The Vision Series

2013-2014 Arlington Speakers

Solon Simmons

Solon Simmons Solon Simmons is a professional sociologist and intellectually polyglot, humanistic social scientist with formal training in sociology, the history of science and business and informal training in just about everything else. Once aptly described as the ur-type of the University of Chicago undergrad, Solon's interests span the range of disciplinary knowledge with special focus on political culture, genealogies of confrontation, and discursive relationships between social mechanisms and cultural structures. His first book The Eclipse of Equality: Arguing America on Meet the Press tells the story of the atrophy in post World War II America of one of the canonical categories of the moral imagination, equality. In this book Solon, explores the progressive articulation of the American idea as the the core values freedom and tolerance find ready advocates and rhetorical supports in postwar America, while equality thought of in non-ascriptive and universal terms stagnates and falls out of our collective vocabulary. The story is not a happy one. Americans now confront one another over a dysfunctional divide, lacking the intellectual tools they need to confront their most dire social problems.

Dr. Janine Davidson

Dr. Janine Davidson is an Assistant Professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University where she teaches courses on national security policy making, strategy, civil-military relations and public policy. From 2009 to 2012, she served as the deputy assistant secretary of defense for plans where she oversaw the development of guidance for military campaign and contingency plans. She also led policy efforts for U.S. global defense posture and international agreements related to U.S. forces stationed overseas, while co-chairing the U.S.-Australia defense posture working group. In 2012, she was awarded the Secretary of Defense Medal for Outstanding Public Service. In 2013 she was appointed by President Obama to serve on the National Commission on the Structure of the Air Force.

Dr. Davidson began her career in the United States Air Force, where she was an aircraft commander and senior pilot for the C-130 and the C-17 cargo aircraft. She flew combat support and humanitarian air mobility missions in Asia, Europe and the Middle East and was an instructor pilot at the U.S. Air Force Academy. From 2006 to 2008, Dr. Davidson served as a director in Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict. In that capacity, she oversaw the founding of the Consortium for Complex Operations, an innovative interagency project to enhance education, training and performance in complex emergencies. In addition to her government and military experience, Dr. Davidson has also taught political science and international relations courses at Davidson College in North Carolina (2002), and held positions as an associate at DFI International in Washington (2003 to 2004), as a research and non-resident fellow at the Brooking Institution (2003 to 2004; 2008), and as the director for Counterinsurgency Studies at Hicks and Associates in Arlington, VA (2005-2006).

Dr. Davidson holds a Ph.D. and a Master’s of Arts degree in international studies from the University of South Carolina and a B.S. in architectural engineering from the University of Colorado at Boulder. She is a Member of the Council on Foreign Relations, a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for New American Security, and author of Lifting the Fog of Peace: How Americans Learned to Fight Modern War.

Richard N. Smith

Richard Norton Smith's Richard Norton Smith is a nationally recognized biographer and presidential historian. A former speechwriter for Bob Dole, between 1987 and 2001, he served as director of the Hoover, Eisenhower, Reagan and Ford presidential libraries. He spent the next five years as Founding Director of both the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics at the University of Kansas, and the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, in Springfield, Illinois.

Since 2006 Mr. Smith has been C-SPAN’s in-house historian, in which capacity he has spearheaded long form series on America’s presidential libraries, historically significant White House contenders, and the network’s current series First Ladies: Image and Influence. He is also a Scholar in Residence at George Mason University, and a frequent guest on The PBS News Hour and other programs. He organizes and leads historical tours (, and is largely responsible for the design of the new museum and education center at Ford’s Theater in downtown Washington. In January, 2007 millions heard him deliver the final eulogy at Gerald Ford’s Grand Rapids funeral - an act of friendship he would repeat four years later at the request of former First Lady Betty Ford. The author of nine books, Mr. Smith is at present completing a biography of Nelson Rockefeller to be published by Random House in 2014. All this is in keeping with his mantra: "There is no excuse for a dull book, a dull speech, a dull museum or a dull life - not when dealing with history, the most fascinating subject I know."

Janine Wedel

Janine Wedel, a university professor in the School of Public Policy at George Mason University, writes about governing, corruption, foreign aid, and influence elites through the lens of a social anthropologist. Winner of the 2001 Grawemeyer Award for Ideas Improving World Order, she is currently at work on a book exposing new forms of corruption, to be published in 2014 by Pegasus Books. Wedel is a four-time Fulbright fellow and recipient of awards from the National Science Foundation and MacArthur Foundation, among many others. Her books—widely and favorably reviewed (click here to review)—include the award-winning Shadow Elite: How the World’s New Power Brokers Undermine Democracy, Government, and the Free Market (2009) and Collision and Collusion: The Strange Case of Western Aid to Eastern Europe (2001). A public intellectual, Wedel has contributed congressional testimony and analysis pieces to more than a dozen major outlets, including the New York Times, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal Europe, Washington Post, Washington Times, National Interest, Nation, Politico, Salon, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe, and Christian Science Monitor. She is a featured columnist for The Huffington Post. Her speaking venues range from Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Columbia, MIT, Chicago, Berkeley, and Oxford to TEDx (Berlin) and the National Press Club. Television and radio appearances include MSNBC, CNN, PBS’s Frontline, C-Span, Al-Jazeera, Russia Today, BBC, and NPR. Wedel is founder and president of the ASsociation for the Anthropology of Policy (ASAP), which is affiliated with the American Anthropological Association.

Catherine Gallagher

Catherine Gallagher, PhD is an Associate Professor and the Director of George Mason University’s Cochrane Collaboration Policy College. Currently, her research focus is on accelerating evidence synthesis so that decision makers have the best available information when considering spending, guidelines, and basic care delivery. Over her career, she has been most concerned with high risk populations – namely youth involved in justice systems and their health outcomes. She serves on the Cochrane Collaboration’s Fields Executive and is an appointed member of the Secretarial Advisory Board on Maternal Home Visiting Programs for the Department of Health and Human Services. She gave the Memorial Reckless-Dinitz Lecture at Ohio State University on “Children of Everyday Violence” this year, along with invited talks to policy and physician communities through the Guidelines-International-Network, the British Medical Journal and Oxford’s Center for Evidence-based Medicine, and Academy Health’s National Policy Conference. She has made plenty of poor choices related to her own healthcare over the years.