2018 Speakers & Performers

Click the photos below to learn more about our presenters.
Scroll down for the day-of schedule.



Malika Bilal is an international news journalist, TV host, and moderator based in Washington, DC. She is currently co-host of The Stream, an Emmy-nominated news talk show on Al Jazeera English that's centered on online community participation. She also serves as digital producer for that program, facilitating live on-air panel discussions while simultaneously bringing in viewer questions, comments and feedback. A Chicago native, Malika graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. She has reported from across the United States and the Middle East, including Egypt, where she covered that country’s first post-revolution election campaign and subsequent violence, and Saudi Arabia, where she was deployed to cover the annual Hajj pilgrimage. Malika previously worked for Voice of America and has written for the Chicago Tribune and National Public Radio. Her career has afforded her the chance to interview former presidents and prime ministers, Hollywood and Bollywood stars, and artists and activists from around the world. Her favorite interviews, though, are the ones with people you haven’t heard of yet.


Sustainability Strategist

Roger Ballentine is the President of Green Strategies Inc. He has previously served as the Chairman of the White House Climate Change Task Force and Deputy Assistant to the President for Environmental Initiatives under President Clinton. In addition to his current position, Roger Ballentine is on multiple committee boards that are centered around renewable and clean energy, as well as sustainability. He has lectured on law at Harvard Law school and is a consistent member of the United States Supreme Court bars located in Connecticut and the District of Columbia. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from the University of Connecticut and Cum Laude from the Harvard Law School.


CNN Religion Editor

Daniel Burke is the editor of CNN's award-winning religion section, CNN Belief, which was named the Best Online Religion Section in 2014 and 2015 by the Religion News Association. He has been honored by the American Academy of Religion for his in-depth reporting on religion and in 2016 won top prize in the categories of feature writing and news analysis. He has covered a multitude of topics, from Pope Francis’ period of exile in Argentina to the religious and moral questions that arose after he narrowly avoided a train crash. Burke graduated from Columbia University, earning an MS in journalism and an MA in comparative religion. Before that, he attended Georgetown University where a course on “The Problem of God” set him on the path to religion reporting.


Spoken Word Poet

Regie Cabico is a spoken word pioneer, having won The Nuyorican Poets Cafe Grand Slam and later taking top prizes in three National Poetry Slams. The Kenyon Review named Regie Cabico the "Lady Gaga of Poetry," and he has been listed in BUST magazine's 100 Men We Love. Television credits include 2 seasons of HBO's Def Poetry Jam, NPR's Snap Judgement & MTV's Free Your Mind. His work appears in over 30 anthologies including Aloud: Voices from the Nuyorican Poets Café, Spoken Word Revolution & The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. He produces Capturing Fire, A Queer Spoken Word Slam and editor of Capturing Fire Press.


LGBTQIA+ Humanist

Ruby Jade Corado is a social justice advocate who has fought for 20 years for LGBT human rights, transgender liberation, immigration equality, access to healthcare, and many other issues. After fleeing her home country of El Salvador amidst a civil war at 16 years old, she moved to Washington, D.C. where she has lived for 27 years. Her work has earned her awards ranging from a 2005 Capital Pride Heroes award, a 2013 Gays and Lesbians Opposing Violence award, among others. She was named one of the 25 Most Influential Latino LGBT activists by Latino Voice in 2009 and has been featured by news outlets like the Washington Post, NPR, News Week, and more. In addition to her service work, Ruby is a bilingual inspirational speaker and a nationally recognized sensitivity trainer.



Cierra Kaler-Jones is a teaching artist, writer, and storyteller who has been internationally recognized by The White House and The Department of Education for her storytelling program 'Speak Your Truth'. Kaler-Jones is devoted to giving students a space to use their own experiences to tell stories as a way to talk about the issues that affect our society. She is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of Maryland - College Park, studying minority and urban education to further her work in art and diversity education. Kaler-Jones has always been passionate about serving the community. In 2014, after being the second woman of color to secure the title of Miss New Jersey, she spent her year offering free visual and performing arts lessons to students along the East Coast and advocating for educational equity. When she is not researching trends in education or speaking to students about the transformative power of sharing their stories, she is dancing professionally and leading arts and yoga workshops for girls of color.


Fear Researcher

Dr. Margee Kerr is a sociologist and author who earned her PhD in 2009 from the University of Pittsburgh and currently teaches and conducts research on fear, specifically how and why people engage with "scary" material. Dr. Kerr is the co-investigator on a first-of-its-kind study which measures how the brain and body respond to "fun-scary" experiences like haunted attractions, paranormal investigations, and thrill rides. She works as a consultant for attractions and museums and is the author of SCREAM: Chilling Adventures in the Science of fear, named as a must read by the Washington Post. Her work has been featured in the New York Times, Parade, Atlantic Monthly, and NPR’s Science Friday, among other places.



John Kiriakou is formerly a CIA officer, senior investigator for the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, and counterterrorism consultant for ABC News. In 2007, Kiriakou blew the whistle on the CIA’s torture program, telling ABC News that the CIA tortured prisoners, that torture was official U.S. government policy, and that the policy was approved by then-President George W. Bush. He was the sixth whistleblower indicted by the Obama administration, and served 23 months in prison. Now, Kiriakou is a noted columnist, radio talk show host, and celebrated author.


Medical Ethics Advocates

David Lacks Jr. and Veronica Robinson are the grandson and great-granddaughter of Henrietta Lacks, a woman whose cells were harvested without her consent to create vaccines for diseases ranging from polio to HPV. The two are passionate patient-rights activists who have traveled the country speaking truth to power as they share Henrietta's story and advocate for bioethics policies and medical consent laws. Lacks and Robinson currently represent their family on a panel at the National Institute for Health (NIH) that reviews applications for the use of HeLa cells in research.


Police Detective and Former Refugee

Joseph Lewis is a law enforcement officer for DC Metro, a community advocate for the Lutheran Immigration Refugee Service, a seminary student, and a former refugee. Born in Liberia, he lived a normal life up until 1989, when a civil war broke out in the area. After facing multiple setbacks for the remainder of his childhood and the beginning of his adult life, Joseph migrated to the United States where he settled into a life of homelessness. Encouragement from those in his local community inspired Joseph to go to college and earn a degree. Through his experiences, Joseph has become a key community figure and source of inspiration, actively telling his story and encouraging others to do the same.


Architect, Architectural Historian, & Urbanist

Dr. Adnan Morshed is an architect, author, and now associate professor in the School of Architecture and Planning at Catholic University. His published works include various articles and books, including Impossible Heights: Skyscrapers, Flight, and the Master Builder; and Oculus: A Decade of Insights into Bangladeshi Affairs. Additionally, his research has garnered grants from the organizations like the Graham Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and MIT, along with earning him highly competitive fellowships from the likes of the National Gallery of Art and the Smithsonian Institution. Also a practicing architect, Adnan Morshed has designed buildings in the U.S., Lebanon, Malaysia, and Bangladesh.


Foreign Service Officer

Lucia Piazza is the Director of Crisis Management and Strategy in the Office of the Secretary of State. A career Foreign Service Officer, since joining the State Department in 2001 Lucia has represented the US government as a diplomat in countries throughout Africa and the Middle East. Lucia received a Master of Science degree in National Security Strategy from the National War College, National Defense University and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of New Hampshire. She is the recipient of multiple awards including two Superior Honor Awards for her leadership during the 2012 attack on Embassy Tunis and a Superior Honor Award in 2017 for her leadership of the State Department’s response to Hurricanes Irma, Jose, and Maria when she and her team oversaw the evacuation and repatriation of over 3000 U.S. citizens. Lucia speaks Arabic, French, Italian, and Spanish.


Forced Marriage Survivor and Activist

Fraidy Reiss is an activist who is recognized internationally as an expert on forced and child marriage in America, drawing inspiration from her own abusive forced marriage. After realizing that most women and girls trying to flee or resist arranged and forced marriages are limited by finances, religious law and social customs, she founded the organization 'Unchained At Last' to help women successfully start new lives. Her writing on the subject has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post and countless other publications in the US and beyond, and she has been interviewed and featured by those outlets as well as Financial Times, BBC, PBS, NPR, CBS and others. Reiss has also assisted in the creation of legislation to end and reduce child marriage which has been introduced and, in some cases, already passed in multiple US states.


Award-Winning Journalist

María Elena Salinas, former anchor of the highly rated Noticiero UNIVISION, is the most recognized Hispanic female journalist in the United States. For 25 years, Salinas has handled some of the most challenging assignments in modern day journalism, and has interviewed more world leaders, dictators and political figures than any other female journalist. Her coverage of Hurricane Mitch and her moderation of a town hall meeting with Mexican President Vicente Fox helped win Univisión two national Emmy Awards. Salinas has been featured on the cover of Hispanic Magazine as one of the "100 Most Influential Hispanics" in the United States and named one of the top 15 Most Influential Hispanics among Latino voters. Salinas is a former vice president and founding member of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, and has been a featured speaker at media and women’s conferences throughout the country.


Diversity Champion

Mike Tapscott directs the Multicultural Student Services Center at the George Washington University and is celebrating his 37th year in university administration work this year. He and his team lead efforts on campus to improve diversity, inclusion, advocacy, and campus climate. His work on campus includes influencing policy and programs that support the success of underrepresented students, and combining his experience in admissions and minority student affairs. He earned his B. A. in History from Tufts University with a minor in sociology, and attended graduate school at Tufts and American, studying higher education administration and communications.


Blockchain Creative

Amy Whitaker is the author of Art Thinking (Harper Business) and an assistant professor at NYU. She holds an MBA and an MFA and asks questions about how technology can help realign the financial risks and support the human vulnerabilities of early stage creative work in any field. Amy is a former mentor to the TED fellows and current advisor to the blockchain company Bitmark. Originally from the South, she owns a cookie cutter shaped like Elvis Presley and has been known to host cookie decorating parties. She has been described as a business poet and a human Venn diagram. She has spoken at the Aspen Ideas Festival and the Fast Company Innovation Festival, and her work has been profiled in the Financial Times, the Art Newspaper, Vanity Fair, and Fast Company.


Click the schedule items below to learn more.

10:00 AM - 11:10 AM | Lisner Auditorium
Our first session features speakers that create new ideas out of seemingly familiar ones.

Dr. Margee Kerr: Fear Researcher
Mike Tapscott: Diversity Champion
Dr. Adnan Morshed: Architect, Architectural Historian, & Urbanist
Roger Ballentine: Sustainability Strategist

Break 1
11:10 AM - 11:40 AM | Marvin Center

Interactive Exhibits
Food Trucks: The Big Cheese, Far East Taco Grill, Little Miss Whoopie, Capital Chicken & Waffles

11:50 AM - 1:00 PM | Lisner Auditorium
Boundaries are everywhere, creating limits that are made to be broken.
These next speakers push these limits to overcome obstacles.

Fraidy Reiss: Forced Marriage Survivor and Activist
Amy Whitaker: Blockchain Creative
David Lacks Jr. and Veronica Robinson: Medical Ethics Advocates
Regie Cabico: Spoken Word Poet

Break 2 & Speaker Networking
1:00 PM - 2:10 PM | Marvin Center
Join our speakers in Marvin Center 311 and be sure to ask questions, make small talk, discuss what fear means to you, or just say hello!

Speaker Networking Session
Interaction Exhibits
Food Trucks: The Big Cheese, Far East Taco Grill, Little Miss Whoopie, Capital Chicken & Waffles

2:20 PM - 3:15 PM | Lisner Auditorium
When we experience fear, we're defined by our decision to either fight back or flee.
These next speakers demonstrate how to stand your ground and face setbacks head-on.

Cierra Kaler-Jones: Storyteller
Joseph Lewis: Police Detective and Former Refugee
John Kiriakou: Whistleblower

Break 3
3:15 PM - 3:45 PM | Marvin Center

Interactive Exhibits
Speaker Networking Session
Food Trucks: The Big Cheese, Far East Taco Grill, Little Miss Whoopie, Capital Chicken & Waffles

Session 4: REWIRE
3:45 PM - 5:00 PM | Lisner Auditorium
This last session features speakers examining the world around them to create new ways of being and thinking that move them beyond their initial fears.

María Salinas: Award-Winning Journalist
Lucia Piazza: Foreign Service Officer
Ruby Corado: LGBTQIA+ Humanist
Daniel Burke: CNN Religion Editor