GWBPC Forum on Leadership. Photo by Grant Miller

Forum on Leadership 2022: Speakers


April 21, 2022

Speakers at the 2022 Forum on Leadership

Daron Babcock
CEO, Bonton Farms

Moved by his personal beliefs, Daron Babcock couldn’t sit idly by as he witnessed his brothers and sisters in South Dallas be ravaged by institutional inequities. In 2012, he left a successful corporate career and moved from his home in North Dallas to serve inner-city residents of Bonton with his wife, Theda. Known for crime, violence, and extreme poverty, Bonton needed an intervention at the macro-level – something Daron knew was not only necessary, but possible.

Daron is referred to as a “social entrepreneur,” having started multiple successful social ventures; Bonton Honey Company, The Market at Bonton Farms, a Coffee House, a Farmers Market, and CityBuild Housing. Of all his ventures, the most notable, though, is Bonton Farms, one of the largest urban farms in the United States nestled in a once-forgotten neighborhood in South Dallas.

Daron is not only the Founder and CEO, but he is also the perpetual visionary and re-inventor of what’s possible. Bonton Farms is so much more than a farm, it is the catalyst that is helping to level the playing field; creating systemic change necessary so the residents of Bonton and others from marginalized neighborhoods all over the country can achieve the “American Dream” that was promised 200 years ago.

“Our goal is not to simply grow food because we’re in a food desert, but to address WHY Bonton is a food desert. We’re not here to fix broken people, but to be the hands and feet to fix broken systems.”

Daron has been invited to speak all over the world, most notably; TEDx Jacksonville, Philanthropy Southwest, Nirobi, Kenya, Bucharest, Romania, Itu, Brasil, Texas Public Policy Foundation, Texas State Capitol, Dallas City Hall, Countless churches, civic organizations, conferences, and corporate gatherings.

James A. Baker, III
61st United States Secretary of State

Mr. Baker served as the 67th Secretary of the Treasury from 1985 to 1988 under President Ronald Reagan. As Treasury Secretary, he was also Chairman of the President’s Economic Policy Council. From 1981 to 1985, he served as White House Chief of Staff to President Reagan. Mr. Baker’s record of public service began in 1975 as Under Secretary of Commerce to President Gerald Ford. It concluded with his service as White House Chief of Staff and Senior Counselor to President Bush from August 1992 to January 1993.

Long active in American presidential politics, Mr. Baker led presidential campaigns for Presidents Ford, Reagan, and Bush over the course of five consecutive presidential elections from 1976 to 1992.

A native Houstonian, Mr. Baker graduated from Princeton University in 1952. After two years of active duty as a lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, he entered The University of Texas School of Law at Austin. He received his J.D. with honors in 1957 and practiced law with the Houston firm of Andrews and Kurth from 1957 to 1975.

Mr. Baker’s memoir – Work Hard, Study . . . and Keep Out of Politics! Adventures and Lessons from an Unexpected Public Life – was published in October 2006.

Mr. Baker received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 1991 and has been the recipient of many other awards for distinguished public service, including Princeton University’s Woodrow Wilson Award, The American Institute for Public Service’s Jefferson Award, Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government Award, The Hans J. Morgenthau Award, The George F. Kennan Award, the Department of the Treasury’s Alexander Hamilton Award, the Department of State’s Distinguished Service Award, and numerous honorary academic degrees.

Mr. Baker is presently a senior partner in the law firm of Baker Botts. He is Honorary Chairman of the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University and serves on the board of the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. From 1997 to 2004, Mr. Baker served as the Personal Envoy of United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan in seeking a political solution to the conflict over Western Sahara. In 2003, Mr. Baker was appointed Special Presidential Envoy for President George W. Bush on the issue of Iraqi debt. In 2005, he was co-chair, with former President Jimmy Carter, of the Commission on Federal Election Reform. In 2006, Mr. Baker and former U.S. Congressman Lee H. Hamilton served as the co-chairs of the Iraq Study Group, a bipartisan blue-ribbon panel on Iraq. In 2008, Mr. Baker and the late Secretary of State Warren Christopher served as co-chairs of the National War Powers Commission.

Mr. Baker was born in Houston, Texas, in 1930. He and his wife, the former Susan Garrett, currently reside in Houston, and have eight children and nineteen grandchildren.

Deborah L. Birx, M.D.
Senior Fellow, George W. Bush Institute; Former United States Global AIDS Coordinator & United States Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy

Deborah L. Birx, M.D., has spent her career serving the United States, first as an Army Colonel and later, running some of the most high-profile and influential programs at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and U.S. Department of State. As a world renowned medical expert and leader, she has focused her work on clinical and basic immunology, infectious disease, pandemic preparedness, vaccine research, and global health. Most recently, Dr. Birx served as the White House Coronavirus Response Coordinator, where she used complex data integration to drive decision making, and worked closely with state officials across the country to provide state-specific advice and guidance. In 2014, Dr. Birx became an Ambassador-at-Large, when she assumed the role of the Coordinator of the United States Government Activities to Combat HIV/AIDS and U.S. Special Representative for Global Health Diplomacy. As the U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator, she oversaw the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the largest commitment by any nation to combat a single disease in history, as well as all U.S. Government engagement with the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria.

In 1985, Dr. Birx began her career with the Department of Defense (DoD) as a military trained clinician in immunology, focusing on HIV/AIDS vaccine research. Through her professionalism and leadership in the field, she progressed to serve as the Director of the U.S. Military HIV Research Program (USMHRP) at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research from 1996-2005. Dr. Birx led RV 144, or the Thai trial, one of the most influential HIV vaccine trials in history, which provided the first supporting evidence of any vaccine’s potential effectiveness in preventing HIV infection. During this time, she also rose to the rank of Colonel, bringing together the Navy, Army, and Air Force in a new model of cooperation — increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of the U.S. Military’s HIV/AIDS efforts through inter- and intra-agency collaboration. Then known as Colonel Birx, she was awarded two prestigious U.S. Meritorious Service Medals and the Legion of Merit Award for her groundbreaking research, leadership and management skills.

From 2005-2014, Dr. Birx served successfully as the Director of CDC’s Division of Global HIV/AIDS (DGHA), where she utilized her leadership qualities, superior technical skills, and infectious passion to achieve tremendous public health impact. As DGHA Director, she led the implementation of CDC’s PEPFAR programs around the world and managed an annual budget of more than $1.5 billion. Dr. Birx was responsible for all of the agency’s global HIV/AIDS activities, including to the oversight of more than 1900 staff, and more than 50 country and regional offices in Africa, Asia, Caribbean, and Latin America. In 2011, Dr. Birx received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the African Society for Laboratory Medicine for her distinguished and dedicated commitment to building local capacity and strengthening quality laboratory health services and systems in Africa. In 2014, CDC honored her leadership in advancing the agency’s HIV/AIDS response with the highly prestigious William C. Watson, Jr. Medal of Excellence.

Dr. Birx is known for driving implementation improvements to increase impact and has spent a career increasing overall effectiveness of programs through change management. Dr. Birx has published over 230 manuscripts in peer-reviewed journals, authored nearly a dozen chapters in scientific publications, and has developed and patented vaccines. She received her medical degree from the Hershey School of Medicine, Pennsylvania State University, and she trained in internal medicine and basic and clinical immunology at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center and the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Birx is board certified in internal medicine, allergy and immunology, and diagnostic and clinical laboratory immunology.

Elaine Chao
24th United States Secretary of Labor; 18th United States Secretary of Transportation

Elaine Chao is a highly experienced leader of large public, private, and non-profit organizations, as well as a veteran expert in strategic management and oversight, crisis management and communications, innovative transformations, public/private partnerships and coalition building. She has a distinguished career leading domestic and international organizations, and special expertise in East Asia. She has been confirmed to two cabinet positions by the U. S. Senate on a strong bipartisan basis. Elaine is well known as the first Asian-Pacific American woman to serve in the President’s cabinet in American history. She is also the longest serving Cabinet Secretary since World War II.

At the U. S. Department of Transportation, an organization of 77,000 people and a budget of approximately $124 billion including the Federal Aviation Administration, Secretary Chao has focused on keeping our nation’s transportation system safe and efficient; investing over $300 billion in infrastructure over three and a half years; and, promoting American innovation in autonomous vehicles, unmanned aerial systems, commercial space and supersonic jets. During the COVID-19 health crisis, Secretary Chao’s decisive actions kept America’s transportation networks open, safe and operational.

As U.S. Secretary of Labor, a department of over 17,500 employees and a budget of over $70 billion, Secretary Chao focused on increasing the competitiveness of America’s workforce in a global economy. She set new records at the time for workplace safety and health, while reducing the annual budget by 9% through more effective cost control and better management practices.

Prior to becoming U. S. Secretary of Labor, Elaine Chao was President and Chief Executive Officer of United Way of America, where she restored public trust by reforming the governance structure and instilling a new culture of accountability and transparency after the organization had been tarnished by previous financial mismanagement and abuse. 64% of Americans had heard of the scandal, which caused contributions to plummet. Because of the governance reforms she instituted, overall contributions rebounded to $3.2 billion within four years.

Elaine Chao also served as head of the Peace Corps, where she launched programs supporting women and entrepreneurs in the newly liberated Baltic nations and former Soviet Union. She began her public service working on transportation and trade issues at the White House. She was promoted in rapid succession to Deputy Maritime Administrator, U. S. Department of Transportation; Chairman, Federal Maritime Commission; and, Deputy Secretary, U.S. Department of Transportation. Early in her career, Elaine worked in the private sector as a banker with Citicorp in New York and BankAmerica Capital Markets Group in San Francisco, where she helped establish the West Coast Syndications unit.

Elaine has been a director on numerous public boards while out of government including News Corp, Ingersoll Rand, HCA Healthcare, Northwest Airlines, Wells Fargo, Clorox and Dole Food Company. She currently serves on the boards of Kroger and Hyliion. As a Board member, she has advocated for innovation and business transformations. She has also been a director on many nonprofit boards, including Harvard Business School Board of Dean’s Advisors and Global Advisory Board and a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

An immigrant who arrived at the age of 8 not speaking English, she received her citizenship at age 19. Elaine earned her undergraduate degree in economics from Mount Holyoke College, and her MBA from Harvard Business School.

Gary Cohn
Vice Chairman, IBM; 11th Director, National Economic Council

Gary D. Cohn is an American business leader, investor and the former director of the U.S. National Economic Council. He is an internationally recognized expert on the financial markets, global economy, U.S. politics and economic policy.

Mr. Cohn is Vice Chairman of IBM, working in partnership with IBM’s Executive Leadership Team on a wide range of business initiatives and external engagement, in areas including business development, public advocacy and client relationship management. He is also Co-Chairman of Cohn Robbins Holding Corp., which recently announced an agreement to merge with leading multinational lottery operator Allwyn Entertainment.

Mr. Cohn served as Assistant to the President for Economic Policy and Director of the National Economic Council from 2017-2018. As chief economic advisor to the president of the United States, Mr. Cohn managed the administration’s economic policy agenda and led the successful effort to grow the U.S. economy, create jobs and increase wages through tax and regulatory reform.

Before serving in the White House, Mr. Cohn was President and Chief Operating Officer of The Goldman Sachs Group, Inc. from 2006-2016. He joined Goldman Sachs in 1990 and held several other leadership positions including Global Co-Head of the Equities and Fixed Income, Currency and Commodities Division. He was a member of the firm’s Board of Directors and Chairman of the Firmwide Client and Business Standards Committee.

Mr. Cohn began his career at U.S. Steel before moving to New York to trade on the New York Commodities Exchange from 1982-1990.

Mr. Cohn invests across the cybersecurity, block chain infrastructure, regulatory technology and medical technology sectors. He serves on the corporate boards of Abyrx, Gro Intelligence, Lazurite and Nanopay and is the Chairman of the Board of Pallas Advisors. Additionally, Mr. Cohn serves on advisory boards for Hoyos Integrity, Spring Labs and Starling. He is a member of the Systemic Resolution Advisory Committee (SRAC) of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC).

Mr. Cohn has long been dedicated to advancing healthcare and education. He is a member of the Board of Trustees of NYU Langone Health and serves as Chairman of the Advisory Board for the NYU Langone Orthopedic Hospital. He is also on the Board of Overseers of the NYU Tandon School of Engineering. In 2019 Mr. Cohn was a Visiting Fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Institute of Politics.

Mr. Cohn lives in New York with his wife and three daughters. He grew up in Shaker Heights, Ohio, and received his undergraduate degree from American University in 1982.

Mitch Daniels
President, Purdue University; 49th Governor of Indiana

Mitchell E. Daniels, Jr. is the 12th president of Purdue University and the former governor of Indiana.

He was elected Indiana’s 49th governor in 2004 in his first bid for any elected office, and then re-elected in 2008 with more votes than any candidate in the state’s history. During his tenure, Indiana went from an $800 million deficit to its first AAA credit rating, led the nation in infrastructure building and passed sweeping education and healthcare reforms.

After a series of transformations, which included the biggest tax cut in state history, the nation’s most sweeping deregulation of the telecommunications industry and a host of other reforms aimed at strengthening the state’s economy, Indiana was rated a top five state for business climate and number one for state infrastructure and effectiveness of state government as Daniels exited office. Indiana’s business climate is now rated among the nation’s best.

At Purdue, Daniels has prioritized student affordability and reinvestment in the university’s strengths. Breaking with a 36-year trend, Purdue has held tuition unchanged from 2012 through at least the 2022-23 academic year. Simultaneously, room rates have remained steady, meal plan rates have fallen about 10%, and student borrowing has dropped 32% while investments in student success and STEM research have undergone unprecedented growth. It is less expensive to attend Purdue today than it was in 2012.

In recognition of his leadership as both a governor and a university president, Daniels was named among the Top 50 World Leaders by Fortune Magazine in 2015 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2019.

Prior to becoming governor, Daniels served as chief of staff to Senator Richard Lugar, senior advisor to President Ronald Reagan and Director of the Office of Management and Budget under President George W. Bush. He also was the CEO of the Hudson Institute, a major contract research organization. During an 11-year career at Eli Lilly and Company, he held a number of top executive posts including president of Eli Lilly’s North American pharmaceutical operations.

Daniels earned a bachelor’s degree from Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs and a law degree from Georgetown. He is the author of three books and a contributing columnist in the Washington Post.

He and his wife Cheri have four daughters and seven grandchildren.

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D.
CEO-Partner, Flagship Pioneering; CEO, Harbinger Health

Stephen M. Hahn, M.D., is CEO-Partner of Flagship Pioneering and Chief Executive Officer of Harbinger Health. Steve joined Flagship in June 2021 as Chief Medical Officer of its Preemptive Medicine and Health Security Initiative, which is creating a new field that aims to protect, maintain, or improve people’s health before they get sick. Steve will continue as a strategic advisor to the Initiative.

Steve brings two decades of distinguished leadership in healthcare strategy, oncology medical practice, and translational/clinical research to this role. He served as the 24th U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Commissioner from 2019 to 2021 overseeing both COVID and non-COVID regulatory affairs, including therapeutics and vaccine development, devices, diagnostics, and clinical trials.

Prior to his FDA appointment, Steve served as chief medical executive at the world-renowned MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. Prior to his role as chief medical executive, he served as deputy president and chief operating officer where he was responsible for the day-to-day operations of the nation’s top cancer center, which included leading more than 21,000 employees and overseeing a $5.2 billion operating budget. Steve was elevated to the chief operating officer role after serving as division head, department chair, and professor of Radiation Oncology. Prior to his executive leadership roles at MD Anderson, Dr. Hahn was the leader of radiation oncology at the University of Pennsylvania’s Perelman School of Medicine.

Steve focused his translational research efforts on the evaluation of the tumor microenvironment, signal transduction pathways involved in tumor response to therapies and proton therapy. He has authored more than 220 peer-reviewed original research articles and has experience in medical product development.

Steve earned his M.D. from Temple University and received his B.A. in Biology from Rice University. He was an internal medicine resident at the University of California San Francisco before completing a fellowship and residency at the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda, Maryland.

General James Mattis
Retired United States Marines; 26th United States Secretary of Defense

Jim Mattis was raised in Southeastern Washington and graduated from Central Washington State College.

He served over 40 years in the Marine Corps as an infantry officer, plus duty in the Office of the Secretary of Defense, as NATO Supreme Allied Commander, and as Commander of U.S. Central Command comprised of 250,000 U.S. and allied troops in combat across the Middle East and South Asia.

Retiring in 2013, he was a Davies Family Scholar at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution.

Subsequently he served as the 26th Secretary of Defense from January 2017 through December 2018.

Meghan Ogilvie
Chief Executive Officer of Dog Tag Inc.

Meghan Ogilvie is Chief Executive Officer of Dog Tag Inc (DTI), a 501c3 that empowers service-disabled veterans, military spouses, and caregivers through an innovative five-month fellowship program. Hired as DTI’s first employee in 2012, Meghan partnered with DTI’s co-founders to bring their shared vision to life: to create a place that equips transitioning veterans and military families with knowledge, skills, and confidence to pursue their career goals, post service.

Meghan assumed the role of CEO in 2015 and oversees all aspects of DTI’s unique, multi-faceted social enterprise including: managing the Fellowship program, growing Dog Tag Bakery, and guiding the development and implementation of DTI’s long-term strategic vision. As of January 2022, Dog Tag has continue to build out our growth playbook by running fellowships in two cities: Washington, DC, and Chicago. Prior to joining Dog Tag, Meghan spent several years working in finance in New York; first in equities with Lehman Brothers and Barclays and later within executive management at Macquarie Group.

Meghan comes from a military family, with both her father and sister graduating from the Naval Academy and serving in the United States Marine Corps. In 2017, Meghan Ogilvie was accepted as a Presidential Leadership Scholar and a recipient of the U.S. Army’s Outstanding Civilian Service Award. The following year, Meghan as named 2018 Rising Star by the Washington Business Journal.

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi
Executive Director, Afghan Institute of Learning

Dr. Sakena Yacoobi is a founder and Executive Director of Sakena Fund, a 501(c)(3) organization. She manages grantor and donor relations and fundraises for Sakena Fund and the Afghan Institute of Learning, raising awareness about Afghanistan in the USA and the world.

Each year, Dr. Yacoobi speaks at numerous events, conferences, and at institutions such as the UN, Stanford University, and Oxford University. She particularly enjoys engaging with youth at schools, inspiring them to be globally-minded citizens. She is a respected expert and speaker especially on the subjects of girls’ education, life in Afghanistan, health, refugees, and women’s empowerment.

Dr. Yacoobi serves on several boards and panels including, the Women’s Refugee Commission, International Advisory Council for the International Academy for Multicultural Cooperation, New Global Citizens, the Advisory Council for the Center for Social Impact Learning at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey, and is a former board member of the Global Fund for Women. She is an advisor to the Fetzer Institute and a member of the US-Afghan Women’s Council.

Dr. Yacoobi has 6 honorary doctorates from US universities including Princeton University. She has been honored with: 2017 Sunhak Peace Prize Laureate, 2016 Harold W. McGraw Prize in Education, 2015 WISE Prize for Education Laureate and 2013 Opus Prize, 2012 Lotus Leadership Award, 2007 Gleitsman International Activist Award. She is both a Kravis Prize and Gruber Prize awardee. Dr. Yacoobi is a Skoll Social Entrepreneur, Schwab Social Entrepreneur, Ashoka Fellow, Harvard Kennedy School Executive Education fellow, and was nominated as one of 1,000 women for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Dr. Yacoobi is the founder and Excutive Director of the Afghan Institute of Learning (AIL). Under her leadership, AIL provides education, health, and training services to the underserved in Afghanistan. Dr. Yacoobi has also established private facilities in the country, including four schools, a hospital, and TV and radio stations in Herat.