Poet, Writer, and Nobel Prize laureate, 1995
A native of Northern Ireland, Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney is often described as one of the world's greatest poets. His volume Death of a Naturalist (1966) won four major literary awards. His second volume, Door into the Dark (1969), was the Poetry Book Society Choice for the year in 1972. His 1975 volume, North, won the E.M. Forster Award and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize.
His collection Station Island was published in 1984, the same year that Heaney was elected the Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University. In 1995 he won the Nobel Prize for Literature for ". . . works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past."
His brilliant translation of the epic poem Beowulf became the best-selling book in Great Britain and received the Whitbread Book-of-the-Year Award.
Ronald M. George
Chief Justice of California, retired
A relentless work ethic, ready mastery of complex legal issues, and a vigorous advocate of judicial reform characterizes the career of Ronald M. George, Chief Justice of California. He has served in that position since 1996 and has been a member of that court since 1991.
As a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, he presided over the "Hillside Stranglers" case, which would inspire Darcy O'Brien, his former Princeton roommate and lifelong friend, to write the best-selling Two of a Kind: The Hillside Stranglers. Earlier in his career, as deputy attorney general, he argued 11 cases before the California Supreme Court, including People v. Sirhan, in which the court upheld Sirhan Sirhan's conviction in the murder of Sen. Robert Kennedy. He also has delivered oral arguments and briefs in six cases before the United States Supreme Court.
Chief Justice George also is president of the California Judges' Association, chair of the California Judicial Council and is active as an author and lecturer. His many distinctions include the 1998 American Judicature Society's Herbert Harley Award, and in 2000, the Judge Learned Hand Award.
Humorist and Best-selling Author, Thurber Prize recipient 2012
Over the years, Calvin Trillin has combined a writer's work ethic, a wry wit, and an eye for human color to take his place in the grand tradition of Mark Twain and Will Rogers as one of the foremost social commentators of our time. He has developed his distinctive voice, both humorous and serious, through a broad range of subjects. His work includes magazine columns, 23 novels, a collection of short stories, a travel book, an account of desegregation at the University of Georgia, family memoirs, and three antic books on eating, which have been compiled into a single volume called The Tummy Trilogy.
Born in Kansas City, Missouri, Trillin's funny and often biting commentary on America is deeply rooted in his Midwestern upbringing, earning him a reputation as a classic American humorist. He has delighted readers for years with his regular columns in Time magazine, his column in The Nation and his frequent contributions to The New Yorker.
His best-selling book, Remembering Denny, was hailed as an elegiac, disturbing and altogether brilliant memoir of a Yale classmate. His most recent best seller, Tepper Isn't Going Out, is the hilarious tale of the urban quest for a parking space — American car culture vs. New York City. No modern writer has captured the American landscape as richly and with such keen perception as Calvin Trillin.
Best-selling Author of The Hot Zone, The Cobra Event
With his best-selling books The Cobra Event and The Hot Zone, Richard Preston has gained international acclaim as a first-rate investigative journalist and gifted storyteller. Years of extensive research while writing his books have made him an expert on emerging diseases, biotechnology and bioterrorism.
Preston's latest work of nonfiction, The Demon in the Freezer, details the government's response to the anthrax attacks of October 2001, the first major bioterrorism event in the U.S., and the second largest investigation in FBI history. Preston's book goes inside national biodefense at USAMRIID for a rare, in-depth look at biological espionage and military intelligence. His nearly three years of research and investigation reveal the dangers of bioterrorism and how scientists are finding ways to protect people.
Preston's other work includes First Light, an award-winning book about astronomy; and American Steel, about the building of a revolutionary steel mill. Preston is a regular contributor to The New Yorker.
Preston is a fellow at the Council of the Humanities at Princeton University and the only non-physician to have received the Champion of Prevention Award from the Centers for Disease Control. He also has won the American Institute Physics Award, the AAAS-Westinghouse Award and the McDermott Award in the Arts from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Preston graduated summa cum laude from Pomona College in 1977 and received a Ph.D. in English from Princeton University in 1983.
George J. Mitchell
Former U.S. Senate Majority Leader
During his 14-year tenure in the United States Senate, George J. Mitchell earned the bipartisan respect and reputation for diplomacy that took his talents beyond our nation's borders to Northern Ireland and the Middle East. A native of Waterville, Maine, and former U.S. Attorney and U.S. District Judge, Mitchell entered the U.S. Senate in 1980 when he was appointed to complete the term of Senator Edmund Muskie, who resigned to become Secretary of State. Mitchell was subsequently elected to a full term in 1982 and served in the Senate until 1995, including six years as majority leader.
Mitchell is recognized worldwide for his pivotal role as the moderator of the Northern Ireland peace accord. In 1996, the governments of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland asked Mitchell to chair their negotiations. His leadership throughout the two-year process resulted in the Good Friday Accord. For his role in that historic endeavor, Mitchell was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United Nations (UNESCO) Peace Prize, the Philadelphia Liberty Medal, and the Truman Institute Peace Prize.
Mitchell is the author of four books: Men of Zeal, a chronicle of the Iran-Contra investigation coauthored with William S. Cohen; World on Fire, an in-depth look at the threat of the greenhouse effect; Making Peace, an account of his experiences in Northern Ireland; and Not For America Alone: The Triumph of Democracy and The Fall of Communism.
Kip S. Thorne
Renowned Theoretical Physicist
For more than 40 years, Professor Kip S. Thorne of the California Institute of Technology has been one of the leading experts on the astrophysical implications of Einstein's general theory of relativity, our best description of gravity's operation. Thorne's scientific contributions have spanned the full range of topics in general relativity including means to test general relativity against rival theories of gravity, applications of relativity to stellar structure and evolution, black holes, and gravity waves.
Born in Logan, Utah, in 1940, Thorne received his B.S. degree from California Institute of Technology in 1962 and his Ph.D. degree from Princeton University in 1965. He returned to Caltech as an associate professor in 1967 and became professor of theoretical physics in 1970, The William R. Kenan, Jr., Professor in 1981, and The Feynman Professor of Theoretical Physics in 1991.
In 1973, Thorne coauthored the seminal textbook, Gravitation, from which most of the present generation of scientists have learned general relativity theory.
Thorne was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 1972, the National Academy of Sciences in 1973, and the Russian Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society in 1999. He has been awarded the Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society (1996), the Karl Schwarzschild Medal of the German Astronomical Society (1996), and the Common Wealth Award in Science (2005). He was named the 2004 California Scientist of the Year.
Legal Affairs Correspondent, National Public Radio
Nina Totenberg is National Public Radio's award-winning legal affairs correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR's critically acclaimed newsmagazines, All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition. Totenberg's coverage of legal affairs and the Supreme Court has won her widespread recognition. Newsweek says, "The mainstays [of NPR] are Morning Edition and All Things Considered. But the crème de la crème is Nina Totenberg." She is also a regular panelist on Inside Washington, a weekly syndicated public affairs television program produced in the nation's capital.
In 1991, her groundbreaking report about University of Oklahoma Law Professor Anita Hill's allegations of sexual harassment by Judge Clarence Thomas led the Senate Judiciary Committee to re-open Thomas's Supreme Court confirmation hearings to consider Hill's charges. NPR received the prestigious Peabody Award for its gavel-to-gavel coverage – anchored by Totenberg – of both the original hearings and the inquiry into Hill's allegations, and for Totenberg's reports and exclusive interview with Hill.
Totenberg has been honored eight times by the American Bar Association for continued excellence in legal reporting and has received a number of honorary degrees. On a lighter note, in 1988 and 1992, Esquire magazine named her one of the "Women We Love."
Peabody Award-winning Correspondent and Host, National Public Radio
From Ground Zero in New York to ground zero in Kabul, National Public Radio's Peabody Award-winning correspondent Scott Simon has reported from nearly every corner of the world in conditions from celebration to tragic. Simon has been nationally recognized for his excellence in reporting, including coverage of the murder of six Jesuit priests in El Salvador and the 1989 San Francisco earthquake. He was honored with the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for his coverage of racism in South Philadelphia.
Simon joined NPR in 1977 as chief of its Chicago bureau. Since then, he has reported from all 50 states, Central America, Africa, India, the Middle East, and the Caribbean, including eight wars. In 2002, Simon took leave of his usual post at Weekend Edition Saturday to cover the war in Afghanistan for NPR. He has received numerous honors for his reporting including awards from the Overseas Press Club, the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, and the George Foster Peabody Award.
Simon has been a frequent guest host of the CBS television program Nightwatch and CNBC's TalkBack Live. In addition to hosting Weekend Edition Saturday, Simon has appeared as an essayist and commentator on NBC's Weekend Today and NOW with Bill Moyers. Simon is the author of the nonfiction works, Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball; and the novel, Pretty Birds.
Tim Blake Nelson
Actor, Director, and Writer
The 2008 Distinguished Professor of Film, Tim Blake Nelson, has deep roots in Tulsa. He is a Tulsa native that has enjoyed an important career as a writer, actor, and filmmaker. Nelson's debut play, Eye of God was produced at Seattle Repertory Theatre in 1992. The Grey Zone premiered at MCC Theater in New York in 1996 where his 1998 work Anadarko was also produced. Nelson has appeared as an actor in the film, TV and theatre. He had a featured role in the film O Brother, Where Art Thou? According to directors Joel and Ethan Coen, he was the only one in the cast or crew who had read Homer's Odyssey, a work upon which the film is loosely based. He was perhaps served well by his degree in Classics from Brown University, where he studied prior to attending The Juilliard School for acting.
Political Analyst, ABC News; Senior News Analyst, National Public Radio
Cokie Roberts has reported on Congress, politics and public policy for nearly 20 years at ABC News. In addition to her responsibilities at ABC, Roberts serves as senior news analyst for National Public Radio, where she was the congressional correspondent for more than 10 years. Roberts is the recipient of numerous broadcasting awards, including three Emmys. She has been inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame, and was cited by the American Women in Radio and Television as "One of the 50 Greatest Women in the History of Broadcasting." Roberts, along with her husband, Steven V. Roberts, writes a weekly column syndicated in newspapers around the country by United Media.
In a follow up to her most recent best-selling book, Founding Mothers, Cokie Roberts examines the lives and times of the incredible women who have helped shape America. Her book, Ladies of Liberty, captures the heart and soul of the American spirit and offers new insights on the women who have helped make our nation great. Other best sellers include, From this Day Forward (2001), a book she coauthored with her husband, Steve Roberts, about their more than 40-year marriage and other marriages in American history; and We Are Our Mothers' Daughters (1998).
Dr. Azar Nafisi
Professor and Best-selling Author of Reading Lolita in Tehran
Azar Nafisi is a visiting professor and the director of the Dialogue Project at the Foreign Policy Institute of Johns Hopkins University's School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C., where she teaches aesthetics, culture, and literature. Nafisi held a fellowship at Oxford University, teaching the important role of Western literature and culture in Iran.
Nafisi taught literature at the University of Tehran, the Free Islamic University, and Allameh Tabatabai; and was expelled from the University of Tehran for refusing to wear the mandatory Islamic veil before leaving for America in 1997.
Nafisi's national best seller, Reading Lolita in Tehran: A Memoir in Books, is hailed as the best introduction to modern Iran. Nafisi offers a portrait of her country set against the backdrop of her own love for literature. The book has spent over 117 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list to date. Reading Lolita in Tehran has been translated into 32 languages and has won six literary awards since it was published in 2003.
Nafisi has written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and The New Republic, and has appeared on countless radio and television programs. She is the author of Anti-Terra: A Critical Study of Vladimir Nabokov's Novels, The Veiled Threat: The Iranian Revolution's Woman Problem and the children's book, BiBi and the Green Voice.
Former United States Poet Laureate (2001-2003)
Billy Collins is arguably the most popular poet in America. This modern day Robert Frost uses plain language to augment ordinary subjects and everyday life to literary significance. Humor and wit are the lures Collins uses to lead readers into a more serious place, a kind of journey from the familiar to the unexpected, sometimes tender, and often profound. Collins's widely read work is accessible, and his readings are usually standing room only. His last three collections of poems have broken sales records for poetry.
Collins has published eight collections of poetry, including Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, Picnic, Lightning, Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes, Sailing Alone Around the Room: New & Selected Poems, Nine Horses, and The Trouble With Poetry and Other Poems. Modern Haiku Press published a collection of Collins's haiku, She Was Just Seventeen, in 2006. His work has appeared in Poetry, American Poetry Review, American Scholar, Harper's, The Paris Review, The Atlantic Monthly, and The New Yorker.
Collins has received fellowships from the New York Foundation for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Guggenheim Foundation. He was appointed United States Poet Laureate 2001-2003 and was named New York State Poet Laureate 2004-2006. Collins is a professor of English at Lehman College of the City University of New York.
Renowned Theoretical Physicist, Harvard University
Lisa Randall, a leading physicist, is an expert on particle physics, string theory, and cosmology. Her entire body of work in theoretical high-energy physics has changed the way scientists think about and research the universe. She is most recognized for her investigation of the possibilities for particle physics and cosmology when there are more than three dimensions.
Randall was the first female theoretical physicist to earn tenure at Harvard, where she is currently a professor. She was also the first tenured woman in the Princeton physics department, as well as the first tenured female theoretical physicist at MIT. In her remarkable best seller, Warped Passages: Unraveling the Mysteries of the Universe's Hidden Dimensions, Randall brings her quest to explain the fabric of reality, via string theory, to a broad readership.
Randall is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a winner of the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation Research Fellowship. She is the recipient of a National Science Foundation Young Investigator Award, a Department of Education Outstanding Junior Investigator Award, the Westinghouse Science Talent Search, and the Klopsted Award from the American Society of Physics Teachers (AAPT). Randall was also recently named one of Time magazine's 100 Most Influential People in 2007, was featured in Newsweek's 2006 "Who's Next" issue and was named winner of the 2007 Julius Lilienfeld Prize of the American Physical Society for her work.
Dr. Ismail Serageldin
Director of the Library of Alexandria, Egypt
Dedicated to the exchange of knowledge among all mankind, Ismail Serageldin leads Egypt's Library of Alexandria (Bibliotheca Alexandrina) in its mission to facilitate dialogue and understanding between cultures and people. An architect by training, Serageldin has a distinguished career helping bring technological advancement to developing nations.
Serageldin has committed his life to assisting the world's poorest populations. He has spoken and written extensively about how science can positively impact the poor and provide opportunities for self-sustenance. A former executive with the World Bank, he directed that organization's efforts for environmentally and socially sustainable development. Serageldin has dedicated his life to ensure peace, justice, equality and dignity by encouraging dialogue, tolerance, learning, and understanding.
He has published more than 50 books and monographs and more than 200 papers on a variety of topics including biotechnology, rural development, sustainability, and the value of science to society. He holds a bachelor of science degree in engineering from Cairo University, master's and doctoral degrees from Harvard University, and has received 23 honorary doctorates.
Composer, Lyricist, Pulitzer Prize-winner and winner of numerous Tony Awards including the Life Time Achievement Award
Composer and lyricist Stephen Sondheim is considered the most important artist to work in American musical theater over the past half century. He has not only collaborated on more than a dozen landmark shows and written countless standard songs, but also has been the single most influential force in bringing the Broadway musical into the modern age. He contributed the lyrics to two classic collaborations with the playwright Arthur Laurents and the director-choreographer Jerome Robbins for West Side Story and Gypsy, which now are universally seen as twin pinnacles of the post-war Broadway musical. He also penned some of the most popular musical scores in Broadway history, including A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, Into the Woods, A Little Night Music, Sunday in the Park with George, and Sweeney Todd.
Former Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times; Writer-at-large, New York Magazine
Frank Rich serves as an Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, where his weekly 1,500-word essay helped inaugurate the expanded opinion pages that the paper introduced in the Sunday Week in Review section in 2005. Rich joined the paper in 1980 as its chief drama critic and started as a columnist on the Op-Ed page in January 1994. Among other honors, Rich has received the George Polk Award for commentary in 2005. He has written extensively about politics and culture, and he has authored several books, including The Greatest Story Ever Sold: The Decline and Fall of Truth in Bush's America; Ghost Light; Hot Seat: Theater Criticism for The New York Times, 1980-1993; and The Theatre Art of Boris Aronson, coauthored with Lisa Aronson.
C. Owen Lovejoy
Professor of Anthropology, Kent State University
C. Owen Lovejoy is university professor of anthropology at Kent State University, adjunct professor of anatomy at the Northeast Ohio University College of Medicine and adjunct professor of orthopaedic surgery, the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine. He has authored nearly 150 articles on human evolution, and his work has been discussed in Time, Newsweek, The New York Times, Discover, Scientific American, National Geographic and The Wall Street Journal, as well as all major science journals.
Lovejoy's work has centered on why humans first began to walk upright, and other aspects of early human evolution. He was a principal descriptor of "Lucy" and more recently was a principal author in the description of "Ardi," a revolutionary new fossil whose description was chosen by Science as "Science Breakthrough of the Year" in 2009.
Lovejoy, a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and a member of the National Academy of Science where he now serves on the editorial board of its Proceedings, has specialized in examining the human fossil record from the perspectives of evolutionary theory. He has argued that monogamy may have been one of the earliest human traits, likely first appearing nearly five million years ago, and thereby setting the stage for further human development, especially the emergence of the massive human brain and eventually cognition. His presentation will center on the relationships between Ardi and Lucy and how these two major discoveries have provided fundamental new evidence on how we came to be.
In June 2010, Lovejoy and his colleagues announced the discovery of "Kadanuumuu," an important new early hominid partial skeleton from Ethiopia that is 400,000 years older than the famous Lucy skeleton. Lovejoy is a principal author of the analysis of the new specimen to published by the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), one of the world's most highly cited multidisciplinary scientific serials.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist, The New York Times
A two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and columnist for The New York Times, Nicholas Kristof is an extraordinary thinker, human rights advocate, and astute chronicler of humanity. A seasoned journalist, he has traveled the major roads and minor byways of China, Africa, India, and South Asia, offering a compassionate glimpse into global health, poverty, and gender in the developing world.
Kristof has lived on four continents, reported on six, and traveled to 140 countries, all 50 states, every Chinese province, and every main Japanese island. He's also one of the few Americans to visit every country of the "Axis of Evil." During his travels, he has had unpleasant experiences with malaria, wars, an Indonesian mob carrying heads on pikes, and an African airplane crash.
Haunted by the Darfur genocide, Kristof has gone beyond reporting. Often called the "reporter's reporter," Kristof is also the subject of the 2009 Sundance Film Festival documentary Reporter. Crossing over into activism and hoping his dispatches will resonate with people, Kristof gives a voice to the voiceless. He believes, "you [can] tell the story of a place by writing about a tiny village as a sort of prism into the bigger issues the culture [is] facing."
Kristof and his wife, Sheryl WuDunn, were the first married couple to win a Pulitzer in journalism for their coverage of China's Tiananmen Square democracy movement. They wrote China Wakes: The Struggle for the Soul of a Rising Power together and coauthored their latest book, Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide. Addressing worldwide maltreatment, marginalization, and brutality towards women, Half the Sky is a New York Times best seller that is a compelling picture of the trials and triumphs of women struggling for opportunity and equality.
Playwright and Author of the Kurt Wallander Series
Internationally best-selling Swedish novelist and playwright Henning Mankell has achieved international acclaim for his Kurt Wallander detective series. His novels have been translated into 40 languages and sold more than 30 million copies worldwide. Mankell has received the German Tolerance Prize and the U.K.'s Golden Dagger Award and has been nominated for a Los Angeles Times Book Prize three times. His Wallander mysteries have been published in 33 countries and consistently top the best-seller lists in Europe. He divides his time between Sweden and Maputo, Mozambique, where he has worked as the director of the Teatro Avenida theatre since 1985. He is currently working on a new "test" novel which will be released in Sweden in 2011, as well as writing a television series about his late father-in-law, Ingmar Bergman. The Troubled Man, his last novel about Kurt Wallander, was released in the U.S., U.K., and Canada on March 29, 2011.
Author of The English Patient and Divisadero
Michael Ondaatje is one of the world's foremost writers – his artistry and aesthetic have influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. Although he is best known as a novelist, Ondaatje's work also encompasses memoir, poetry, and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form including his transcendent novel, The English Patient – later made into the Academy Award-winning film. He is the author of four collections of poetry, and his works of fiction include In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Anil's Ghost, and Divisadero. His latest novel, The Cat's Table, was published by Knopf in October 2011.
Best-selling Author of Freedom and The Corrections
When The Corrections was published in 2001, Jonathan Franzen was probably better known for his nonfiction than for the two novels he had already published. In an essay he wrote for Harper's in 1996, Franzen lamented the declining cultural authority of the American novel and described his personal search for reasons to persist as a fiction writer. "The novelist has more and more to say to readers who have less and less time to read," he wrote. "Where to find the energy to engage with a culture in crisis when the crisis consists in the impossibility of engaging with the culture?"
Five years after publishing the Harper's essay, Franzen became fully engaged with his culture. The Corrections was an enormous international bestseller, with translations in 35 languages, American hardcover sales of nearly 1 million copies and nominations for nearly every major book prize in the country. Franzen was awarded the National Book Award for this novel.
Franzen's first novel, The Twenty-Seventh City (1988), was a reimagination of his hometown, St. Louis. His second novel, Strong Motion (1992), was set in the student slums of Boston.
Franzen is the author of a best-selling collection of essays, How to Be Alone and The Discomfort Zone. His short stories and his essays, including political journalism, have most recently appeared in The New Yorker, The Best American Essays, The New York Times and The Guardian. A new collection of his nonfiction, Farther Away, appeared in 2012.
Franzen's most recent novel is Freedom. In August 2010, he was featured on the cover of Time magazine. Writing in The New York Times Book Review, editor Sam Tanenhaus declared Franzen's Freedom, a "masterpiece of American fiction," and the book debuted at No. 1 on the Times' best-seller list. In September 2010, Freedom was chosen as Oprah's 64th Book Club pick. Freedom won the 2011 John Gardner Prize for fiction and the Heartland Prize. It was also chosen as one of The New York Times' 10 Best Books of 2010 and as a finalist for National Book Critics Circle Award and The Los Angeles Times Book Prize.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Columnist, Author and Political Commentator
Unmatched in political insight, George Will provides witty, trenchant and always-informed commentary on politics, the economy and American society.
A Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and Newsweek essayist, Will is the country's most widely read political columnist. His popular twice-weekly column for The Washington Post syndicate reaches nearly 500 newspapers throughout the United States and Europe, and he appears regularly on ABC's This Week.
Perhaps there's no political acumen more finely honed than Will's. And perhaps no one has more or better insight into the issues and political realities of today.
As one of the most respected and sought after conservative commentators on the national scene, Will provides an informed and expert view on the issues. He is a prolific author with books ranging from The Woven Figure: Conservatism and America's Fabric to Bunts to his latest, One Man's America.
In 1990, Will published Men At Work: The Craft of Baseball, which topped the New York Times' best-seller list for two months and was reissued in paperback on April 13, 2010, as a 20th anniversary special edition with a new introduction.
Will presents penetrating and incisive commentary on the Washington political scene, offering a glimpse into what the future holds for public affairs, public policy and American society.
Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward
Journalists and Co-Authors of All the President's Men
A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist best known for his coverage of Watergate and his book All the President's Men, Carl Bernstein's pursuit of the truth continues to change the landscape of American journalism. For more than four decades, he has been setting the standard for modern investigative reporting and reflecting on a crucial theme that has coursed through American history: the use and abuse of power in politics, media, finance and spirituality.
From Watergate to the Supreme Court, the CIA, the Pentagon, President Bill Clinton, the Federal Reserve, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, four books on the wars of President George W. Bush, and now the Obama administration, Bob Woodward has consistently uncovered the inside story of Washington institutions and the American presidency. Woodward has won every journalism prize imaginable, including Pulitzers for his reports on Watergate and the aftermath of September 11.
Michael Tilson Thomas
Grammy-winning Musician and Conductor
A third-generation artist, Michael Tilson Thomas is a world-renowned musician, music director and conductor. He currently serves as music director of the San Francisco Symphony, founder and artistic director of the New World Symphony and principal guest conductor of the London Symphony Orchestra.
Born in Los Angeles, he is the third generation of his family to follow an artistic career. His grandparents, Boris and Bessie Thomashefsky, were founding members of the Yiddish Theater in America. His father, Ted Thomas, was a producer in the Mercury Theater Company in New York before moving to Los Angeles where he worked in films and television. His mother, Roberta Thomas, was the head of research for Columbia Pictures.
Thomas began his career with the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1969 as assistant conductor and was later appointed the orchestra's principal guest conductor. From the early 1970s, to mid-1980s, Thomas served as music director of the Buffalo Philharmonic and principal guest conductor of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. He also made guest conducting appearances at major orchestras throughout Europe and the United States.
Thomas' television work includes a series with the London Symphony Orchestra for the BBC and numerous productions on PBS' Great Performances. He has recorded more than 120 CDs of works by composers such as Bach, Beethoven and Stravinsky while pioneering new sounds from music written by Charles Ives and Carl Ruggles.
The musician's 15-year tenure as music director of the San Francisco Symphony has garnered him international press, and he has been profiled on the CBS show 60 Minutes and ABC's Nightline. Thomas is a 10-time Grammy Award winner and a 2008 Peabody Award winner. In 2010, President Barack Obama awarded him the National Medal of Arts, the highest award given to artists by the U.S. government.
Pulitzer Prize-winning Biographer
The author of highly admired biographies on Robert Moses and Lyndon Johnson, American journalist Robert Caro is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and recipient of the National Book Critics Circle Award.
In preparation for his first book The Power Broker: Robert Moses and the Fall of New York (1974), Caro spent seven years researching and talking with hundreds of people connected to New York City political powerhouse Robert Moses. The book revealed how Moses was a key player in the development and decline of New York City's physical structure and political system. Acclaimed today as a modern classic, The Power Broker was chosen by the Modern Library as one of the 100 greatest nonfiction books of the 20th century.
After the release of The Power Broker, Caro and his wife moved from New York City to the Texas Hill Country and later to Washington, D.C., to trace the path of America's 36th president and write The Years of Lyndon Johnson. Documented in four volumes, The Path to Power (1990), Means of Ascent (1991), Master of the Senate (2003) and The Passage to Power (2012), Caro's series has been touted as one of the great political biographies of the modern age.
Caro has received two Pulitzer Prizes for Biography and also earned two National Book Critics Circle Awards for Best Nonfiction Book of the Year. Other accolades include the National Book Award and the Francis Parkman Prize. In 2010, he received the National Humanities Medal from President Barack Obama.
Caro is a graduate of Princeton University and later became a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University. He resides in New York City with his wife, Ina, a historian and writer.
Biologist and Neuroscientist
Science writer, biologist and neuroscientist Dr. Robert Sapolsky is considered one of the most insightful experts on stress thanks to his groundbreaking research on primates and their connection to the human condition.
As a young boy growing up in New York City, Sapolsky dreamed of living the life of a naturalist where he could study the similarities between baboons and humans. At age 21, Sapolsky traveled to Africa to live with a group of baboons that would later inspire his early career as a field biologist and his first book, A Primate's Memoir.
For more than 30 years, Sapolsky has developed a unique perspective on the human condition based on his fieldwork with baboons and technical research as a neuroscientist. Like humans, Sapolsky says baboons live in large, complex social groups where stress levels run high and health problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure are common.
A captivating speaker, Sapolsky lectures with a flare of humor and humanity on various topics such as stress, baboons, depression and aggression. In his book Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers, he explains how human stress response has evolved to manage short-term physical emergencies.
Sapolsky is a MacArthur "Genius" Fellow, a professor of biology and neurology at Stanford University, and a research scientist with the Institute of Primate Research at the National Museum of Kenya. He was featured in a National Geographic/PBS hour-long special on stress in 2008. In addition to four books, he also has written articles for Discover and The New Yorker.
Journalist and Best-selling Author
With more than 1 million words of trenchant journalism under his byline and more citations in The Penguin Dictionary of Humorous Quotations than any living writer, P.J. O'Rourke has established himself as America's premier political satirist. He is the best-selling author of 15 books, including Parliament of Whores, Republican Party Reptile, Holidays in Hell, Give War a Chance, Eat the Rich, The CEO of the Sofa, and On the Wealth of Nations (he read the whole darn thing – so you don't have to).
Born in Toledo, Ohio, P.J. O'Rourke attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and graduate school at Johns Hopkins, where he was a Woodrow Wilson Fellow. After receiving a master's degree in English, he worked at small newspapers in Baltimore and New York. In the early 1970s, he joined The National Lampoon where he became editor-in-chief and created (with Doug Kenney) the classic 1964 High School Yearbook Parody. Concluding in the '80s that the real world was funnier than anything National Lampoon's writers could create, he became a foreign correspondent and has covered crises and conflicts in more than 70 countries.
O'Rourke has written for such diverse publications as The Wall Street Journal, Car and Driver, PARADE, House & Garden, Forbes Life, The Atlantic Monthly, and Rolling Stone, where he was the foreign-affairs desk chief for 15 years. He is a contributing editor at The Weekly Standard, the H.L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington, D.C., and a frequent panelist on National Public Radio's game show Wait, Wait … Don't Tell Me!
Pulitzer Prize-winning Playwright
Born in New York City in 1956 and raised in Lake Charles, La., Tony Kushner has received two Tony Awards and an Emmy Award. He wrote the screenplay for director Steven Spielberg's Munich (2005) and Lincoln (2012), for which he received an Academy Award nomination.
Kushner's works tackle some of today's most sensitive social issues. He was award a Pulitzer Prize for drama for his two-part epic Angels in America. Other critically acclaimed works include A Bright Room Called Day, Homebody/Kabul, Hydriotaphia, or the Death of Dr. Browne, and Slavs! Kushner also wrote the book and lyrics, with music by composer Jeanine Tesori, for the musical Caroline, or Change.
Kushner has received three Obie Awards, an Arts Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a PEN/Laura Pels Award, a Spirit of Justice Award from the Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders, a Cultural Achievement Award from the National Foundation for Jewish Culture, and a Chicago Tribune Literary Prize for lifetime achievement among many others. In 2008, Kushner became the first recipient of the Steinberg Distinguished Playwright Award, the largest theater award in the United States. Earlier this year, he was presented with a National Medal of Arts by President Barack Obama.
The subject of a documentary, Wrestling with Angels: Playwright Tony Kushner made by the Oscar-winning filmmaker Freida Lee Mock, Kushner lives in New York City with his husband, Mark Harris. Kushner's latest projects include an upcoming HBO series and a new screenplay for Spielberg.
* Photo, Joan Marcus
Theoretical Physicist and Mathematician
Frank Wilczek is a world-renowned theoretical physicist and mathematician and currently a professor at MIT. Adept at explaining scientific topics such as dark matter, string theory, and more recently the God particle, Wilczek was awarded a Nobel Prize for work he began when he was just 21. His television appearances include "ghostbusting" for Penn & Teller, who called Wilczek "the smartest guy we’ve ever had on the show." His latest book, The Lightness of Being: Mass, Ether, and the Unification of Forces, appeals to a wide audience and was lauded by one reviewer as "a lively, playful, and inventive tour de force."
*Photo, Justin Knight