Free for lunch? Join top political experts to discuss the future of public policy

Prior to a high stakes election, George Mason University’s campus is normally buzzing with activities, dialogue and events. That’s more of a challenge this year due to COVID-19, but Justin Gest is determined to keep the momentum alive.

“Universities are such important gathering places and platforms for dialogue, for information sharing, for deliberation,” the Schar School of Policy and Government associate professor said. “In the pandemic context, people are craving to recreate the tight-knit community that universities offer.”

That’s why he created Power Lunch, a virtual event series on U.S. public policy featuring renowned political leaders, journalists and experts. The series will livestream on the Schar School’s YouTube channel on Fridays at noon from Oct. 30 to Jan. 15. Register here.

Justin Gest. Photo by Ron Aira/Creative Services/George Mason University

“We invited some of the most influential thought leaders and political actors in the world to discuss what the future looks like across a variety of subject matters over the next four years,” Gest said, adding that the series is designed for the interlude between Election Day and the presidential inauguration.

Panelists for the discussions moderated by Gest include former National Security Advisor H. R. McMaster, former U.S. Ambassador to China Max Baucus, former U.S. Senators Tom Daschle (D-SD) and Jeff Flake (R-AZ), former National Intelligence Officer Spencer Boyer, and award-winning journalists from The New York Times and The Washington Post, among others.

“We’re putting into conversation people who, even though they worked on the same issue, come at it from different angles,” Gest said. “Getting to listen to how they interact with each other, where their disagreements lie, and how they view the future will be enlightening.”

“There’s never been a more critical time to discuss how the people of our nation can come together to advance national unity, mutual care and renewal of civil dialogue and engagement,” said Wendy Feliz, founding director of the Center for Inclusion and Belonging at the American Immigration Council, who will speak at Power Lunch on Nov. 6. “I’m excited to participate in a discussion about how we move our nation toward healing and common ground.”

Power Lunches will cover topics from climate change to economic and immigration policy to international relations. The series is open to the public, but has a unique benefit for students.

“Students are in a formative period in their personal development; they’re developing their perspective on the world, but also thinking hard about the impact that they want to make,” Gest said. “By having a diversity of speakers, students will get a taste of the diversity of opinions and roles in the public sphere so they can develop their own goals for how they see themselves fitting into these worlds once they graduate.”

“My hope,” Feliz said, “is that everyone who listens in walks away with renewed hope that we can move our nation to a place where we can all be our unique selves and build a deeper understanding and respect for those who aren’t exactly like us.”

Register for Power Lunch and see the full list of speakers: schar.gmu.edu/powerlunch.