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Past Speakers

Free Trade Panel Discussion

December 3, 2019

Moderated by Chris FarrellMarketplaceAmerican Public Media

Expert Trade Panel:

  • Devry Boughner Vorwerk, CEO, DevryBV Sustainable Strategies
  • Tami Overby, Senior Director, McLarty Associates
  • Kevin Paap, President, Minnesota Farm Bureau
  • Kenneth Smith Ramos, Mexico’s Former Chief Negotiator for NAFTA; Partner at AGON

Col. Robert Cabana

November 6, 2019

Director, NASA's John F. Kennedy Space Center

Robert D. Cabana is a former NASA astronaut, currently serving as director of NASA’s John F. Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In his current role, Cabana manages all NASA facilities and activities at the spaceport, including the team of civil service and contractor employees who operate and support numerous space programs and projects. Born in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Cabana graduated from the U. S. Naval Academy in 1971 with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in the U.S. Marine Corps and completed Naval Flight Officer training in Pensacola in 1972. Cabana then served as an A-6 bombardier/navigator with Marine Air Wings in Cherry Point, North Carolina, and Iwakuni, Japan.

Returning to Pensacola in 1975, Cabana began pilot training and was designated a naval aviator in September of 1976, earning the Daughters of the American Revolution award as the top Marine to complete flight training that year. He graduated with distinction from the U.S. Naval Test Pilot School in 1981 and served in the Flight Systems Branch at the Naval Air Test Center until 1984. During his career, Cabana has logged over 7,000 hours in 50 different kinds of aircraft. Cabana was selected as an astronaut candidate in June 1985 and completed his initial astronaut training in July 1986. He was assigned to the Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center Astronaut Office, serving in a number of leadership positions, including lead astronaut in the Shuttle Avionics Integration Laboratory; Mission Control Spacecraft Communicator, famously known as CAPCOM; and chief of NASA’s Astronaut Office.

A veteran of four spaceflights, Cabana has logged 38 days in space, serving as the pilot on STS-41 and STS-53 and mission commander on STS-65 and STS-88. His fourth flight was the first assembly mission of the International Space Station in December of 1998. Following his retirement as a colonel from the Marine Corps in September 2000, Cabana was appointed a member of the Federal Senior Executive Service. He served in numerous, challenging senior management positions at Johnson Space Center in Houston, ultimately becoming deputy director. In October 2007, Cabana was appointed director of NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. A year later he was reassigned as the tenth director of the John F. Kennedy Space Center.

Cabana’s many achievements have been recognized with induction into the Astronaut Hall of Fame and being named an Associate Fellow in the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics and a Fellow in the Society of Experimental Test Pilots. He has received numerous personal awards and decorations, including the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Presidential Distinguished Rank Award, and the National Space Club Florida Committee’s Dr. Kurt H. Debus Award.  He also is a recipient of the Rotary National Award for Space Achievement’s National Space Trophy.

Doug Baker

September 6, 2019

Chairman & CEO, Ecolab

Doug Baker is chairman of the board and chief executive officer of Ecolab Inc., the global leader in water, hygiene and energy technologies and services that protect people and vital resources.

Ecolab recently ranked #2 on Newsweek’s annual Green Rankings list, #8 on Corporate Responsibility’s list of Best Corporate Citizens and #26 on Barron’slist of Most Sustainable Companies. The company regularly appears on Fortune’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies and has been named to Ethisphere’s list of the World’s Most Ethical Companies for 13 consecutive years.   

Baker grew up in Minneapolis and attended Minneapolis West High School. He joined Ecolab in 1989, following seven years in brand management at Procter &  Gamble. At Ecolab, he held several marketing and general management roles in the U.S. and Europe before becoming president and chief executive officer in July 2004. In May 2006, Baker added chairman of the board to his duties. 

In addition to his Ecolab responsibilities, Baker serves on the board of directors of Target Corporation. He is trustee emeritus of the National Restaurant Association Educational Foundation and a member of the Committee Encouraging Corporate Philanthropy (CECP). 

Baker previously served on the board of directors of U.S. Bancorp, the executive committees of the Greater MSP Partnership and Minnesota Business Partnership, and on the board of overseers of the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota. He also served as co-chair of the Dorothy Day Center Capital Campaign Committee, co-chair of the host committee for the 2018 Super Bowl in Minneapolis and served on the board of Parent Aware for School Readiness, a nonprofit organization to support the statewide expansion of Parent Aware, Minnesota’s Quality Rating and Improvement System. 

Baker received a bachelor’s degree in English from College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., and serves on the college’s board of trustees.   

Ecolab is a trusted partner at nearly three million customer locations. With annual sales of $15 billion and 49,000 associates, Ecolab delivers comprehensive solutions, data-driven insights and on-site service to promote safe food, maintain clean environments, optimize water and energy use and improve operational efficiencies for customers in the food, healthcare, energy, hospitality and industrial markets in more than 170 countries around the world. www.ecolab.com

Esther L. George

May 14, 2019

President & CEO, Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City

As CEO and president of the Kansas City Fed, George leads a workforce of more than 1,900 employees located at the Bank’s Kansas City office and Branch offices in Denver, Oklahoma City and Omaha. The Kansas City Fed oversees seven states: western Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Colorado, Wyoming and northern New Mexico. Throughout this region, the Kansas City Fed plays a role in national monetary policy, supervises financial institutions and provides payment and financial services to depository institutions and the U.S. Treasury.

George joined the Fed in 1982 and served much of her career in the Division of Supervision and Risk Management. She began by becoming a commissioned bank examiner and eventually served for ten years as the District’s chief regulator. She was directly involved in the Tenth District’s banking supervision and discount window lending activities during the banking crisis of the 1980s and post-9/11.

During the financial crisis, George served as the acting director of the Federal Reserve’s Division of Banking Supervision and Regulation at the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C.  She currently serves as the executive sponsor of the Federal Reserve System’s efforts to improve the U.S. payments system. 

George hosts the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City’s annual Jackson Hole Economic Symposium. In 2019, she will be a voting member of the Federal Open Market Committee, which is responsible for setting U.S. monetary policy.

His Excellency Ron Dermer

April 2, 2019

Israel's Ambassador to the United States

Ron Dermer was born and raised in Miami Beach, Florida. He earned a degree in Finance and Management from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a degree in Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE) from Oxford University. For three years, he was a columnist for the Jerusalem Post. 

In 2004, Ron co-authored with Natan Sharansky the best-selling book, The Case For Democracy: The Power of Freedom to Overcome Tyranny and Terror, which has been translated into ten languages. From 2005-2008, Ron served as Israel’s Minister of Economic Affairs in the United States.  From 2009-2013, he served as Senior Advisor to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He became Israel’s 18th Ambassador to the United States on September 30th, 2013.

He is married to Rhoda and has five children.

Steve Nelson

February 19, 2019

CEO, UnitedHealthcare

Steve Nelson is chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare, a $180 billion division of UnitedHealth Group (NYSE: UNH) – No. 5 on the Fortune 500 list. UnitedHealthcare serves one in eight Americans, making it the single largest business dedicated to health and well-being in the United States.

Previously Steve served as chief executive officer of UnitedHealthcare’s Medicare & Retirement business, the nation’s largest organization dedicated to seniors and Medicare beneficiaries. Other past roles include leading UnitedHealthcare’s Community & State business, an organization that delivers Medicaid solutions in 30 states and the District of Columbia, serving 6.7 million beneficiaries, and leading the West Region of UnitedHealthcare’s Employer & Individual business. Before coming to UnitedHealthcare, Steve was president of the Eastern Region and Senior Products Division at HealthNet (NYSE: HNT) and served for 10 years in executive roles at the Henry Ford Health System.