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Engagement Agenda: A Look Back at 2018

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Learn more about Ioanna Papas.
Ioanna Papas
Director, Communications
George W. Bush Institute

As we look back on 2018, we celebrate some of the top moments at the Bush Center.

Forum on Leadership 

Closing Conversation with Jeff Bezos, Co-Presented with SMU

April 2018 saw the Bush Institute kick off its inaugural Forum on Leadership. The three-day event, hosted by President and Mrs. Bush, convened prominent thought leaders, innovators, and newsmakers to celebrate leadership. The Forum featured luminaries such as Vice President Dick Cheney, Bono, Jeff Bezos, Dr. Condoleezza Rice, Ben Bernanke, John Boehner, Dr. Priscilla Chan, Arthur Brooks, Hank Paulson, Gov. John Hickenlooper, and General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.). 

At the event, President and Mrs. Bush recognized three outstanding leaders. Jan Pruitt, former President and CEO of North Texas Food Bank, posthumously received the George W. Bush Institute Trailblazer Citation; Blayne Smith, President of GORUCK, received the George W. Bush Institute Military Service Citation; and Bono was honored with the George W. Bush Medal for Distinguished Leadership for his work fighting poverty and disease. 

The Bush Center also launched a capital campaign, A Charge To Keep, that guarantees the vibrancy and impact of the Bush Center’s work will carry forth for generations to come. A Charge to Keep is the name of one of President Bush’s favorite hymns, and the name of a painting he proudly displayed in the Oval Office. Both are reminders of the call to serve a cause greater than self. The Charge to Keep campaign endows the work being done at the George W. Bush Institute through three Impact Centers — Domestic Excellence, Global Leadership, and an Engagement Agenda — to develop leaders, advance policy, and take action to solve today’s most pressing challenges. 

Watch the engaging panels and interviews from the Forum’s Live Desk 

The Catalyst 

In 2018, The Catalyst pursued its mission of being a journal of ideas by publishing authors, experts, and leaders who tackled a host of topical and difficult issues. Along with President Bush and Bush Institute policy directors, the digital pages of our non-partisan quarterly featured such contributors as Senator Ben Sasse, the American Enterprise Institute’s Arthur Brooks, The Atlantic’s James Fallows, and economists Pia Orrennius, Klaus Desmet, and Abby McCloskey. They addressed modernizing our immigration system, disruptive challenges like artificial intelligence, strengthening our democracy through local communities, and expanding America’s middle class. 

The Catalyst also launched a series of editions exploring what compassionate conservatism means today. Look for more on that front in 2019. 

Along the way, we grew our readership this year by more than 50 percent, placed Catalyst pieces in 85 other publications, and earned a finalist award from Editor & Publisher for best digital magazine with readership under one million page views a month. We have far to go in fulfilling our mission as a journal of ideas, but we were honored to have our readers join us, and send letters-to-the-editor from across the globe and the United States. 

Engage at the Bush Center, presented by Highland Capital Management 

“Remembering Barbara Bush” at Engage at the Bush Center, presented by Highland Capital Management, was held on September 24, 2018. The two-part event celebrated the life and legacy of Mrs. Bush. Moderated by Cokie Roberts, the panels included Barbara Bush, Jenna Bush Hager, Pierce Bush, Jeb Bush, Jr., Ellie LeBlond Sosa, Andy Card, Susan Baker, and Susan Page.

This year’s sold-out Engage at the Bush Center, presented by Highland Capital Management series delivered thought-provoking and entertaining conversations from newsmakers and big thinkers. In September, audiences celebrated and remembered Mrs. Barbara Bush with panel experts discussing her powerful legacy as first lady and reflections from several of her loving grandchildren.

To celebrate the 15th anniversary of the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) and the millions of lives saved, Barbara Bush, co-founder of Global Health Corps, moderated two discussions on the impact and future of global health. The event also included an announcement by President Bush about a new partnership between the Bush Institute, PEPFAR, and UNAIDS to help end cervical cancer deaths among HIV-positive women in sub-Saharan Africa.

In June, audiences explored what made Prime Minister Winston Churchill an effective leader and had an opportunity to look at a number of his paintings. President Bush, another world leader-turned-artist, delivered opening remarks and unveiled his own portrait of Churchill.

As part of our Transformations and Foundations series, Bush Center CEO Ken Hersh moderated the Highland Capital Lecture, a lively conversation on the disruptive nature of technology on the global economy and our established institutions. Jim Dondero, co-founder and president of Highland Capital Management – the presenting sponsor of Engage at the Bush Center – shared opening remarks. 

The inaugural class of the Bush Institute’s Stand-To Veteran Leadership Program took part in the Boeing Lecture with retired U.S. Navy Admiral William McRaven and Fox News Channel’s Harris Faulkner as part of the Engage at the Bush Center, presented by Highland Capital Management series. The discussion focused on the issues facing today’s military leaders and the keys to effective leadership.