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Engagement Agenda: A Look Back At 2017

As we celebrate 2017, we reflect on some of the top moments from the George W. Bush Presidential Center’s Engagement Agenda, home to the Engage series and The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute.

Article by William McKenzie and Ioanna Papas December 21, 2017 //   3 minute read
In November, the Bush Institute hosted “Sisters First: A Conversation with Barbara Bush & Jenna Bush Hager”

This year’s sold-out Engage series delivered thought provoking and entertaining conversations from newsmakers and big thinkers. Guests such as Barbara Bush and Jenna Bush Hager, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, actor Christopher Jackson from Hamilton, and veterans featured in President George W. Bush’s Portraits of Courage connected with audiences and explored many of today’s most pressing issues.  

Learn more about our Engage series and see in-depth highlights from each event

The goal of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute is to tackle challenges that are relevant to our lives.

The goal of The Catalyst: A Journal of Ideas from the Bush Institute is to tackle challenges that are relevant to our lives.

The digital quarterly led off 2017 commenting on the beginning of a new administration. The What Happens Now? edition featured essays and interviews with the likes of American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks, Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), former White House Press Secretary Mike McCurry, and popular conservative blogger Rod Dreher. We obviously live in a contentious era, but as Brooks put it: We should not be bashful about smart, strong disagreements about which public policies are the best instruments for helping more people access freedom, prosperity, and the pursuit of their happiness.”

We followed with our spring edition, The Modern Military, which examined the military America needs and how the nation can provide and sustain that force. Answering those questions were former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, Blue Star Families Chair Sheila Casey, and former U.S. Pacific Fleet Commander Admiral Patrick Walsh.  Joining in were Bush Institute experts Col. Miguel Howe and Col. Matthew Amidon. In Gates’ view, the biggest challenge is “…the range of potential threats and conflicts, and their lethality, that the military prepare for.” 

The summer issue, Africa Tomorrow, focused on the challenges facing the continent and the leaders and forces transforming Africa. Such African leaders as Liberian President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf and One’s Nachilala Nkombo joined western leaders such as President and Mrs. Bush and Sir Bob Geldof in presenting their views on a rapidly-changing Africa. As Geldof put it: “To ignore Africa is to ignore 2050.”

We wrapped up 2017 asking whether democracy is in danger here and abroad. We sought views from a range of people, including former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Brookings Institution scholar William Galston, and Bush Institute President and CEO Ken Hersh. Here’s how Dr. Rice explained the need for democracy: “It’s not a matter of western values; it's not a matter of American values; it's a matter of universal values. People want to control their own futures.”

We look forward to a 2018 filled with provocative essays and lively interviews that lead to the resolution of pressing problems.