Quotable Moments from JCW-Seattle Panels

Insightful panels featuring Georgetown faculty, alumni, and friends invigorated this year's John Carroll Weekend, hosted for the first time in Seattle. Hundreds of alumni and friends of the university participated in intellectual dialogues held at the Four Seasons Hotel Seattle. Several notable alumni participated in these conversations, including journalist Kara Swisher (F'84), Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (C'86), and Ambassador Melanne Verveer (SLL'66, G'69, Parent'94).

 Pramila Jayapal
Nancy Pelosi
Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (C'86) [left] speaks to her experience as an Indian-American woman in politics and how her education on the Hilltop catapulted her into civil rights and advocacy work. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (H'02, P'88, P'89, P'91, P'95) offers powerful and inspiring opening remarks about Georgetown's legacy of female trailblazers during "The Future is Female" panel.

A growing city, global business, and public health spark conversations on first day of John Carroll Weekend

The premiere day of John Carroll Weekend in the Emerald City kicked off with panels highlighting Amazon's growing imprint on Seattle's urban development, the need for interdisciplinary thought in 21st-century global business, and how epidemics and an aging population affect public health laws and policies.

The e-commerce giant, Amazon—headquartered in Seattle—employs more than 40,000 people, and as more people flock to the city, housing and urban development are pressing matters. Sam Assefa, JCW panelist and director of Seattle's office of planning and community development, realizes the hurdles facing the city's residents, particularly high costs of living and displacement for immigrant communities and communities of color. In spite of Seattle natives' skepticism towards altruistic city development, Assefa, along with fellow panelists and Emerald City natives Jordan Selig and John Hempelmann (C'64, G'71) said they are remaining steadfast in urban planning focused on sustainability and efficient land use.


Shifts in population and overall well-being are happening across the United States. During the "Solving Complex Health Problems" panel—featuring Distinguished Professor Maxine Weinstein and Associate Director of Minority Health and Health Disparities Research Lucile Adams-Campbell—aging, medical advancements, and epidemic waves steered the dialogue.

"There are two factors that contribute to population aging—declines in fertility and improvements in survival," said Weinstein. Noting that rates of fertility and mortality have been cut in half throughout the 20th century, Weinstein explains that with an increasing life expectancy, the global population is aging rapidly. In response, she proposes that more efforts should be made to accommodate housing and healthcare needs for the elderly.

Shifting the attention to health disparities and widespread illnesses, Adams-Campbell explained the importance of understanding epidemiology in its relation to marginalized communities. Widespread disease outbreaks are harsh realities for society, regardless of race, socioeconomic status, or geographic region.

"In the year 2030, there will be no majority population," Adams-Campbell noted. "Knowing that there will be no majority population means that if we don't take care of the people who are in disparate conditions now, it will make the condition of societal health worse."

Technology, social justice, and uncertainty rule the dialogue on day two of John Carroll Weekend

From the perils and perks of artificial intelligence (AI) to a flawed criminal justice and penal system that cripples marginalized communities, various discussions on ethics, technology, and social justice sparked during Friday's panels at John Carroll Weekend.

As convenient "smart" technologies peak consumers' interests, the true potential for AI teeters on the edge of being socially benevolent or detrimental. Kara Swisher (F'84), tech business journalist and co-founder of Re-code, moderated a discussion highlighting AI's future, alongside Sonal Shah, founding executive director of the Beeck Center for Social Impact and Innovation, Georgetown Law professor David Vladeck, and Maggie Little, director of the Kennedy Institute of Ethics.

Jumpstarting the conversation on society's reaction to modern-day AI, Little explained that the true fear around these advancing technologies is rooted in fear and divisiveness.

"Any job that can be digitized will be digitized," asserts Little.

While Little emphasized the altruistic possibilities for artificial intelligence, she and her fellow panelists also acknowledged the flaws of depending on algorithms and what it means for democratic legitimacy. Along with a deep critique of the United States' lack of regulation and policy on artificial intelligence, Vladeck and Shah pointed out the flaws of technologies that reflect the lack of diversity in tech corporations. Shah questioned how and why underlying human biases and subjectivity get coded into algorithms that affect devices and processes—from facial recognition technologies and housing approvals to criminal justice sentencing.

Vladeck further explained AI's limitations: "You can't interrogate AI—I've tried," Vladeck says. "AI is here to stay. Human decision making isn't what it's cracked up to be, but until we have a regulatory system that operates at some level of effectiveness, we're going to see some real problems in the marketplace," he insists.

Artificial intelligence's lack of empathy in comparison to human decision-making also unveils a deeper issue—tech companies like Google and Facebook lack diversity. Shah and Swisher asserted that those groups who are left out of boardrooms and c-suites are the same communities who fall prey to terms of use and privacy loopholes set in place by social media and search engine companies. Swisher added a powerful assertion: "There's a reason why the #MeToo stories were broken by a gay man and women. There was an empathy level that was much higher and understood that there was a problem. It was not broken for many, many years by the people who are in charge of media, who are largely the same people in charge of technology."


Paul Butler, the Albert Brick Professor in Law at Georgetown Law, sat with Dean William Treanor and Dan Satterberg, King County prosecuting attorney in Seattle, to discuss his most recent book, Chokehold: Policing Black Men and the backdrop in which it exists.

Paul Butler
An ardent advocate for justice, Butler described his transition from being a prosecutor in Washington, D.C.—who was often responsible for the sentencing of black and brown communities—to a scholar.

"Chokehold is about what I learned as a prosecutor. It was supposed to be a guide for African American men about how to navigate the criminal legal process, and how to avoid unpleasant interactions with the cops, and how to avoid getting arrested—a guide through the system," he explains. However, as Butler wrote his book, the deaths of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown, the outpouring response from those communities, and the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement quaked the nation. It was then when he realized that a guide was not what Black men needed.

Satterberg reflected on the challenges of district attorney offices across the nation, specifically building "bridges between the courthouse and community." Given marginalized communities' perception and Chokehold's criticism of the criminal justice system, he stressed that providing supportive outreach to such groups in Seattle outside of the courtroom system is particularly transformative.

Butler, Treanor, and Satterberg continued the conversation, unveiling startling statistics about police shootings, and covering topics such "stop-and-frisk"—its ineffectiveness and its similarity to sexual harassment—plus the public performance of power by law enforcement and the current debates on gun violence.

In closing the discussion, when asked how Black and Latino men can remain free and not unnecessarily compliant to the will of law enforcement, Butler offered sobering advice: "Unfortunately, those are two inconsistent things. Your goal is to get out of the encounter without being arrested and certainly without being shot. You do have to do a kind of performance, and many men I've talked to have said, 'I can't do it,' and I definitely get that, but the country that Black men live in is not free."

The future is bright as panelists and artists highlight women's empowerment, diversity, and global politics at day three of John Carroll Weekend

The day began with a packed room enjoying a spellbinding performance of "I Pledge Allegiance" featuring Georgetown current students and alumni from the School of Foreign Service's Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics. The production spotlighted the experiences of first-generation citizens in America who work to navigate Americanized traditions and expectations, citizenship, and misconceptions about identity and immigrant status.

I Pledge Allegiance
Fellows from the Laboratory of Global Performance and Politics at Georgetown put on a powerful performance of "I Pledge Allegiance," a portrayal of experiences from the voices of first-generation Americans and immigrant communities.

"The lab is dedicated to portraying these narratives and humanizing these stories to shape a better world," said Joel Hellman, dean of the foreign service school.


Some of the Hilltop's own models for global change and progress spoke to the importance of women empowerment in and out of the workplace during "The Future is Female" panel. Introduced by powerful remarks from House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (H'02, Parent'88, '89, '91, '95), the discussion featured Ambassador Melanne Verveer (SLL'66, G'69, Parent'94), executive director of the Georgetown Institute for Women, Peace and Security; Helen Brosnan (C'16), executive director of Rise To Run; Terri Carmichael Jackson (C'89, L'92), director of operations for the Women's National Basketball Association; Elizabeth Nye (F'94), executive director of Girls, Inc.; and Sasha Spencer Atwood (B'01), director of external affairs at TrackTown USA.

The Future is Female, Melanne Verveer
Ambassador Melanne Verveer (SLL'66, G'69, Parent'94) opens "The Future is Female" panel, stating that the imperative of the 21st century is women's equality and empowerment for young girls across the world.

"When I became Speaker, people would ask me, 'If you ruled the world, what would you do?,'" Pelosi said. "My response is the global of education of women and girls—nothing is more wholesome or will make the biggest difference to the success of our global society," she said.

Speaking to the essence of women's equality and fostering supportive environments for young girls across the globe, each panelist recalled moments in their professional and personal journeys where tenacity and confidence guided their steps as women on the climb to success.

Brosnan is one of the founders of the OWN IT Summit at Georgetown, which celebrates women leadership and creates connections for women and girls from various backgrounds. She launched a nonprofit organization, Rise to Run, after discovering the voids and obstacles for women seeking public office.

"It can feel isolating at times for young women when working in politics and advocacy, but what I've learned is it's up to us to really demand space," Brosnan insisted.

On top of the challenges of being kept out of male-dominated spaces, Nye added that racial, educational, geographic, and socioeconomic barriers all factor in as additional hurdles in young women's trajectory.

"Yes, girls are going to college at higher rates than boys, but at the same time, there is a significant sector of our girl population that is falling behind. There are things that affect girls all across the United States—like social media—but disproportionately they affect young girls living in poverty, and their self-esteem levels plummet," she revealed.

The Future is Female, Elizabeth Nye
Elizabeth Nye (F'94), executive director of Girls, Inc. explains the intersectional roadblocks that many girls and women globally during "The Future is Female" panel.

Carmichael-Jackson advocated for young girls to continue their education beyond undergrad to propel their career. Illustrating her journey from the Hilltop to the legal world, academia, and athletics, she described the chances she took and the readiness and zeal she developed along the way.

"Every step of the way, it was about preparing for war. I wanted to thoroughly know the areas in which I was entering," she said.

Closing out the conversation and reflecting on how the next generation will be equipped to welcoming gender equality, Spencer Atwood offered a note of reflection: "The first step to inclusion, reconciliation, and creating the equal playing field that we want is acknowledging that there isn't one now. Being intentional about the values we want our children—boys and girls—to adopt is really important."


Georgetown's student population has become significantly more diverse over the past three decades, thanks to programs like the Community Scholars Program and the Center for Multicultural Equity and Access. With strong scholarship support and uplifting communities on campus, Hoyas from across the globe have the opportunity to pursue success and tell their stories. Congresswoman Pramila Jayapal (C'86), Executive Director of the Alliance for Youth Action Sarah Audelo (F'06), and Executive Vice President for External Affairs at the Center for American Progress Winnie Stachelberg (C'86) providied their Hilltop narratives. Yamiche Alcindor (C'09), PBSNewsHour's White House correspondent, moderated the discussion.

Diversity in Action, Pramila Jayapal, Winnie Stachelberg, Sarah Audelo, Yamiche Alcindor
Alumnae and panelists [seated l-r] Pramila Jayapal (C'86), Winnie Stachelberg (C'86), and Sarah Audelo (F'06) and moderator Yamiche Alcindor (C'09) [far left] look back on their experiences at Georgetown, which molded their professional and personal journeys.

To kick off the panel, Jayapal, who proudly proclaims her roots as a Hoya, retraced the journey that led her to the Hilltop.

"I came to the United States by myself when I was 16. I am an immigrant from India. My parents had about $5,000 in their bank account, and they used all of it to send me here, because they believed that this was the country where I would have the best opportunities," said Jayapal.

In spite of not following the professional route expected by her parents, Jayapal navigated through several positions until she realized following her passion would lead her much farther than she could imagine. As U.S. Representative for Washington State's 7th Congressional District, she has worked in advocacy and civil rights, specifically to protect the rights of immigrants and counter deportation laws under the past and current presidential administrations.

"Issues like immigration and wealth inequality are about who we are as a country and what we are willing to stand up for," said Jayapal. "When we come in with our different backgrounds and experiences, we bring those to how we do the work. We write different legislation, we tell different stories, and lift up voices that need to be at the table. And ultimately, we get better policy."

Audelo's journey to activism came by way of advocating for a loved one. A native of Bakersville, California, she yearned to gain footing in the advocacy world, and looked for representation that reflected her own identity as a young Latina. As she grew into her own calling while at Georgetown, she recalled the more adverse moments on campus when she realized there were not many Latino students like herself on the Hilltop.

"Learning how to organize externally and in my own community at home [in Bakersville], being pulled in two different directions, brought me to a place of conflict, where I said 'Wow, I love this place,' but also, 'Me and my friends do not feel safe here,'" she revealed.

Transforming this stark moment of marginalization into an opportunity for good, she became a teacher through Teach For America, after graduating from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, and began working with queer students in south Texas.

Stachelberg, who shared that she did not have a career plan, said that Georgetown and its Jesuit value of service left a deep impression on her, as she returned home to New York upon receiving her degree to be a teacher.

"Public service is in my DNA. It's who I am. I couldn't have done it any other way. When I went home to New York, I taught public school, because that is what called me, and it was the most difficult and most rewarding job I've ever had in my life," she recalled.

Stachelberg spoke of how she was embraced by faculty on the Hilltop, particularly in a time where her identity as Jewish lesbian, was misunderstood by a larger society outside of the front gates of Georgetown.

"To nurture the spirit that I brought to Georgetown is a magnificent thing," she commended.


This year's John Carroll Weekend panels and event ran the gamut and allowed attendees to connect in engaging cross-disciplinary dialogues led by Georgetown's alumni, faculty, students, and friends. We look forward to continuing and starting new conversations at next year's John Carroll Weekend in Boston, May 2-5, 2019.