Carolyn Lukensmeyer to direct National Institute for Civil Discourse, transition from AmericaSpeaks

It’s official… Carolyn Lukensmeyer — who we all know as founder and president of AmericaSpeaks — is moving on to a new role. She’ll be serving as Executive Director of the University of Arizona-based National Institute for Civil Discourse. Carolyn gave me a call yesterday with a heads-up about today’s big announcement, and said when I asked her why she’s making the move:

“The National Institute for Civil Discourse is an extraordinary opportunity to expand the audiences to which I can bring the importance of citizens voices into public decision making and active engagement in public life. By creating the Institute to honor Representative Gabrielle Giffords, the University of Arizona has recognized that now is a time when we must learn the root causes of incivility and take action to improve the health of our civic discourse.”

This is big news for our field, as AmericaSpeaks (an NCDD organizational member and, in fact, one of our founding members) is one of the most prominent and successful players in our field, having brought more than 165,000 people together over the years to engage in public issues. They are known for having the capacity, tenacity and know-how to run national dialogues, and to convene very large numbers of people (up to thousands) in face-to-face discussions simultaneously.

When I spoke to Carolyn yesterday, she assured me that AmericaSpeaks would continue its great work once she left. Long-time AmericaSpeaks COO Steve Brigham, who has tended to play more of a behind-the-scenes role, will be taking on much more of a public leadership role in the organization. I also spoke to AmericaSpeaks Program Director Daniel Clark yesterday, who let me know that both he and Steve planned to have more visible presences in NCDD and the broader community. Daniel is already very active in NCDD and is currently serving on our planning team for the upcoming national conference in Seattle.

Here’s the official press release from the NICD website (also be sure to read the new blog post on the AmericaSpeaks site about this)…

National Institute for Civil Discourse Announces Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer as its first Executive Director

June 14, 2012

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TUCSON, AZ – The National Institute for Civil Discourse at The University of Arizona today announced the selection of Dr. Carolyn Lukensmeyer as its new Executive Director:

“Carolyn J. Lukensmeyer is an exceptional selection to lead the National Institute for Civil Discourse,” said University of Arizona President Eugene G. Sander. “For decades, she has been a leading national voice on how to address our nation’s challenges in a civil, non-partisan fashion.”

“Her successful management of nationally-recognized public, private and non-profit organizations is simply unparalleled, ” said Brint Milward, Director of The University of Arizona’s School of Government and Public Policy, “The Institute has in Dr. Lukensmeyer a dynamic leader who has demonstrated the managerial acumen necessary to implement pragmatic policy solutions and a tireless advocate on behalf of the principles of civil political discourse.”

“I am truly honored to serve as the Institute’s very first Executive Director,” said Dr. Lukensmeyer, “The task of promoting greater civil discourse is one we all share – Republicans and Democrats, elected officials and those seeking public office, members of the media and citizens alike – and through our work at the National Institute for Civil Discourse we hope to explore not just why civility is important to our democracy, but to also empower individuals and groups who seek solutions to the hyper-partisanship, incivility and mistrust that have often been the hallmarks our modern political discourse.”

Dr. Lukensmeyer previously served as Founder and President of AmericaSpeaks, an award-winning nonprofit organization based in Washington D.C. that promotes nonpartisan initiatives to engage citizens and leaders through the development of innovative public policy tools and strategies. During her tenure, AmericaSpeaks has engaged more than 165,000 people and has hosted events across all 50 states and throughout the world. Dr. Lukensmeyer formerly served as Consultant to the White House Chief of Staff from 1993-94 and on the National Performance Review where she steered internal management and oversaw government-wide reforms. She was the Chief of Staff to Ohio Governor Richard F. Celeste from 1986-91, becoming the first woman to serve in this capacity. She earned her PhD in Organizational Behavior from Case Western Reserve University and has completed postgraduate training at the Gestalt Institute of Cleveland.

Today’s announcement is the culmination of a year-long, nationwide search process. Dr. Lukensmeyer will be available for interview regarding her goals for the Institute and its upcoming work in promoting the principles of civil public discourse. For more information, please contact Ann-Eve Cunningham at (520) 239-6734.

The National Institute for Civil Discourse at The University of Arizona is a nonpartisan center for the research and advocacy of civility in public discourse. Chaired by former President George H. W. Bush and former President Bill Clinton, the Institute engages in educational initiatives to advance understanding of civil discourse among elected officials and candidates running for public office and works to promote awareness of the importance of civil discourse to democracy and effective government. For more information, please visit

Have well-wishes or ideas to share with Carolyn or AmericaSpeaks as they make this transition? Feel free to add them via the comments below.

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