DDS 2022 - Agenda

Confronting Democracy's Dilemmas

Over the course of two days, the 2022 Denver Democracy Summit examined the quality of democracy in the U.S. and abroad through engagement and dialogue, inspiring a new generation of civically minded and engaged citizens.

Thursday, February 10

  • 8:00 - 8:10 AM: Introduction
    Time Details
    8:00 AM

    Welcome and Introduction

    Welcoming remarks from:

    • Fritz Mayer, Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver


    • Ryan Heath, Senior Editor, Politico
    • Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Integrity
  • 8:40 - 9:10 AM: The Changing Media Landscape and Politicization
    8:40 AM

    The Changing Media Landscape and Politicization

    • Anna Nicolaou, U.S. Media Correspondent, Financial Times
    • Zaid A. Zaid, Head of U.S. Public Policy, Cloudflare
    • Vivian Schiller, Executive Director, Aspen Digital
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    Market forces and technological change have transformed the global information environment. We have witnessed the proliferation of media sources alongside the diminishment of investigative journalism, particularly at the local level. What are the implications of these changes for informing publics in the service of well-functioning democracies? This panel will explore the changed, and still changing, media landscape and its effects on the quality of democracy. Current debates revolve around the relative merits of private versus public funding of media, the extent to which social media companies exacerbate polarization, and how best to build an information environment conducive to democratic practices.

  • 9:10 - 9:40 AM: Vote Manipulation Across the World
    9:10 AM

    Vote Manipulation Across the World

    • Zack Beauchamp, Senior Correspondent, Vox
    • Ingibjörg Sólrún Gísladóttir, Deputy Special Representative for Political Affairs and Electoral Assistance of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI)
    • Gulalai Ismail, Human Rights Activist and Korbel School Graduate Student
    • Moderator: Ryan Heath

    Vote manipulation occurs in a multitude of ways across the world, with would-be autocrats learning tactics from each other. What does the twenty-first century authoritarian handbook illustrate in terms of how vote manipulation strategies are used in a range of global contexts for different anti-democratic purposes? And what have we learned about combating such methods of democratic erosion? 

  • 9:50 - 10:20 AM: Dilemmas of Media Regulation
    9:50 AM

    Dilemmas of Media Regulation

    • Nancy Ancrum, Editorial Page Editor, Miami Herald
    • Alan Chen, Professor, Sturm College of Law, University of Denver
    • David Kaye, Clinical Professor of Law, UC Irvine and UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression, 2014 – 2020
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    Changes in the media landscape have an increasing impact on democratic practices around the world. Extremist content, disinformation, and manipulation of information have led many to call for increased regulation. There are debates over what kind of regulation can best address these issues and the risks of different regulatory optionsion. While much of the debate has focused on social media, questions around appropriate regulation for print and broadcast media are also relevant. Panelists in this session will discuss the prospects for regulating in a way that is supportive of democratic practices and engendering the kind of information environment in which democracy can thrive.

  • 10:20 - 10:40 AM: Democratic Resistance: A Global Perspective
    10:20 AM

    Democratic Resistance: A Global Perspective

    • Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, Leader of democratic Belarus
    • Damon Wilson, President and CEO, National Endowment for Democracy
    • Moderator: Professor Rachel Epstein

    Although democratic erosion in Brazil, India, Turkey, Poland, Hungary, and the US, among other places, has commanded headlines in recent years, there are also ongoing processes of democratization in many countries. This keynote panel explores the ebb and flow of democratization, acknowledging that the world today is very close to its democratic peak in terms of the proportion of the world’s population that is living under some variety of democratic regime. A special focus on Belarus also reveals the extent to which publics are prepared to take risks in support of democratic reform. Our panelists also reflect on how external actors can support democratic governance, as well as the conditions under which external actions are likely to exacerbate democratic struggles.

  • 10:40 - 11:10 AM: Democracies and Climate Change
    10:40 AM

    Democracies and Climate Change

    • Rachel Kyte, Dean, The Fletcher School at Tufts University
    • David Orr, Professor of Practice, Arizona State University; Oberlin College Distinguished Professor Emeritus
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    The societal impacts of climate change seem likely to put severe stress on democracies as they seek to cope with increased food insecurity, drought, severe weather, flooding, and climate migration.  Moreover, the policies needed to address these impacts, as well as those to mitigate the extent of climate change, are highly contentious.  Some have questioned whether democracies are up to the challenge and suggested that less democratic regimes are better situated to cope with the challenges posed by climate change. How can democratic institutions be strengthened to better respond to the climate crisis? 

  • 11:10 - 11:45 AM: Meeting the Climate Challenge in a Democracy - All Hands on Deck
    11:10 AM

    Meeting the Climate Challenge in a Democracy - All Hands on Deck

    • Donnel Baird, Founder and CEO of BlocPower
    • Ani Dasgupta, President & CEO, World Resources Institute (WRI)
    • Sophia Kianni, Founder and Executive Director, Climate Cardinals; US Representative to United Nations Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change
    • Bill McKibben, Founder, Third Act
    • Moderator: Ryan Heath

    Already, businesses, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and others are taking voluntary actions to reduce their carbon footprint. There is something of a global social movement now working both to encourage such actions and to bring pressure to bear on governments and businesses. As with all forms of private governance, there is an open question as to how effective such extra-governmental actions can be, and whether it is possible to sustain truly democratic, inclusive, and effective collective action in civil society.

Friday, February 11

  • 8:00 - 8:15 AM: Introduction
    8:00 AM

    Welcome and Introduction

    • Jeremy Haefner, Chancellor, University of Denver
    • Fritz Mayer, Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver


    Recap and Reflections from Day One

    • Naazneen Barma, Associate Professor and Director of the Scrivner Institute of Public Policy, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
    • Rachel Epstein, Professor and Senior Associate Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, Univesity of Denver
    • Seth Masket, Professor and Director of the Center for American Politics, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver
    • Fritz Mayer, Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver



    • Jeanne Meserve, former anchor and correspondent, CNN and ABC News, Member of Transatlantic Commission on Election Intergrity
  • 8:15 - 8:40 AM: Can America Still Lead?
    8:15 AM

    Can America Still Lead?

    • Michael Bennet, U.S. Senator, Colorado
    • Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Chairman, Alliance of Democracies, Former Prime Minister of Denmark, Former Secretary General of NATO
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    After assuming the presidency in 2021, Joe Biden and his administration began to seek ways to unite the world’s democracies against the rising tide of authoritarianism. From rejoining multilateral institutions like the World Health Organization and international agreements like the Paris climate agreement to the Biden Democracy Summit, the vision is of the U.S. once again leading a liberal international order. But will the world still accept American leadership? And, in its current polarized state, can America still lead?

  • 8:40 - 9:10 AM: Promoting Democracy Around the World
    8:40 AM

    Promoting Democracy Around the World

    • Tawanda Mutasah, Vice President of Global Partnerships and Impact, Oxfam America
    • Birgitta Ohlsson, Director of Political Parties, National Democratic Institute
    • Nicole Bibbins Sedaca, Executive Vice President, Freeom House
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    This panel brings together experts to discuss trends and challenges in democratic governance and democratic erosion across global regions. Are international autocratization efforts more or less powerful than efforts to promote democratization? Is the US still viewed as a force for democratization around the world? Potential pathways to reinvigorating the pursuit of more equitable, responsive, and stable democracies will be examined.

  • 9:10 - 9:40 AM: Can Colorado be a Model?
    9:10 AM

    Can Colorado be a Model?

    • Jena Griswold, Colorado Secretary of State
    • Joe Neguse, Congressman/Representative for Colorado’s 2nd District
    • Stewart Vanderwilt, President and CEO, Colorado Public Radio 
    • Moderator: Fritz Mayer

    With its history of high voter turnout, easy mail-in balloting, and low incidence of fraud, Colorado has generally stood out among other states as the “gold standard” of election systems. Yet the state still faces electoral challenges–including threats to elected officials–as well as challenges to informing citizens and to dealing effectively with environmental issues. How well is Colorado doing? Could Colorado be a model for free and fair elections, high-quality political information, and effectiveness in addressing huge challenges such as climate change? 

  • 9:40 - 10:15 AM: Media Enfranchisement and Polarization
    9:40 AM

    Media Enfranchisement and Polarization

    • Ravi Agrawal, Editor in Chief, Foreign Policy
    • Mary B. McCord, Visiting Professor of Law; Executive Director, Institute for Constitutional Advocacy and Protection, Georgetown Law
    • Jenn White, Host, NPR's 1A
    • Moderator: Ryan Heath

    A paradox of the current media environment is that information is more available around the world at lower cost than ever before, and yet polarization is at acute levels in some countries. Recent trends in the media’s evolution appear to be both enfranchising and alienating for the public. Panelists will discuss how the media may empower voters, as well as the conditions under which the media contributes to social polarization. With the rise of violent extremism, a critical debate concerns whether changes in the information environment can reduce the likelihood of political violence.

  • 10:20 - 10:50 AM: Vote Suppression in the U.S.
    10:20 AM

    Vote Suppression in the U.S.

    • Jonah Goldberg, Editor in Chief, The Dispatch
    • Adam Jentleson, Executive Director, Battle Born Collective
    • Erica Teasley Linnick, Acting Director, Democracy Program, Open Society-US
    • Moderator: Ryan Heath

    Vote suppression in the United States through legislative means has intensified since the U.S. Supreme Court weakened the Voting Rights Act in 2013 by making it possible for states to change their election laws without prior federal approval. How can we best understand voter suppression efforts in the United States in historical context? Which legislative tactics have proven most effective over the past decade in restricting voter access to the polls? What have we learned about how to protect voting rights?

  • 10:50 - 11:20 AM: Protecting Voting Rights - The Role of Civil Society
    10:50 AM

    Protecting Voting Rights - The Role of Civil Society

    • Lori Augino, Executive Director of the National Vote at Home Institute
    • LaTosha Brown, Co founder, Black Votes Matter
    • Greisa Martinez, Executive Director, United We Dream
    • Moderator: Jeanne Meserve

    Political party radicalization and voter suppression would appear to interact in a vicious circle, in both the U.S. and abroad. At the same time, meticulous and sustained grassroots campaigns have had extraordinary successes in voter turnout — for example in Georgia in both November 2020 and January 2021. How might civil society groups and social movements take a stand against voter suppression and manipulation? 

  • 11:20 - 11:50 AM: Restoring American Democracy
    11:20 AM

    Restoring American Democracy

    • Jason Crow, U.S. Congressional Representative, Colorado
    • Liz Cheney, U.S. Congressional Representative, Wyoming
    • Moderator: Ryan Heath


    The insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, and all we have subsequently learned about attempts to reverse the outcome of the 2020 Presidential election, have revealed just how fragile American democracy is.  Two US Representatives who were in session on that historic day and who are leaders on opposite sides of the aisle, will discuss their efforts to bring the truth to light and their perspectives on how we restore trust in American democracy.

  • 11:50 - 12:00 PM: Cartoon Reveal and Plenary Closing
    11:50 AM

    Cartoon Reveal and Plenary Closing

    • Kevin Kallaugher (KAL), Cartoonist at The Economist and artist in residence for the Denver Democracy Summit
    • Fritz Mayer, Dean, Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver