Opening night (Mar. 2) panel participants

Chris Matthews (moderator)

Chris MatthewsChris Matthews hosts “Hardball with Chris Matthews” on MSNBC and “The Chris Matthews Show,” a syndicated weekly news program produced by NBC News and distributed by NBC Universal Television Distribution. Matthews is a regular commentator on NBC’s “Today” show.

A television news anchor with remarkable depth of experience, Matthews has distinguished himself as a broadcast journalist, newspaper bureau chief, presidential speechwriter, and best-selling author. Matthews covered the fall of the Berlin Wall, the first all-races election in South Africa and the Good Friday Peace Talks in Northern Ireland. In 1997 and 1998, his digging in the National Archives produced a series of San Francisco Examiner scoops on the Nixon presidential tapes. Matthews has covered American presidential election campaigns since 1988, including the five-week recount of 2000. In 2005 Matthews covered the funeral of Pope John Paul II.

In March 2004, he received the David Brinkley Award for Excellence in Broadcast Journalism. He has also been awarded The Abraham Lincoln Award from the Union League of Philadelphia and in 2005 he received the Gold Medal Award from the Pennsylvania Society.

Matthews worked for 15 years as a print journalist, 13 of them as Washington Bureau Chief for The San Francisco Examiner (1987 – 2000), and two years as a national columnist for The San Francisco Chronicle, which was syndicated to 200 newspapers by United Media.

Prior to that, Matthews spent 15 years in politics and government, working in the White House for four years under President Jimmy Carter as a presidential speechwriter and on the President’s Reorganization Project, in the U.S. Senate for five years on the staffs of Senator Frank Moss (Utah) and Senator Edmund Muskie (Maine), and as the top aide to Speaker of the House Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr. for six years.

Matthews is the author of four best-selling books, including “American: Beyond Our Grandest Notions,” a New York Times bestseller. His first book, “Hardball” is required reading in many college-level political science courses. “Kennedy & Nixon” was named by The Readers Digest “Today’s Best Non-fiction” and served as the basis of a documentary on the History Channel. “Let me Tell What I Really Think” was another New York Times bestseller.

A graduate of Holy Cross College, Matthews did graduate work in economics at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Matthews also worked for two years as a trade development advisor with the U.S. Peace Corps in the southern African nation of Swaziland.

Matthews was a visiting fellow at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, Institute of Politics. He holds 16 honorary Ph.D.s.

Frank Mankiewicz (panelist)

Frank MankiewiczFrank Mankiewicz is a vice chairman of Hill & Knowlton’s Washington D.C. office and a senior member of the public affairs practice. In this position, he counsels numerous national and international clients on media strategy and public affairs.

Prior to joining Hill & Knowlton’s predecessor, Gray and Company, in 1983, Mankiewicz was president of National Public Radio. Under his leadership, the NPR audience increased from two to eight million listeners for a network of nearly 300 non-commercial stations.

Active in politics, Mankiewicz served as press secretary to the late Sen. Robert F. Kennedy, as presidential campaign director for Sen. George McGovern, and has been active in national and regional political campaigns as a senior advisor to political candidates. In the mid-1960s, he served as regional director of the Peace Corps for Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and conversant in French.

A lawyer and member of the California, District of Columbia and Supreme Court bars, Mankiewicz also has broad experience as a print and electronic journalist, as a TV anchorman, as an analyst of American politics for American and foreign television and radio, and as a syndicated columnist.

Mankiewicz is the author of numerous articles in magazines and journals, and four books: “Perfectly Clear: Nixon from Whittier to Watergate”; “U.S. v. Richard M. Nixon: The Final Crisis”; “With Fidel: A Portrait of Castro and Cuba”; and “Remote Control: Television and the Manipulation of American Life.”

Mankiewicz holds an A.B. from UCLA ’47, M.S. in Journalism from Columbia University ’48, J.D. from Berkeley Law, University of California ’55 and serves on the board of directors for Center for Budget & Policy Priorities – Washington, DC. He resides in Washington, DC with his wife, novelist Patricia O’Brien, and has two sons Joshua and Benjamin.

Maureen Orth (panelist)

Maureen OrthMaureen Orth is an award winning journalist, a special correspondent for Vanity Fair Magazine, and the founder of the Marina Orth Foundation which promotes advanced learning in computer technology, English and leadership at The Marina Orth School (Escuela Marina Orth) in Medellin, Colombia as well as two other schools in and around the city. The program now serves over 1,200 children. Orth first helped to build her namesake school in the sixties as a Peace Corps volunteer.

Orth began her journalism career as the third woman writer at Newsweek in 1972, where she was the pop music writer, the entertainment and lifestyle editor and wrote seven cover stories on such music icons as Bob Dylan, Stevie Wonder and Bruce Springsteen. In the last two decades she has traveled the world for Vanity Fair, reporting on a wide range of both heroes and rogues. Among the heads of state she has interviewed are Vladimir Putin and Margaret Thatcher, Argentine President Carlos Menem, Irish President Mary Robinson and the First Lady of France, Carla Bruni. She wrote five investigative articles over a twelve year period on Michael Jackson and received a national magazine award nomination for her chronicle of the zigzagging career of Arianna Huffington.

Orth’s investigative story highlighting the role of Afghanistan’s illegal opium trade in funding terrorism written shortly after 9/11, has been lauded by the Office of Drug Control Policy. In 2008, she interviewed five hostages of FARC guerrillas who were held in the Colombian jungle and rescued by the Colombian military. Orth has been a contributing editor at Vogue, a network correspondent for NBC News, a senior editor for New York and New West magazines and a columnist for New York Woman. In addition to publishing two books, the best selling “Vulgar Favors” about the murder of Gianni Versace, and “The Importance of Being Famous, Behind the Scenes of the Celebrity Industrial Complex,” Orth has written for such publications as The New York Times, The Washington Post, Rolling Stone and The Oprah Magazine

Since 2005, Orth, who is fluent in Spanish, has traveled frequently to Colombia where her school of 350 students became the first One Laptop per Child school in the country. Today, her three schools serve as models both for public/private partnership and as proof of how far poor communities can advance with targeted assistance. Today Escuela Marina Orth is visited by delegations from throughout the world and she is currently planning to duplicate this model in several other schools by 2012. Orth has also pioneered programs for former Peace Corps volunteers to serve once again in Colombia for short periods of time and in 2009 received an award for her work with the Latino community from the Spanish Catholic Center in Washington DC.

In other community work, Orth helped begin an intergenerational residence for homeless mothers in New York City and has served on the Executive Committee of the College of Arts and Sciences, University of California, Berkeley, 2000-2006, and the boards of the National Council of Peace Corps Volunteers and the International Women’s Democracy Center. She currently serves on the board of The Internews Foundation and of The University of California Berkeley Foundation.

She received a BA in Political Science at UC Berkeley, and a Masters in Journalism and documentary film at UCLA. Maureen Orth lives in Washington, D.C. Her late husband was Tim Russert, the Washington bureau chief of NBC News and moderator of Meet the Press. Their son, Luke Russert, is a correspondent for NBC News. Their pug is named Chamberlain.

Aaron S. Williams (panelist)

Aaron S. WilliamsAaron S. Williams was sworn in as the eighteenth director of the Peace Corps on August 24, 2009. Nominated by President Barack Obama and confirmed by the U. S. Senate on August 7, 2009, Williams is the fourth director in the Peace Corps’ history to have served as a Peace Corps Volunteer.

Williams served as a volunteer from 1967 to 1970, first in a training program for rural school teachers in the small town of Monte Plata, Dominican Republic, and extended his service for a third year to work as a professor of teaching methods at the Universidad Catolica Madre y Maestra in Santiago. Upon completing his service, he became the coordinator of minority recruitment and project evaluation officer for the Peace Corps in his hometown of Chicago (1970-1971).

Williams has pursued a career in the development and implementation of worldwide assistance programs. He was a vice president for International Business Development with RTI International and a senior manager at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), where he attained the rank of Career Minister in the U.S. Senior Foreign Service. He also served as executive vice president of the International Youth Foundation.

As USAID Mission Director in South Africa, Williams led a billion dollar foreign assistance program during President Nelson Mandela’s administration. In addition, he has extensive experience in the design and management of assistance programs in Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. He was awarded the USAID Distinguished Career Service Award, and was twice awarded the Presidential Award for Distinguished Service.

Williams is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations, and he was a member of the USAID Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid. He served on the Obama-Biden transition team, the advisory board of the Ron Brown Scholar Program, the board of directors of CARE, and the boards of the Institute for Sustainable Communities, the Pan American Development Foundation, and the National Peace Corps Association.

Williams is fluent in Spanish. He is a graduate of Chicago State University, and has an MBA from the University of Wisconsin. He met his wife Rosa during his service as a volunteer in the Dominican Republic. The couple has two sons, Michael and Steven.

Haskell Sears Ward (panelist)

Haskell Sears WardHaskell Sears Ward was born in 1940 in the small town of Griffin, Georgia. As a student at Clark College in Atlanta in 1960, he was an active participant in the student sit-in movement carried out by college students during the civil rights movement. He has over 40 years of experience in public and international affairs.

Mr. Ward has been an officer of two major African infrastructure investment projects. He was for nearly a decade an officer in Global Alumina, a major energy and mining company. At Global Alumina, he was responsible for managing the company’s relationships with key government officials and non-governmental organizations including the U.N., USAID and the World Bank. He is currently Senior Vice President of SEACOM, a company that is developing a major sub-marine fiber optics communications system linking Eastern and Southern Africa with Europe and Asia.

Mr. Ward began his professional career as a volunteer in Kenya in 1962 with a non-governmental organization, Operation Crossroads Africa, for which he later became a staff member. In 1963, Mr. Ward was a member of one of the first groups of Peace Corps volunteers. He trained on UCLA’s campus before heading to Ethiopia. He also worked for the Ford Foundation (in New York City and Lagos, Nigeria), where he specialized in economic development programs and strategies for the Middle East and Africa.

He served on the Policy Planning Staff of the State Department during the Carter Administration under Secretary of State Cyrus Vance. With the rank of Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, he was the responsible officer on the Policy Planning Staff for the development and oversight of the Department’s Africa policies. Following his tenure at the State Department, he served as Deputy Mayor of The City of New York in the Administration of Edward Koch.

Mr. Ward served on the board of directors of the American Council on Germany and was a long time member of the Trilateral Commission. He currently serves as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Corporate Council on Africa. He is also a member of the International Advisory Committee of the American Cancer Society. He is a member of the Director’s Circle of the National Peace Corps Association.

He is the author of African Development Reconsidered: New Perspectives from the Continent widely used as a college textbook on African development issues.

Mr. Ward received his undergraduate degree from Clark College in Atlanta and his graduate degree in African Studies from the University of California in Los Angeles. He is married to Leah Sears, former Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Georgia. He currently resides in Atlanta, Georgia.

Francoise Castro (panelist)

Francoise CastroFran studied at UCLA, and graduated in 2001 with a degree in linguistics.  Upon graduation, she worked for the Department of State as a passport specialist. In 2004, she traded her surfboard and passport adjudicator’s stamp for a ticket to Mozambique, when she joined the Peace Corps. 

There she served as a communications agent, helping an international non-governmental organization called Population Services International (PSI), educating communities about HIV/AIDS prevention.  After her tour abroad, she continued to work with Peace Corps on the domestic side. She worked at Peace Corps headquarters in Washington, DC from 2006 through mid 2010 engaging in public affairs, developing diversity recruitment strategies, and participating in the Leadership Development Academy.

This year, Fran returned to the Department of State as a program analyst and is now based in the San Francisco office. 

Fran was born and raised in California.  In addition to her job, she nourishes her long term interest in art by producing paintings and videos. 

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