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Obey, Gunderson to speak on public leadership

November 17, 2011

Two former Wisconsin U.S. House representatives will discuss the “Challenges for Public Leadership in Today’s World” at the annual Paul Offner Memorial Lecture in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday, Nov. 30.

The lecture is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs and the Urban Institute in Washington, D.C.

The 2011 lecturers will be Democrat Dave Obey, one of the longest-serving chairs of the U.S. House of Representatives Appropriations Committee and a 42-year veteran of the House, and Republican Steve Gunderson, a former congressional colleague, past director of the Council on Foundations, and a current member of the President’s Commission on White House Fellows.

Obey and Gunderson will address the challenges for public leadership in today’s world from the vantage point of their long careers in Congress and Wisconsin state government, as colleagues and as members of different political parties.

The talk commemorates the life of Paul Offner, a scholar, state legislator, congressional adviser and educator who left a legacy of applying solid, evidence-driven research to public policy development, especially for disadvantaged people. Offner’s dedication to public service is celebrated with an annual lecture sponsored by the Urban Institute and the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s La Follette School of Public Affairs.

Obey’s book, “Raising Hell for Justice: The Washington Battles of a Heartland Progressive,” is thought to be, according to Thomas E. Mann of the Brookings Institution, “a powerful and enlightening political memoir by one of America’s all-time great legislators. Obey is one of a vanishing breed in Congress whose entire career in public life has been committed to both advancing a principled agenda and working constructively with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to hammer out agreements that advance that agenda… .His compelling memoir demonstrates how ennobling and satisfying a career in the first branch of government can be.”

After spending nearly 20 years in politics as a leader in agriculture, employment policy, and human rights, Gunderson has taken on challenges in private sector management and philanthropy. He coauthored a book on employment policy, “The Jobs Revolution: Changing How America Works.” And as the director of The Council on Foundations he launched the foundation’s Global Philanthropy Leadership Initiative, significantly expanding and enhancing the foundation’s leadership role in government relations as the public policy voice of philanthropy toward the public good.

The talk will be held at the Urban Institute, 2100 M Street NW, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, from 12–1:15 p.m. A lunch will be provided at 11:30 a.m. Registration is available at, by email at, or by calling (202) 261-5709.

More information is available here and here.