Johnson Lecture Series

A collaborative effort with the Office of the Dean, the H.B. Johnson, Jr. ‘26 Distinguished Lecture Series attracts speakers who address key themes from international and cultural perspectives, including contemporary foreign and domestic issues, leadership, moral-ethical questions, and civic responsibilities. 

2019-20 Speakers

Joseph L. Votel Portrait ImageGeneral (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a non-resident Senior Fellow with Harvard Kennedy School's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. He served most recently as commander of the U.S. Central Command. Votel is our keynote speaker for the 10th Annual Leadership and Ethics Conference titled "Disruption: Challenging Leadership at Every Turn." 

General Joseph L. Votel is a retired U.S. Army Four-Star officer and most recently the Commander of the U.S. Central Command – responsible for U.S. and coalition military operations in the Middle East, Levant and Central and South Asia.  During his 39 years in the military, he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level.  His career included combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq.  Notably, he led a 79-member coalition that successfully liberated Iraq and Syria from the Islamic State Caliphate.  He preceded his assignment at CENTCOM with service as the Commander of U.S. Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command.

Votel was recognized with the Distinguished Military Leadership Award from the Atlantic Council; the U.S. – Arab Defense Leadership Award from the National Council on U.S. - Arab Relations; the Distinguished Service Award from the National Medal of Honor Society; the SGT James T. Regan Lifetime Achievement Award from the “Lead the Way” Foundation; and the Freedom Award from the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum. 

In July of 2019, Votel was announced as the prospective President / CEO of Business Executives for National Security.  He is a Strategic Advisor for Sierra Nevada Corporation as well as a non-resident Distinguished Fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C. and the Belfer Center at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Cambridge, MA; and an advisor to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, NY.  He is a member of the Board of Directors for Service to School – a non-profit organization that helps military veterans transition and win admission to the Nation’s best graduate and undergraduate schools.  He is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Votel is a 1980 graduate of the United States Military Academy and earned Master’s Degrees from the U.S. Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College.  He is married to Michele and they have two grown sons; a daughter-in-law and a granddaughter.  The Votels reside in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.

Previous Speakers

  • William "Bill" Bennett, Keynote, 2018 Annual Leadership and Ethics Conference "GRIT and the American Character"
  • Robert Kaplan, Convocation 2016 speaker "Our Current Geopolitical Climate" - watch his speech on Our Current Geopolitical Climate
  • Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster "Developing the Next Marshall: Trends in Future Strategic Leadership to 2040" - watch his remarks on our YouTube Channel
  • Daniel Rodriquez "Goal Setting: Achieving Your Goals"
  • Kirsten Powers, Convocation 2015 speaker, "Free Speech on College Campuses" - watch her speech on Free Speech on College Campuses
  • Ray Kelly "A Conversation with Ray Kelly on his Memoir: Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting its Empire City"
  • Retired Four-Star General Keith Alexander "Ethical Dilemmas Facing Leaders in American National Security" - watch his presentation on Public Privacy and National Security
  • Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman "The Bulletproof Mind: Psychological Preparations for Combat."
  • Edward Ayers, Ph.D. "The Shape of the Civil War"
  • Nina Totenberg "The Supreme Court and Its Impact on You."
  • Mr. Edward Viesturs "No Shortcuts to the Top."
  • Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam