2023 Lecture Series Presents: Walter Isaacson

3 P.M. | Friday, November 3, 2023 | Schaller Memorial Chapel

Walter Isaacson is a renowned author who has written several bestselling biographies about key innovators that include Jennifer Doudna, Leonardo da Vinci, Steve Jobs, Benjamin Franklin, Albert Einstein, and most recently, Elon Musk.

He is a Professor of History at Tulane University, a Distinguished Fellow and past CEO of the Aspen Institute, chair of CNN, and editor of TIME. He serves on several boards and is chair emeritus of Teach for America.

Walter Isaacson will serve as Buena Vista University's 24th lecture series speaker.

Walter Isaacson

Honoring the American Heritage Lecture Series

The William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series addresses freedom as a single, great, living idea which is made up of many working parts. The series serves to chronicle contemporary thoughts on business, academics, law, press, government, religion, and other aspects of American life, while deepening an understanding of the liberties and responsibilities of being global Americans.

The students, faculty and trustees of Buena Vista University view the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series as a serious and important mission in the life of the University. It is our hope that some day these lectures may become this nation's definitive statement on the evolution of freedom in America. Some of the most powerful and well-known leaders of the world have come to Buena Vista University to address the topic of freedoms in The William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series. And many of the most influential leaders in the Midwest are routinely challenged and inspired by this annual event.

Dr. Harold Walter Siebens, an Iowa-born entrepreneur and philanthropist, established, endowed, and named this lecture in honor of his son, William W. Siebens, to assure the perpetuity of this significant program.

Past Speakers

Steve Wozniak, 2019

Steve Wozniak

Steve Wozniak helped shape the computing industry with his design of Apple I, Apple II, and his influence on the popular Macintosh. In partnership with Steve Jobs, Wozniak founded Apple Computer Inc. in 1976 with the Apple I personal computer. His work in the last 1970s ignited the personal computing revolution, creating one of the most influential companies in history.

Wozniak has been awarded the National Medal of Technology by President Ronald Reagan and the prestigious Heinz Award for Technology, the Economy, and Employment for single-handedly designing the first personal computer. In 2000, Wozniak was inducted into the Inventors Hall of Fame.

Leon Panetta, 2016

Leon Panetta

Leon Panetta was the 23rd U.S. Secretary of Defense, serving under President Barack Obama. He also served as director of the Central Intelligence Agency from 2009-11 and was Chief of Staff to President Bill Clinton from 1994-97. As Secretary of Defense, he oversaw the final removal of American troops from Iraq, as well as the beginning of troop withdrawals from Afghanistan.

Panetta led the effort to develop a new defense strategy to advance greater agility, protect national security and meet fiscal discipline, while conducting critical counter-terrorism operations and strengthening U.S. alliances.

Condoleezza Rice, 2013

Condoleezza Rice

Condoleezza Rice was the nation's 66th Secretary of State, and the second woman and first African American woman to hold the position. She also served as President George W. Bush's National Security Advisor during his first term.

As Secretary of State, Rice supported the expansion of democratic governments, and championed the idea of "Transformational Diplomacy." She also helped successfully negotiate several agreements in the Middle East, including Israeli withdrawal from and the opening of the Gaza border crossings in 2005 and the Aug. 14, 2006 ceasefire between Israel and Hezbollah forces in Lebanon. Rice also worked actively to improve human rights issues in Iran and supported the passage of a United Nations Security Council Resolution for sanctions against the country.

Tony Blair, 2011

Tony Blair

Tony Blair was first elected as a member of Parliament in 1983 and rose quickly through the ranks of the Labour Party.  In 1994, he was elected leader of the party. When the party won the 1997 general election, Mr. Blair, at the age of 43, became the youngest prime minister of Great Britain since Lord Liverpool in 1812. 

Upon leaving office in 2007, Mr. Blair was his party’s longest-serving prime minister, and the only person to have led the party to three consecutive general election victories. Today, he continues his interest in inter-faith issues and the promotion of inter-faith understanding through the Tony Blair Faith Foundation.

Paul Volcker, 2009

Paul Volcker

Paul Volcker, who was chairman of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System from 1979-1987. Over the course of his career, Volcker has worked in the federal government for nearly 30 years, including executive positions in the administrations of six U.S. Presidents - John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard M. Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan.

Volcker also served as an economic advisor to President Barack Obama, playing a role in bank regulations dubbed "The Volcker Rule." He died in 2019 at the age of 92.

Vicente Fox, 2007

Vicente Fox

The former President of Mexico, Vicente Fox broke the stranglehold that the ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) had held on the State for seven decades. A charismatic reformer, he is credited as playing a vital role in Mexico's democratization, and with strengthening the country's economy. During his tenure, Fox succeeded in controlling inflation and interest rates, and in achieving the lowest unemployment rate in all of Latin America.

In addition to President Fox's participation in the student panel in the afternoon, and his lecture in the evening, he took part in a special cultural heritage event on the BVU campus the following Saturday morning.

Madame Jehan Sadat, 2006

Jehan Sadat

The former first lady of Egypt, Madame Jehan Sadat has spent much of her life challenging traditional Muslim women's roles in society and has been active in the women's movements throughout the world. As the first lady of Egypt from 1970 to 1981, she was the first wife of a Muslim leader to have her picture in the newspaper, to travel outside her country, and to take up public causes. Sadat has devoted her life to public service and maintaining the legacy of her husband, taking on the roles of educator, lecturer, and social activist in promoting women's rights and international peace.

Sir John Major, 2005

Sir John Major

Former Prime Minister Sir John Major is a leading authority on the changing global landscape. He was elected to the British Parliament in 1979, joined the Cabinet as Chief Secretary to the Treasury in 1987, and went on to serve as Foreign Secretary and Chancellor of the Exchequer. During his seven years as Prime Minister, he instituted public sector reforms that became international models and left behind the strongest economy Britain has seen in decades. Major has been awarded one of United Kingdom's greatest honors: The companion of Honour, as well as the highest award for chivalry, the Order of the Garter.

David Gergen, 2004

David Gergen

Former Presidential Advisor David Gergen served as adviser to Presidents Nixon, Ford, Reagan and Clinton. As a public servant, teacher, editor, political commentator and author, Gergen has participated in politics from every conceivable angle. In the fall of 2000, he published the best-selling book Eyewitness to Power: The Essence of Leadership, Nixon to Clinton. In addition to his prolific career in the White House, Gergen has served as editor-at-large at U.S. News & World Report, the host of the television series,The World at Large with David Gergen, and as a regular analyst on The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer and ABC's Nightline.

Bob Woodward, 2003

Bob Woodward

Investigative journalist Bob Woodward, an assistant managing editor of The Washington Post, teamed with Carl Bernstein to break the story of the 1972 Watergate break-in that led to the 1974 resignation of President Richard Nixon, and the two co-authored the 1974 book All the President's Men about the scandal.

Woodward's 2002 book, Bush at War, took an inside look at the workings of the White House during the 100 days following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Since his lecture at BVU, Woodward has written many more books, including accounts of the Bush, Obama, and Trump presidencies. He also wrote The Secret Man, detailing his relationship with W. Mark Felt, the famous Watergate source.

Benazir Bhutto, 2002

Benazir Bhutto

The daughter of a popular Pakistani prime minister, Bhutto assumed leadership of her father's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) in 1986. She was elected Prime Minister of Pakistan at the age of 35 in 1988, becoming the youngest chief executive officer in the world and the first female prime minister in the Muslim world. Her party's platform, which included food for the hungry, health care, jobs, slum clearance and a monthly minimum wage, was opposed by Islamic fundamentalists as well as the military establishment in Pakistan.

Five years after delivering the American Heritage Lecture at BVU, Bhutto was assassinated while departing an opposition rally in Pakistan.

Madeleine Albright, 2001

Madeleine Albright

In 1997, Albright became the first female U.S. Secretary of State, making her the highest-ranking woman in the history of the U.S. government. Prior to that, Albright was the United States Permanent Representative to the United Nations, a member of the National Security Council and a member of President Clinton's cabinet for eight years.

With skills that have bridged the divides of nationality, race, religion and gender, Albright constructed new opportunities for peace in some of the world's most contentious regions. She delivered the American Heritage Lecture via satellite just days after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Colin L. Powell, 2000

Gen. Colin Powell

A professional soldier for 35 years, Powell held the highest military position in the United States Department of Defense as the 12th Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and oversaw Operation Desert Storm in the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

After delivering the American Heritage Lecture at BVU, Powell served as Secretary of State under President George W. Bush, the first African American appointed to that position. He died in 2021 at the age of 84.

George Bush, 1999

George H.W. Bush

George Bush served as President of the United States from 1989 to 1993. Under his tenure, the American with Disabilities Act, the Clean Air Act and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) were signed into law; the Soviet Union was replaced by a democratic Russia; the Berlin Wall fell; and Kuwait was liberated from Iraq by an international coalition.

After leaving office, Bush traveled extensively, both internationally and within the United States, and helped to raise millions of dollars for a variety of charitable organizations. He died in 2018 at the age of 94.

Shimon Peres, 1998

Shimon Peres

Shimon Peres was a member of the Knesset, the Israeli parliament and served as Israeli Prime Minister from 1984-86. On Nov. 5, 1995, following the assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, Peres was again sworn in as Prime Minister and Defense Minister.

After the return to power of the Labor party, Shimon Peres was once again appointed Minister of Foreign Affairs. It was during this time he initiated and conducted the negotiations that led to the signing of the Oslo Agreements with the PLO in September 1993. This accomplishment won him the 1994 Nobel Peace Prize, which he shared with Prime Minister Rabin and Chairman Yassar Arafat. Peres died in 2016 at the age of 93.

Walter Cronkite, 1997

Walter Cronkite

Walter Cronkite, legendary newsman, author, documentary filmmaker and former anchorman of the CBS Evening News, covered virtually every major news event during his more than 60 years in journalism. Cronkite had a remarkable career, holding exclusive interviews with major heads of state and has covered all aspects of the American political scene.

As recently as 1995, Cronkite was ranked first in trustworthiness, intelligence, fairness, preparedness, sincerity and confidence in a MediaPoll national profile and evaluation survey. He died in 2009 at the age of 92.

F.W. de Klerk, 1996

F.W. de Klerk

F.W. de Klerk, former president of South Africa, was co-recipient with Nelson Mandela of the 1993 Nobel Peace Prize for the leading role he played in ending apartheid in South Africa.

De Klerk is known for engineering the end of apartheid, South Africa's racial segregation policy, and supporting the transformation of South Africa into a multi-racial democracy by entering into the negotiations that resulted in all citizens, including the country's black majority, having equal voting and other rights.

Dr. Carl Sagan, 1995

Carl Sagan

Dr. Carl Sagan played a leading role in the American space program from its inception. He was a consultant and advisor to NASA beginning in the 1950s, briefed the Apollo astronauts before their flight to the moon and was an experimenter on the Mariner, Viking, Voyager and Galileo expeditions.

A Pulitzer Prize winner, Sagan authored many best sellers, including Cosmos which became the best-selling science book ever published in the English language. The accompanying Emmy and Peabody award-winning television series has been seen by 500 million people in 60 countries.

Margaret Thatcher, 1994

Lady Margaret Thatcher

Lady Margaret Thatcher was Britain's first woman Prime Minister, and the first British Prime Minister this century to successfully contest three consecutive general elections. She has been credited with revitalizing Britain's economy, impacting trade unions, and re-establishing the nation as a world power. She resigned in 1990, and in 1992 she was elevated to the House of Lords.

In February 2007, Lady Thatcher became the first living UK Prime Minister to be honored with a statue in the Houses of Parliament.

Sir John Marks Templeton, 1993

Sir John Marks Templeton

Sir John Marks Templeton created The John Templeton Foundation, which funds numerous worthy projects. He is the donor of the Templeton Prize for Progress in Religion, one of the world's largest monetary prizes for achievement in any field.

In 2007, Templeton was named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People under the category of "Power Givers." Templeton was given this honor for his "pursuit of spiritual understanding, often through scientific research" through the establishment his foundation.

Sir Templeton is a lifetime member of the Buena Vista University Board of Trustees.

Michael G. Gartner, 1992

Michael Gartner

Michael Gartner was the president of NBC News from 1988-1993. He is a third-generation journalist, who had a long career in print journalism before becoming president of NBC News. He has also been a columnist for the editorial pages of The Wall Street Journal and of USA Today.

Gartner is also chairman of Raccoon Baseball, Inc., which has owned the Iowa Cubs baseball team since 1999, and is co-owner of Big Green Umbrella Media, which publishes the Cityview alternative weekly newspaper in Des Moines.

Jimmy Carter, 1990

Jimmy Carter

Jimmy Carter served as President of the United States from 1977 to 1981. During Carter's administration, noteworthy foreign policy accomplishments include the Panama Canal treaties, the Camp David Accords, the treaty of peace between Egypt and Israel, the SALT II treaty and the establishment of U.S. diplomatic relations with the People's Republic of China.

Carter remains active as a humanitarian, addressing vital world issues through nonpartisan study and consultation. His leadership in the Habitat for Humanity organization as compelled citizens around the world to become involved in volunteer activities.

Harry A. Blackmun, 1989

Harry A. Blackmun

Justice Blackmun was the foundation speaker for the William W. Siebens American Heritage Lecture Series. With his roots in the Midwest, he was one of the nation's most prominent jurists as he interpreted the Constitution, the foundation upon which American liberties are built.

President Nixon elevated Blackmun to Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1970, where he wrote opinions on several significant cases, and is best known for Roe vs. Wade.