems, structures, and institutions stronger? How can we make things less fragile, and simpler — or manage complexity and increase resilience?

When we face challenges, do we stand rigid against the wind – or are we energized, like a turbine? We’ll explore the promising ideas that can help us turn adversity into strength, and help make our civic systems and shared culture become UNBREAKABLE.

Watch Elijah Cummings’ talk »

Elijah Cummings


Congressman Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th district and currently serves as the Chairman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform. As the main investigative committee in the House of Representatives, Oversight and Reform has jurisdiction to investigate any federal program and any matter with federal policy implications. As the Committee’s Chairman, Congressman Cummings fights to hold the Presidential Administration to a high standard of excellence and to ensure efficiency and effectiveness in the actions of the government of the United States. He also seeks to identify appropriate reforms that prevent waste, fraud and abuse and that ensure government programs meet the needs of the American people.

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Leana Wen

Reproductive Rights Advocate

Dr. Leana Wen is the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America and the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. Before joining Planned Parenthood, Dr. Wen served as the Baltimore City Health Commissioner, where she oversaw more than 1,000 employees with an annual budget of $130 million; two clinics that provide more than 18,000 patients with reproductive health services; and mental health programs in 180 Baltimore schools.

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Graham Allison

Historian + Educator

Graham Allison is the Douglas Dillon Professor of Government at Harvard University where he has taught for five decades. Allison is a leading analyst of national security with special interests in nuclear weapons, Russia, China, and decision-making. Allison was the “Founding Dean” of Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and until 2017, served as Director of its Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs which is ranked the “#1 University Affiliated Think Tank” in the world.

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Watch Chuck Marohn’s talk »

Chuck Marohn

Advocate for Strong Towns

Charles Marohn – known as “Chuck” to friends and colleagues is the Founder and President of Strong Towns, and the lead author of Thoughts on Building Strong Towns — Volume 1, Volume 2 and Volume 3 — as well as the author of A World Class Transportation System. He hosts the Strong Towns Podcast and is a primary writer for Strong Towns’ web content. He has presented Strong Towns concepts in hundreds of cities and towns across North America and in 2017 was named one of the 10 Most Influential Urbanists of all time by Planetizen.

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Watch Mitch Zeller’ talk »

Mitch Zeller

FDA Tobacco Products Head

As Director of the FDA Center for Tobacco Products since 2013, Mitch Zeller, J.D., leads FDA’s efforts to reduce disease and death from tobacco use and bring previously unavailable information about its dangers to light. Zeller is dedicated to carrying out CTP’s charge to reduce the harm from all tobacco products across the entire population—with a focus on how and why people start, stop, or start using these products again. The mission of CTP—established by enactment of the 2009 Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act—is “to make tobacco-related death and disease part of America’s past, not America’s future, and, by doing so, ensure a healthier life for every American family.”

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Watch Carmen Medina’s talk »

Carmen Medina

Organizational Heretic

Carmen is an organizational heretic and all-purpose troublemaker whose only real expertise is asking stupid questions and noticing odd, new things that might amount to something…or maybe not. People on LinkedIn endorse her for strategy, analysis, and leadership. Those who don’t know her very well also endorse her for program management skills… not!

Carmen spent 32 years at CIA but when you meet her you will hardly notice. She is recognized as a national and international expert on intelligence analysis, strategic thinking, diversity of thought, and innovation and intrapreneurs in the public sector.

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Watch David Carroll’s talk »

David Carroll

Data Rights Advocate

An associate professor of media design at Parsons School of Design, David Carroll is known for challenging Cambridge Analytica in the UK in a quest to recover voter data profiles from the 2016 election. Before that, he served as director of the MFA Design and Technology graduate program at Parsons and then took a shot at being a media tech entrepreneur after working for media clients in digital marketing since the dawn of the commercial internet. He has written about his data quest for Wired, Motherboard, and Boston Review and is working on a book. His research, scholarship, creative practice, and collaborations have been funded by the US government and private foundations.

Watch Maya R. Cummings’ talk »

Maya R. Cummings

Guardian of Democracy

After more than two decades operating at the nexus of politics, policy and government, Dr. Maya Rockeymoore Cummings was elected Chair of the Maryland Democratic Party in December 2018. Prior to leading the party, Dr. Rockeymoore Cummings spent her career advising and working for organizations and policymakers fighting for social justice, including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF), National Urban League, the House Ways and Means Committee, and Congressman Charles Rangel (D-NY).

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Watch Albert Rizzi’s talk »

Albert Rizzi

Ability Evangelist

In January 2006, Albert Rizzi opened his eyes to a world gone dark. The fungal meningitis that sent him into an opioid-induced coma robbed him of his sight, but not his vision.
Immediately, Rizzi threw himself into learning to navigate the world as a person who just happened to be blind, bringing a sense of adventure to his endeavors. In 2009, he founded My Blind Spot, a New York City-based nonprofit dedicated to inspiring accessibility for all!

Today, Albert is a tireless evangelist, debunking stereotypes and promoting accessible and usable technologies, digital equity, financial independence and equitable employment for people of ALL abilities.

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Terrell McSweeny

Tech Law Pioneer

Terrell McSweeny is a former Commissioner of the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. Prior to joining the Commission, Ms. McSweeny held several senior government appointments including: Chief Counsel for Competition Policy in the U.S. Department of Justice Antitrust Division; Deputy Assistant to President Obama and Domestic Policy Advisor to the Vice President Biden; and Counsel on the Senate Judiciary Committee.  She is currently a partner at Covington & Burling where her practice focuses on competition, AI governance, privacy, and consumer protection. Ms. McSweeny’s work focuses on the thorny questions that arise when technology outpaces law and policy.  She has written extensively on  big data and antitrust; algorithmic pricing, AI, IoT, cybersecurity; and privacy.

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Watch Antonio Tahhan’s talk »

Antonio Tahhan

Syria Food Scholar

Born in Venezuela to a Middle Eastern family and growing up in Miami, Tony Tahhan draws inspiration from a variety of cultures.

Tony pursued degrees in Math, Economics, and Spanish Literature from Cornell University.  As an elective course, he explored food anthropology and became fascinated by its stories, traditions, and taboos. In 2010, Tony was awarded a Fulbright Research grant to Syria, where he studied the midday meal in three contexts: at homes, in restaurants, and in the streets.  From cooking to eating, food was a natural vehicle for cultural exchange and one that he continues to explore. From his current home in Baltimore, Tony documents recipes and stories from Aleppo and his many travels, bringing people together online and in person around the love of food.

Watch Adrian Bejan’s talk »

Adrian Bejan

Design Physicist

Adrian Bejan received the Benjamin Franklin Medal for “Thermodynamics and constructal theory, which predicts natural design and its evolution in engineering, scientific, and social systems.” All his degrees are from MIT. At Duke University he is the J.A. Jones Distinguished Professor. He authored 30 books and 650 peer-refereed journal articles, and was awarded 18 honorary doctorates from universities in 11 countries. His latest book is The Physics of Life (St. Martin’s Press 2016), and his most recent work focuses on how the human mind perceives time.

Watch Melanie Nezer’s talk »

Melanie Nezer

Immigrant Advocate

Melanie Nezer is Senior Vice President for Public Affairs at HIAS, the global Jewish organization for refugees. Melanie also has served as HIAS’ Vice President, Policy and Advocacy and, previously, as Migration Policy Counsel and Director of the Employment Visa Program, representing at-risk Jewish professionals and religious workers seeking to work in the U.S. during times of instability and crisis in their home countries She has spent her career as an attorney and advocate representing people who are seeking a chance at a productive future for themselves and their children, in a place where they can be safe and free. Melanie obtained her law degree from Boston College Law School and her undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Watch Albert-László Barabási’s talk »

Albert-László Barabási

Network Researcher

Albert-László Barabási is the Robert Gray Dodge Professor of Network Science and a Distinguished University Professor at Northeastern University, where he directs the Center for Complex Network Research and holds appointments in the Department of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and the Central European University in Budapest. A native of Transylvania, Romania, he received his Master’s in Theoretical Physics at the Eötvös University in Budapest, Hungary and Ph.D. at Boston University. Barabasi’s latest book, Bursts: The Hidden Pattern Behind Everything We Do (Dutton, 2010), is available in five languages. His previous book Linked: The New Science of Networks (Perseus, 2002) is currently available in fifteen languages.

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Watch Sam Schwartz’s talk »

Sam Schwartz

Autonomous Vehicle Skeptic

Mr. Schwartz is CEO of Sam Schwartz Transportation Consultants, a firm that specializes in transportation planning and engineering. He is the traffic columnist, Gridlock Sam, for The New York Daily News (he released the word ‘gridlock’ into the public lexicon). Previously Mr. Schwartz was New York City’s Traffic Commissioner. He started his transportation career in the late 1960’s as a NYC cabbie and joined the Traffic Department, as a junior engineer, in 1971.

Mr. Schwartz’s most recent books, No One at the Wheel: Driverless Cars and the Road of the Future (2018) and Street Smart: The Rise of Cities and The Fall of Cars (2015) lay out a recipe for cities faced with rapid changes in modes, automation, demographic shifts and travelers’ preferences.

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Watch Adam Davies’ talk »

Adam Davies


Born in the United Kingdom, Adam Davies studied painting before switching to large-format photography in the late 2000s. Adam received an EdM from Harvard University and an MFA from Carnegie Mellon University. In 2015, Adam was honored as Outstanding Emerging Artist at the DC Mayor’s Arts Awards and was the recipient of the Clarence John Laughlin Award. He is an artist-in-residence at Creative Alliance in Baltimore where his recent exhibition featured collaborations with Los Angeles-based musician Alex Zhang Hungtai and Baltimore-based percussionist Adam Rosenblatt. He is currently working with two award-winning authors: Joan Wickersham on a project based upon the 17th-century Swedish shipwreck ‘Vasa’ and Ivy Pochoda on an exploration of the annual wildflower bloom that borders the highways in downtown Los Angeles.

Watch Ava Pipitone’s talk »

Ava Pipitone

Transgender Rights Advocate

Ava Pipitone builds tools to scaffold the imaginations of others. She serves as the Co-founder and CEO of HostHome Benefit Corp., the Leadership Consultant with The Baltimore Transgender Alliance, the Board Secretary of the GLCCB, and a diversity and inclusion consultant with Circles of Voices. Ava invites authentic community healing through the her words and equitable organization designs. Housing LGBT folx, building collective worker power, and organizing the transgender community are the fruits of her labor.

Watch John Prisco’s talk »

John Prisco

Quantum Encryption Expert

John Prisco is an entrepreneur and technologist that has led Triumfant, GeoVantage and Ridgeway Systems to successful exits. His depth of experience in telecommunications, cybersecurity and quantum physics are ideally suited to help lead Quantum Xchange and its customers, partners, investors, and employees through the emerging era of quantum computing and the future of encryption. John holds degrees in Electrical Engineering from MIT and Columbia University.

Watch Wellsley Brown’s talk »

Wellsley Brown

Defender of Oceans

As a campaign associate for Oceana, Wellsley is primarily focused on helping build the technical foundation for the organization’s plastics campaign. She spends most of her days immersed in the ongoing science and the political and corporate developments around plastic pollution. A graduate of the University of Miami, Wellsley holds degrees in marine science and biology.

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Watch Kyle Yearwood’s talk »

Kyle Yearwood

Visual Artist

Kyle Yearwood is a visual artist from Baltimore, MD. Through his study of filmmaking at Morgan State University and anything he could learn from YouTube, Kyle has mastered an art form that combines photography, videography, compositing, visual effects, and 3D. His artwork has been exhibited in the National Black Theatre in Harlem, The Tectonic Space in Baltimore, and San Francisco’s Museum of the African Diaspora.

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Watch Abigail Spanberger’s talk »

Abigail Spanberger


U.S. Representative Abigail Spanberger represents Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, which comprises 10 counties throughout Central Virginia.

Representative Spanberger began her career in public service, first serving as a federal agent with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigating money laundering and narcotics cases, and then serving as a case officer with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). As a CIA officer, she worked at home and abroad to collect vital intelligence, keep our country safe, and work in furtherance of our national security priorities. In the private sector, Representative Spanberger worked with colleges and universities to help them diversify their student bodies and increase graduation rates.

Dana Priest


Dana Priest has been a reporter for The Washington Post for 30 years and is The Knight Chair in Public Affairs Journalism at the University of Maryland’s Merrill College of Journalism. She covers mostly national security issues and has been a reporter and contributor to PBS FRONTLINE, NBC and CBS news and 60 Minutes.

Her awards include the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service for “The Other Walter Reed” and the 2006 Pulitzer for her work on CIA secret prisons and counterterrorism operations as well as two Polk Awards. She is author of two best-selling books, “THE MISSION: Waging War and Keeping Peace with America’s Military” which documents the military’s expanding influence over U.S. foreign affairs (2003), and Top Secret America: The Rise of the New American Security State (2011).

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Watch Khadijah Tribble’s’ talk »

Khadijah Tribble

Marijuana Policy Advocate

Khadijah Tribble is a social entrepreneur on a mission to do good. She is a recent graduate of Harvard Kennedy School where she was a Cheng Fellow at the Social Innovation Change Initiative. Khadijah currently serves on the board of Changing Perceptions DC, a community-based organization that enables ex-offenders and formerly incarcerated individuals to open small businesses. Prior to attending Harvard, Khadijah worked as a consultant providing information and operational support to grassroots community organizations, healthcare industry firms and government clients related to housing and health. As a Cheng Fellow, Khadijah launched the Marijuana Policy Trust, an organization aimed at interrupting the current cannabis regulatory landscape by modeling equity in cannabis regulations at local, state and federal levels.

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Watch David Rothkopf’s talk »

David Rothkopf


David Rothkopf is the CEO of The Rothkopf Group, a media and advisory company. Via its DSR Network it is a leading presenter of podcast and other web-based content on politics, foreign policy, national security and technology. Rothkopf is a well-known author whose next book Traitor: The Case Against Donald Trump is due out later this year from St. Martin’s Press.

His prior books include “National Insecurity”, “Power, Inc.”, “Superclass” and “Running the World: The National Security Council and the Architects of American Power.” He is also the author of “The Great Questions of Tomorrow” from Simon & Schuster and TED Books, based on his TED talk which has been seen to date by well over a million viewers.

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Watch Jerome Adams’ talk »

Jerome Adams

U.S. Surgeon General

Jerome M. Adams, MD, MPH, the 20th Surgeon General of the United States, was sworn into office by Vice President Mike Pence on September 5, 2017. Dr. Adams, a board-certified anesthesiologist, served as Indiana State Health Commissioner from 2014 to 2017. Dr. Adams, a Maryland native, has bachelor’s degrees in both biochemistry and psychology from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, a master of public health degree from the University of California at Berkeley, and a medical degree from Indiana University School of Medicine.

As Surgeon General, Dr. Adams oversees the operations of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, which has approximately 6,700 uniformed health officers who serve in nearly 800 locations around the world to promote, protect and advance the health and safety of our nation and our world.

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Watch Dwan Reece’s talk »

Dwan Reece

Curator of Music

Dwandalyn (Dwan) Reece is a musician, scholar and museum professional who is Curator of Music and Performing Arts at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History Culture.  Responsible for the acquisition, research and interpretation of the museum’s music and performing arts collection, she curated the museum’s permanent exhibition, Musical Crossroads, for which she received the Secretary’s Research Prize in 2017.

Dwan’s other projects include the museum’s three-day Grand Opening Festival, Freedom Sounds: A Community Celebration and the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage’s 2011 Folklife Festival program, Rhythm & Blues: Tell it Like It Is. She serves as chair of the SI pan-institutional group, Smithsonian Music, and is co-curator of the 2019 initiative, the Smithsonian Year of Music.

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Watch Anne Marie Lennon’s talk »

Anne Marie Lennon

Cancer Fighter

Dr. Lennon is an Associate Professor of Medicine at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland USA.  After receiving a medical degree from the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, and a PhD from University College Dublin, Dr. Lennon completed her residency training in internal medicine in Ireland and at the Cleveland Clinic. She then completed a Fellowship in Gastroenterology in Edinburgh, United Kingdom, followed by an Advanced Endoscopy Fellowship at Johns Hopkins.

She joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins in 2010. Dr. Lennon is a Fellow of the American Society of Gastrointestinal Endoscopy, the American Gastrointestinal Association, the American College of Gastroenterology, and the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland.

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Watch Emma Belcher’s talk »

Emma Belcher

Nuclear Expert

Emma leads the Nuclear Challenges program at the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Before MacArthur, Emma was at the Council on Foreign Relations, where she was a Stanton Nuclear Security Fellow. She has also worked as an advisor in Australia’s Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet on national security and international affairs, and as a public affairs officer at the Australian embassy in Washington, D.C.

She has a background in international security (Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, PhD and MALD; University of Melbourne, BA [Hons]). While completing her PhD, she was a fellow in the International Security Program and Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard University’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs.

Watch Allison’s talk »

Allison Archambault

Solar Energy Pioneer

Allison is president of EarthSpark International, a non-profit organization incubating businesses that solve energy poverty. EarthSpark has built two town-sized, solar-powered smart grids in rural Haiti and has spun off a smart meter company, SparkMeter, which is now enabling grid operators in 25 countries to expand energy access to low-income customers.  EarthSpark’s ‘Feminist Electrification’ approach to microgrid development won a United Nations Momentum for Change award in 2018, hailed as a ‘practical example of what real climate action looks like.’

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Watch Janet Noh’s talk »

Janet Noh

Singer + Songwriter

Janet Noh is a bi-coastal (NYC & LA) songwriter, performing vocalist, and classical pianist originally from Seattle, Washington. After graduating from Yale with a double major in economics and history, she started her career as an investment banker on Wall Street. It didn’t take long to learn that spreadsheets and data couldn’t feed a creative spirit. After winning a full scholarship at NYU-Tisch and receiving her M.F.A. in musical theatre writing, she abruptly abandoned finance for good (her parents still don’t know, please don’t tell).

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Watch Youth Marimba Ensemble »


Youth Marimba Ensemble

Sticks+Bars Youth Marimba Ensemble is Washington, D.C.’s first and only African style youth marimba band. In fact, it is one of few such ensembles in the eastern United States. Founded in 2014 by Premila Mistry, a music teacher in the District of Columbia Public School System, the ensemble gives students in grades 5-12 the opportunity to learn the beautiful marimba music of Zimbabwe and South Africa. The participating students also play, perform and compose music for marimba in other genres and styles.

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Watch Jeff Speck’s talk »

Jeff Speck

Walkable City Champion

Jeff Speck is a city planner and urban designer who advocates internationally for more walkable cities. As Director of Design at the National Endowment for the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he presided over the Mayors’ Institute on City Design and created the Governors’ Institute on Community Design. Prior to his federal appointment, Mr. Speck spent ten years as Director of Town Planning at DPZ & Co., the principal firm behind the New Urbanism movement. Since 2007, he has led Speck & Associates, a boutique planning firm that specializes in making American downtowns thrive.

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Watch Werner Reich’s talk »

Werner Reich

Holocaust Survivor + Magician

Werner Reich an his family were residents of Berlin when the Nazis came to power in 1933, and later fled to Zagreb. When the Nazis occupied Yugoslavia in 1941, Werner was placed into hiding with a couple that worked for the resistance movement. In 1943, at age 15, Werner was arrested and beaten by the Gestapo, jailed for seven weeks, and eventually sent to the Theresienstadt and Auschwitz II camps.

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Watch Blair Glencorse’s talk »

Blair Glencorse

Accountability Advocate

Blair Glencorse is leading a movement for accountability and integrity around the world through the Accountability Lab. The Lab works in communities to make governments more accountable and to open-up civic space- using the arts, media, culture and technology. Blair and his team have done everything from helping to found the first film school in Liberia to monitoring and improving public services in Pakistan to running a global TV show called Integrity Idol to “name and fame” honest government officials.

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Maya Ajmera

Science Literacy Advocate

Maya Ajmera is the President and CEO of Society for Science & the Public (the Society) and Publisher of its award-winning magazine, Science News. Founded in 1921, the Society works to promote the understanding and appreciation of science and the vital role it plays in human advancement. It is best known for its world-class science competitions, including the Regeneron Science Talent Search, Intel International Science and Engineering Fair and Broadcom MASTERS.

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Watch Lauran Hardin’s talk »

Lauran Hardin

Healthcare Transformer

Lauran Hardin is the Senior Advisor for the Camden Coalition’s National Center for Complex Health and Social Needs. In this role, she builds upon her extensive experience providing consulting, co-design and coaching in care re-design and complex care transformation. Current projects include co-designing a complex care ecosystem for uninsured patients in Memphis, TN, scaling a community based cross-sector care coordination model for vulnerable populations throughout the Adventist Health system and development of a complex care clinic model within the Sutter Health system.

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