Critical Issues Redux
The Frances Willson Thompson Critical Issues Forum is one of the signature events of the University of Michigan-Flint. For nearly three decades, campus and community have gathered to hear world-renowned speakers share their words of wisdom with the collective conscience.
Frances Willson Thompson is more than a namesake for the event. She is the woman who has made so much on this campus possible, from the Library that bears her name, to the Thompson Center for Learning and Teaching, to the Critical Issues Forum. Back in 1977, it was her vision that the university invite speakers of national repute to campus to share their thoughts on the challenging issues of our time. We have her to thank for this amazing community gift.
The fact of the matter is that Critical Issues is really bigger than any one individual. It is a community treasure. It is a chance for all of us to interact with the leading thinkers and experts of our times. To have national conversations on our campus in the heart of our community is an important, valuable experience.
The boldfaced names that have spoken with us are the individuals who are part of the highest echelons of power and prestige both in this country and around the world. Nobel prize winners. Cabinet members. Cultural icons. Scientific trailblazers. All have shared their insight on myriad issues we face as a society. And what better place to have those conversations than in a university setting where the exchange of ideas is essential to the academic experience?
We have looked back at the rich history of the Critical Issues Forum, recalling the many speakers and topics, discovering interesting new facts and stories about the event from over the years. Enjoy!
(NOTE: If you find any factual inaccuracies, gaping holes, or know of something you feel we should include, please let us know!)
Initially, Thompson funds targeted issues related almost exclusively to economics.
11/1: Paul W. McCracken – University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Distinguished University Professor of Business Economics and former Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors
11/8: Theodore Eck – Standard Oil Company of Indiana energy economist
11/16: David I. Fand – University of Michigan Ann Arbor Distinguished University Professor of Business Economics and former Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors
When the series first got underway, there were fewer speakers, and often times the speakers were UM-Flint or UM faculty members.
10/31: Andrew F. Brimmer – Head of his own financial and economic consulting firm and former member of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System
11/7: Dennis F. Ellis – University of Michigan-Flint business economist
11/21: William E. Cooper – Zoologist and then-Chairman of the Environmental Review Board, Michigan State University
11/28: Harold T. Shapiro – Professor of Economics and Public Policy and then-Vice President for Academic Affairs, University of Michigan Ann Arbor
Through the first five years, the series was dubbed “The American Economy and the Business Community.”
10/17: Murray L. Weidenbaum – Washington University, Mallinckrodt Distinguished University Professor of Economics and subsequently Chairman, Council of Economic Advisors
10/30: Edward J. Mitchell – Energy economist, University of Michigan Ann Arbor
11/14: Dennis F. Ellis – University of Michigan-Flint business economist
No speakers this year.
5/6: David I. Fand – Wayne State University economist
5/20: Richard T. Curtin – Survey Research Center, University of Michigan Ann Arbor
12/7: Walter Adams – Distinguished University Professor of Economics, Michigan State University
1/11: Herbert Dow (Ted) Doan – Venture capitalist and former President, Dow Chemical Company
2/18: David E. Cole – Director, Office for the Study of Automotive Transportation, University of Michigan-Ann Arbor
1984 – 1991
There was an extended break from between the years of 1984 through 1991. A few speakers came to campus on various topics, but there was no formal program or luncheon series. Thompson funds were used for library construction and other programming.
This marks the first year the series was offically titled the “Critical Issues Forum.” The theme was National Healthcare.
Bioethicist Arthur Caplan is the only Critical Issues Forum (CIF) speaker to appear three times: once in 1992, once in 1996, and again in 2010.
Joseph A. Califano, Jr. – 12th U.S. Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare
Stephen H. Long – Senior Economist, RAND Corporation
Judith Feder – Principal deputy assistant secretary for planning and evaluation at the Department of Health and Human Services under President Bill Clinton
Cheryl Anderson-Small – Researches nutrition-related issues in chronic disease prevention in minority and under-served populations.
Holly Gail Atkinson – Assistant Professor of Public Health at Weill Medical College of Cornell University
Uwe E. Reinhardt – James Madison Professor of Political Economy at Princeton University
Arthur L. Caplan – Emmanuel and Robert Hart Professor of Bioethics and director of the Center for Bioethics at the University of Pennsylvania
In 1993, CIF held an event called “Creative Responses to Economic Development in Industrial Communities.” It was a 3-day, 19-session analytic review with more than 20 presenters.
Irving and Barry Bluestone – Former UAW Vice President and his son, UM-trained economist and faculty member of the University of Massachusetts in Boston; co-authors of the 1992 book “Negotiating the Future: A Labor Perspective on American Business”
Bennett Harrison – Professor of political economy at Carnegie Mellon University’s Heinz School of Public Policy and Management
Neil Seldman – President and co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Washington, D.C.
Thomas W. Croft – Executive Director of the Steel Valley Authority
Jim Oliver – Director of the Portland West Neighborhood Planning Council, Portland, ME.
Beverly A. Ciglar – The role of the policy entrepreuneur in responding to economic development in industrial communities
Pamela M. Wynn – Director of Bloomsburg University’s Institute for Enterprise Development
Michael Gallis – Associate Professor of architecture and Urban Institute Fellow, University of North Carolina at Charlotte
4/13: Bernard Kalb – CNN News Moderator
CIF has given local media the opportunity to engage with thoughtleaders as well.
3/29: Abba Eban – Former Israeli Ambassador
4/19: John Silber – Member of the bipartisan commission on Central America under President Reagan; author of “Straight Shooting”
5/3: William Raspberry – Syndicated Columnist
5/24: Mae Jemison – NASA Astronaut
Planning for Critical Issues is an ongoing, year-long event. Though the cover of this CIF brochure references the “1996 Frances Wilson Thompson Critical Issues Forum,” all speaking engagements occured in the spring of 1997.
4/9: Marlin Fitzwater – Former press secretary to Presidents Reagan and Bush
4/23: Cokie Roberts – ABC News correspondent
5/7: Robert Kennedy, Jr. – Senior attorney for the National Resources Defense Council
5/21: Alexa Canady – Neurosurgeon at Children’s Hospital of Michigan, first African-American female neurosurgeon
5/1: Sherry Turkle – Abby Rockefeller Mauzé Professor of the Social Studies of Science at MIT and author of “Life on the Screen: Identity in the Age of the Internet”
4/13: Molly Ivins – Political humorist, syndicated columnist
4/28: Gerald & Nancy Jaax – co authors “The Hot Zone.” Topic: biohazards and germ warfare
5/4: P.J. O’Rourke – Foreign Affairs Editor Rolling Stone Magazine. Author of “Parliament of Whores,” “Give War a Chance,” and “All the Trouble in the World.”
5/19: Ronald Takaki – Professor of ethnic studies at University of California, Los Angeles, author. Topic: Multiculturalism.
Ranjit Kumar Chandraabc – Biochemistry, genetics, and molecular biology
No speakers this year.
4/2: Jean Chatzky – Financial expert, radio host, author
5/7: Ellen Goodman – Pulitzer Prize winning columnist, author
5/14: Raymond Tanter – Founder of Iran Policy Committee
5/22: David Gergen – Senior Political Analyst for CNN
4/9: Barry Asmus, Ph.D. – “Freedom, Limited Government and Public Policy”
4/16: Alice M. Rivlin, Ph.D. – “How to Think about Social Security and the Retirement Crisis”
5/6: John McLaughlin, Ph.D. – “Foreign Policy and Business”
5/20: Guy Kawasaki – “Rules for Revolutionaries”
Due to the popularity of CIF, the event moved in 2004 from the Michigan Rooms where seating was limited to 250 people to the Northbank Center Ballroom where seating increased to 330 people.
4/14: John Stossel – Award-winning journalist, author
4/21: Diana Eck – Topic: A New Religious America
5/3: Jared Diamond – Author of “Guns, Germs, and Steel”
5/12: Randall Kennedy – Author, professor at Harvard Law School; Topic: The Race Line in America
4/14: Patti Davis – Author, daughter of President Reagan
4/20: David Brooks – New York Times Columnist
4/27: Minnijean Brown-Trickey – Civil Rights Leader
5/4: George Mitchell – Senator, International Leader
5/11: E. O. Wilson – Pulitzer Prize Winning Scientist
4/26: Jeffrey Sachs – Economist, author
5/4: Judy Woodruff – CNN anchor, “Inside Politics”
5/17: Juan Enriquez – Founder of Biotechonomy
5/24: Arun Gandhi – Leader of peace organization
4/19: Julia E. Sweig – Author and Expert in Latin America Affairs
4/23: Atul Gawande – Professor, Harvard Medical School, author of “Better”
5/3: Bob Woodward – Investigative Journalist and Author, broke Watergate Scandal
5/10: David Suzuki – Award-winning Scientist, Environmentalist, Broadcaster
5/16: R. James Woolsey – Former CIA Director, Diplomat, Arms Negotiator
4/10: Ken Burns – Award-winning Documentary Filmmaker
4/16: David Magnus – Professor at Stanford University and Biomedical Ethics Expert
4/24: Bob Beckel and Cal Thomas – co-writers of USA Today’s “Common Ground” Column
5/8: Peter Bergen – CNN Global Terrorism Analyst and Best-Selling Author
4/23: Jerome Ringo – Environmental Pioneer
4/29: David Walton – Global Health Expert
5/7: Zanny Minton-Beddoes – U.S. Economics Editor
5/14: Newt Gingrich – Former U.S. Speaker of the House
3/23: David Kessler, M.D. – Industrialized Food
4/1: Christopher Paul Curtis – UM-Flint Alum, Award-winning author
4/8: Arthur Caplan, Ph.D. – Bioethics: Because We Can, Should We?
4/15: Madeleine Albright – Former Secretary of State on “The United States and the Global Stage”
4/22: Brent Pollina – The Economic Revitalization of Flint
3/17: Geoffrey Canada – Education
3/28: Joseph Stiglitz – Economics
4/7: Gwen Ifill – Journalism
4/13: Norman Doidge – Brain Science
5/9: Bill McKibben – Climate Change
Read more about this year’s theme and speakers at the Critical Issue Forum website.
Check out this year’s delicious and earth-friendly CIF lunch menu recipes.
Read UM-Flint Director of University Relations Jennifer Hogan’s blog post about Planning Critical Issues in the Shadow of Joanne Sullenger
Follow the Critical Issues Forum on Twitter, @umflintCIF, for ongoing event updates, speaker information, and more.
TIDBIT: The background image on this page was taken during Geoffrey Canada’s presentation in 2011.