Salon Series: A Conversation with President Emeritus John Sexton
June 5, 2019
NYU Washington, DC and the John Brademas Center of New York University co-hosted a Salon Series conversation with U.S. Congresswoman Diana DeGette and NYU President Emeritus John Sexton who discussed Sexton's most recent book, Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age. The conversation was moderated by Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, American Council on Education.
In Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age, John Sexton argues that over six decades, a “secular dogmatism,” impenetrable by dialogue or reason, has come to dominate political discourse in America. Political positions, elevated to the status of doctrinal truths, now simply are “revealed.” Our leaders and our citizens suffer from an allergy to nuance and complexity, and the enterprise of thought is in danger. Sexton sees our universities, the engines of knowledge and stewards of thought, as the antidote, and he describes the policies university leaders must embrace if their institutions are to serve this role. Acknowledging the reality of our increasingly interconnected world—and drawing on his experience as president of New York University when it opened campuses in Abu Dhabi and Shanghai—Sexton advocates for “global network universities” as a core aspect of a new educational landscape and as the crucial foundation-blocks of an interlocking world characterized by “secular ecumenism.”
Congresswoman Diana DeGette, U.S. House of Representatives
Congresswoman Diana DeGette is serving her 12th term in Congress as Representative for the First District of Colorado. As a member of the powerful Committee on Energy and Commerce, an exclusive congressional committee with vast jurisdiction over health care, trade, business, technology, food safety, and consumer protection, she is one of the leading voices in the health care debate in this country. She also served as the Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, which conducts the oversight of, and investigations into, issues falling under the jurisdiction of the full committee.
As a member of the Democratic leadership, she played a vital role in the reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program, has fought for tough food safety legislation, and was a key player in crafting a comprehensive consumer product safety bill.
Rep. DeGette played a pivotal role in the development of comprehensive health reform, and she led the overhaul of our nation’s food safety system. She is one of Congress’s leading experts on cutting-edge scientific research and is a recognized leader on the subject of human embryonic stem cell research.
As the Democratic leader of the bipartisan 21st Century Cures Act, which became law in December 2016, Rep. DeGette helped modernize medical research to enable more discoveries in the lab that could lead to treatments and cures for patients. This law seeks to remake our medical research system to reflect the current environment for researchers, patients, doctors, drug and medical device developers, and everyone involved in treating diseases.
In March 2018, the United States Association of Former Members of Congress gave Congresswoman DeGette its Statesmanship Award for her work to pass this legislation in a collaborative and bipartisan manner, together with Republican Congressman Fred Upton of Michigan. In November 2017 she was honored by the Javits Foundation for this achievement. Named after the late New York Senator Jacob Javits, the foundation works to revive this renowned public servant’s commitment to cooperation and collaboration across party lines. Even in a time of intense division, Congresswoman DeGette continues her practice of reaching across the aisle whenever possible to get results for Coloradans and all Americans.
A life-long Coloradoan, Rep. DeGette is guided by traditional Western values. She’s also the author of the landmark Colorado Wilderness Act, which would protect and preserve pristine land across Colorado for generations to come. She has fought to enhance her constituents’ access to affordable quality health care, expand mass transit, improve transportation in the Denver area, clean up environmental waste sites, and improve opportunities for small business.
Terry Hartle, Senior Vice President of Government and Public Affairs, American Council on Education
Terry W. Hartle is one of America’s most effective and experienced advocates for higher education. At ACE, where he has served for more than 20 years, he directs comprehensive efforts to engage federal policymakers on a broad range of issues including student aid, government regulation, scientific research and tax policy. His work involves representation before the U.S. Congress, administrative agencies and the federal courts. As an expert voice on behalf of colleges and universities, he is quoted widely in the national and international media on higher education issues.
Given ACE’s historic role in coordinating the government relations efforts of some 60 associations in the Washington-based higher education community, Hartle plays a central part in developing public policy positions that impact all colleges and universities, and also oversees the Council’s external relations functions.
Prior to joining the council in 1993, Hartle served for six years as education staff director for the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources, then chaired by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy. Prior to 1987, Hartle was director of social policy studies and resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a research scientist at the Educational Testing Service. Hartle has authored or co-authored numerous articles, books, and national studies and contributes regular book reviews to The Christian Science Monitor.
Hartle received a doctorate in public policy from The George Washington University (DC), a master’s in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University (NY) and a bachelor’s degree in history (summa cum laude) from Hiram College (OH). He was awarded an honorary doctor of laws degree by Northeastern University (MA). He has received the Hiram College Alumni Achievement Award, and has been inducted into the Hiram College Athletic Hall of Fame. He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.
John Sexton, President Emeritus, New York University
John Sexton is President Emeritus of New York University, Dean Emeritus of NYU School of Law, and the Benjamin Butler Professor of Law. He joined the law school faculty in 1981, was named the law school's Dean in 1988, and became the University's President in 2001. In January 2016, he returned to the faculty.
In addition to these positions at NYU, Sexton serves as President of The Catalyst Foundation for Universal Education and Chair of the University of the People’s President’s Council. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and of the Council on Foreign Relations. He serves on the boards of the Institute of International Education, the College Advising Corps, and the Trinity School (New York).
He is past Board Chair of the American Council on Education, the Commission on Independent Colleges and Universities, and the New York Academy of Sciences. While Dean, he was President of the Association of American Law Schools.
He served as the Chairman of the Board of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York (2003-2006) and Chair of the Federal Reserve Systems Council of Chairs (2006). Earlier, he had served on the board of the National Association of Securities Dealers (1996-1998) and was Founding Chair of the Board of NASD Dispute Resolution (2000-2002).
He served as co-chair of the UK/US Study Group, an education policy group convened by Prime Minister Gordon Brown, and was a member of the Institute for Public Policy Research's Commission on the Future of Higher Education (UK), which issued its report in June 2013.
In 2015, he received the TIAA-CREF Hesburgh Award for Leadership Excellence, recognizing outstanding leadership on the part of a university president. In 2014, the Institute for International Education awarded him its Stephen P. Duggan Award for “distinguished work in education.” In 2012, he received the NASPA President’s Award, which is given annually to a college or university leader who has, over a sustained period of time, advanced the quality of student life on campus.
In 2016, Commonweal Magazine honored Sexton as the Catholic in the Public Square. In the previous year, the Arab-American League awarded him its Khalil Gibran Spirit of Humanity Award; and the Open University of Israel gave him its Alon Prize for “inspired leadership in the field of education.” In 2013, Citizens Union designated him as “an outstanding leader who enhances the value of New York City.”
He holds 21 honorary degrees from colleges and universities in the United States and Europe. The student editors of NYU's Annual Survey of American Law dedicated their Volume 60 to him. He has been honored at the Harvard Law Review Annual Banquet and has been named "Alumnus of the Year" both at Fordham University and at his high school, Brooklyn Prep. In 2008, he was named a Chevalier de la Légion d'Honneur, the national order of the Legion of Honor of France. Emory University has named him “Outstanding High School Debate Coach of the Last 50 Years"; for work he did from 1960-1975.
President Emeritus Sexton received a B.A. in History (1963) from Fordham College; an M.A. in Comparative Religion (1965) and a Ph.D. in History of American Religion (1978) from Fordham University; and a J.D. magna cum laude (1979) from Harvard Law School.
He is a co-author of a leading casebook on civil procedure. He is also the author of Redefining the Supreme Court's Role: A Theory of Managing the Federal Court System (a treatment of the Supreme Court's case selection process), in addition to several other books, numerous chapters, articles, and Supreme Court briefs. In 2014, his book Baseball as a Road to God: Seeing Beyond the Game was a New York Times bestseller. His current book, Standing for Reason: The University in a Dogmatic Age, was released in April 2019.
Before coming to NYU, Sexton served as Law Clerk to Chief Justice Warren Burger of the United States Supreme Court (1980-1981), and to Judges David Bazelon and Harold Leventhal of the United States Court of Appeals (1979-1980). From 1966-1975, he was a Professor of Religion at Saint Francis College in Brooklyn and the Department Chair from 1970-1975. He married Lisa Goldberg in 1976. Their two children are Jed and Katie Sexton. Their grandchildren are Julia, Ava, and Natalie.
The NYU Washington, DC Salon Series: Conversations with Writers & Artists presents an opportunity for the NYU and Washington, DC community to meet and engage in dialogue with acclaimed writers and artists as they reflect on their craft. This program provides facilitated conversations that aim to illuminate the guests’ creative processes, discuss their current works, and explain the impact of their work on the world around us. The Salon Series is made possible by NYU Washington, DC through the collaboration of NYU schools, departments and centers, as well as through special relationships with selected external organizations.
Inspired by its founder, former Congressman and NYU President Emeritus, the John Brademas Center of New York University pursues a collection of initiatives in the areas which formed the core of John Brademas' life in public service: the state of Congress and the legislative process in democracies; the shifting dynamics in foreign policy and international affairs; and, the present state and future prospects for higher education, the humanities, arts and culture. With a growing reputation as a home for informed and civil debate on politics, public policy and other major issues facing the nation and global community—the Brademas Center undertakes programs at NYU's campuses in New York City and Washington, D.C., and increasingly around NYU’s global network.