Institute of Politics

Elected Officials Retreat

The 22nd annual University of Pittsburgh Institute of Politics Elected Officials Retreat is scheduled for September 20 – 21, 2018. This year’s retreat title is “Democracy in America: Responding to Challenges and Change in Government, Society, and Work.”

Please note that in a departure from recent years, the retreat will be held at the University Club on the University of Pittsburgh campus in Oakland. Lodging will be available at the nearby Wyndham Hotel for those who need it, and parking will be available in the garage under the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial, which is just across the street from the University Club.

Pitt’s Institute of Politics has been making distinctive contributions to the work of elected officials and other civic leaders in our home region for almost 30 years, principally by providing opportunities for the consideration of critically important policy issues in a nonpartisan forum. Our annual Elected Officials Retreat, cosponsored by the Office of the Chancellor, provides particularly rich opportunities for both substantive discussion and personal interaction in an off-the-record setting. The goal of the retreat is to encourage dialogue on critical regional issues and open the lines of communication among elected officials from different levels of government and other community leaders.

The framework for our 2018 retreat will be the landmark work Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville. Written over 180 years ago, Democracy in America has long been considered one of the greatest books ever written about America, and it has surprising relevance and resonance today. Adam Cohen from the New York Times recently noted that the work is “both an appreciation for American democracy and a cautionary tale about its fragility.” This retreat will explore many of the principles that De Tocqueville – and many others, before and since – have believed are essential to the American concept of democracy, including work, the rule of law, and protection from the tyranny of the majority.

To open our program, we will revisit the topic of work, which always has been central to the successful pursuit of the American dream. Sree Ramaswamy, partner in the McKinsey Global Institute, will discuss the thought-provoking report that he co-authored, Can Manufacturing Make It In America?, as well as his even-more-recent paper, “Creating an Effective Workforce for the New Economy.” Our second speaker will be Carnegie Mellon’s former Provost Mark Kamlet, who will share his insightful perspectives on “automation, the future of work, and the new American dream.”

We will close the Thursday afternoon session with a presentation by Lilliana Mason from the University of Maryland. Her book, Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became our Identity, was released earlier this year and provides a psychological framework for considering the polarization that many consider to be a critical problem in current American life but that most of us do not fully understand. After dinner, Pittsburgh-based author, journalist and national television commentator Salena Zito will continue this conversation through the lens of her recent book, The Great Revolt: Inside the Populist Coalition Reshaping American Politics, which has attracted a great deal of national attention for its distinctive insights, gathered from extensive in-the-field interactions with American voters.

For our Friday morning kick-off, we will be privileged to host both Michael Rich, President and CEO of the RAND Corporation, and Jennifer Kavanagh, Associate Director of RAND’s Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources Program. They are the coauthors of Truth Decay: An Initial Exploration of the Diminishing Role of Facts and Analysis in American Public Life. For those who have long been committed to decision-making grounded in evidence – a central tenet of the Institute of Politics – any such shift must be viewed as troubling.

Then, from his perspective as a centrist, former Congressman Jason Altmire will offer thoughts on the critical topic addressed in his book, Dead Center: How Political Polarization Divided America and What We Can Do About It. Finally, we will welcome Ryan Clancy, the Chief Strategy Officer for “No Labels,” the nonprofit group whose work led to the creation of the Congressional Problem Solvers Caucus and that recently launched a “Break the Gridlock” initiative that is challenging, through bipartisan legislation, the rules that enable Congressional leaders to unilaterally block the consideration of bills that likely would attract the support of a bipartisan majority.

The agenda has been structured to provide ample opportunities for questions, comments, and discussion. And, as has been our tradition, the event will conclude with a no-agenda lunch, providing participants with the opportunity to continue discussing the issues of greatest interest to them.

We also are pleased to announce that the winners of the 2018 Moe Coleman Awards are Laura Ellsworth from the Jones Day law firm, Saleem Ghubril, from the Pittsburgh Promise, and Aradhna Oliphant from Leadership Pittsburgh. Each of these honorees has led a life committed to community service and has played a major role in improving the quality of life in this region. We look forward to highlighting their inspiring examples at various points throughout the program.

To register online please click here or call the Institute directly at 412-624-1837. While there is no cost for attendees, advance registration is required and only invitees are eligible to attend. Any logistical questions can be directed to Briana Mihok at 412-624-7792 or

Thank you for your continued interest in and support of the Institute of Politics and the University of Pittsburgh. We are pleased to have this opportunity to bring regional leaders like you together to discuss some of the most critical issues facing our communities and our country. By coming together in this way, we maximize our shared opportunities to build an even better future.

For more information on this year's retreat, please visit the following pages: