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Fifty years ago, President Lyndon B. Johnson’s wave of Great Society legislation gave historic momentum to greater economic and racial equality. Much of that progress is embedded in society today, and yet the income gap between the richest and poorest Americans is the largest since the Great Depression, racial tensions continue to polarize society and gender equality remains a struggle.

How can the enduring challenges of inequality be addressed today? That is the question to be explored in a conference, Legacies of the Great Society: War, Poverty and Voting Rights, at the Roosevelt House Public Policy Institute at Hunter College, March 24 and 25, 2015.

Panels of scholars, practitioners, experts and advocates will assess the impact of the Vietnam War, the effects of War on Poverty programs, and the consequences – then and now – of the Voting Rights Act. Keynote speakers will include Sheldon Danziger, President of the Russell Sage Foundation; Joseph A. Califano, Jr., Founder of CasaColumbia and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare; Robert B. Semple, Jr., Associate Editor of the Editorial Page of The New York Times; and Michael Weinstein, Senior Vice President for Programs and Chief Program Officer of the Robin Hood Foundation.

Attendance is by invitation.

The conference will take place in the restored and landmarked Roosevelt House and will be live-streamed and recorded.


Tuesday, March 24, 2015

5:30pm – WELCOME

Jennifer J. Raab
President, Hunter College

KEYNOTE ADDRESS  – “Fighting Racial Discrimination, Poverty and Disadvantage: From Then to Now”

Sheldon Danziger
President, Russell Sage Foundation


Joseph A. Califano, Jr.
Founder CasaColumbia and former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare

PANEL DISCUSSION – “Reflections of the Great Society: Achievements and Challenges”

Alice Kessler-Harris, R. Gordon Hoxie Professor of American History at Columbia University
Lawrence M. Mead, Professor of Politics and Public Policy at New York University

Hugh B. Price, Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution and former President & CEO of the National Urban League

7:00pm – 8:00pm – RECEPTION

Joseph A. Califano, Jr. to sign copies of his book The Triumph & Tragedy of Lyndon Johnson

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


9:00am – WELCOME

Jack Rosenthal
Interim Director, Roosevelt House

KEYNOTE ADDRESS – “The Roots of Polarization”

Robert B. Semple, Jr.
Associate Editor of the Editorial Page, The New York Times

9:30am – PANEL DISCUSSION – “Tonkin Gulf and After: Vietnam War, the Anti-War Movement and Challenges to the Great Society Agenda”

Robert G. Kaiser, Former Managing Editor at The Washington Post
Lawrence Levinson, Partner at DLA Piper LLP

Andrew Polsky, Acting Ruth and Harold Newman Dean of Arts and Sciences at Hunter College

11:15am – PANEL DISCUSSION – “How to Conquer Poverty and Inequality Today?”

Mark Levitan, Adjunct Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning at Hunter College
Julian E. Zelizer, Malcolm Stevenson Forbes (Class of 1941) Professor of History and Public Affairs at Princeton University and a Fellow at New America Foundation
Jane Waldfogel, Compton Foundation Centennial Professor at Columbia University School of Social Work

Sanford Schram, Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Hunter College

12:45pm – LUNCHEON

1:45pm – PANEL DISCUSSION – “Voting Rights and Inequality: Then and Now”

Anthony Browne, Chair of the Department of Africana and Puerto Rican/Latino Studies at Hunter College
Dale Ho, Director of the Voting Rights Project at the American Civil Liberties Union
Natasha Korgaonkar, Assistant Counsel of the Political Participation Group at the NAACP Legal Defense Fund
Wendy Weiser, Director of the Democracy Program at the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU School of Law

Clay Risen, Senior Op-Ed Editor of The New York Times


Michael Weinstein
Senior Vice President for Programs & Chief Program Officer, Robin Hood Foundation