Jefferson's Global Summit speaker series imports ‘big ideas’ to drive local progress

Media Outlet


Ferki Ferati

When journalist and author Peter Baker opens the Jefferson Educational Society's Global Summit XV speaker series on Monday, Oct. 23 at Gannon University, it will be the 15th year that the Jefferson has brought the summit to the people of Erie. Baker, a six-time author and chief White House correspondent for The New York Times, will be the first of 19 speakers during the summit's 14 events over the next three weeks.

That's the news of the day, and we're proud of it. But the larger story is that when we first launched the Global Summit in 2009, it was a two-and-a-half-day affair with five events that drew a total audience of about 500 people. Fifteen years later, the summit draws thousands and more than 160 speakers have come to Erie. Many of those speakers have left lasting impacts beyond the events they participated in.

Some, like Dave Porter of the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce (who appeared at the summit in 2010) and renowned urbanist Bruce Katz (who first came to Erie in 2014) have helped inform community development in Erie.

Others, like The Washington Post columnist David Ignatius, veteran reporters James and Deborah Fallows, and CNN and SiriusXM host Michael Smerconish have helped share the story of what is happening in Erie on the national stage through their wide-reaching platforms.

And, the summit has forged ties with some of the nation's best and brightest including Brookings Institution Senior Fellow Dr. Camille Busette, who first appeared at the 2019 summit and again in 2021. She helped inform, coach, and guide the work of the Erie Racial Justice Policy Initiative. Lt. Gen. James Dubik, who received the Thomas B. Hagen Dignitas Award in 2017, has made repeat appearances at the JES and contributed to several publications; and Dr. Jackson Janes, the president emeritus at the American-German Institute, has continued to contribute to Erie's body of knowledge in similar ways.   

The list goes on and includes summit speakers who, as part of their visits, met with community groups, businesses, and schools. That way their impact goes far beyond words spoken in a lecture hall. It's personal, and it's impactful. And that is a tribute to both the community and the people of the Erie region who crave adult civic education and a stronger connection with the community and the world, and the power of community partnerships.  

This year the JES is again partnering with Gannon University. For the first time, we are including the institution's Gannon READS event as part of the summit. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, author of "What the Eyes Don't See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City," will discuss what she saw from the front lines in Flint, Michigan when addressing the water crisis — offering lessons places like Erie stand to learn.   

We will also welcome Brian Freedman, author of "Crushed: How a Changing Climate is Altering the Way We Drink," because we know the role agriculture — particularly in relation to wine and beer — play in Erie. What we do now will determine our future. 

Similarly, to be informed today for tomorrow's plans, we are partnering with the Erie Community Foundation to bring two of the top urbanists in American history — Richard Florida and Bruce Katz — to explore "The Future of the American City." And we will look at the impact of artificial intelligence, resiliency, and the environment by welcoming the global chairman and former chief executive of Boston Consulting Group, Richard Lesser. 

To ensure we are looking at the future of all residents, we'll turn to Brookings Fellow Richard Reeves, author of "Of Boys and Men: Why the Modern Male is Struggling, Why It Matters, and What to Do About It;" and we are partnering with Infinite Erie to bring in Della Clark, the president of The Enterprise Center in Philadelphia, to explore how we, as a community, can better promote racial and economic equity through community revitalization efforts.