Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series

About the Series

For more than four decades, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, with support from Carlson and the Carlson Family Foundation, has presented the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series, bringing to Minnesota world-renowned speakers to participate in a forum dedicated to the presentation and discussion of the most important policy issues of the day. The series began in 1980 with a gift from Curtis L. Carlson to honor his late friend, Hubert H. Humphrey, and to “contribute to the intellectual life of the greater Twin Cities community by sponsoring lively forums of broad interest.”

2023 Lecture

The Humphrey School welcomed former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as its 2023 Distinguished Carlson Lecturer on October 4.  Cheney, a Republican who represented Wyoming in Congress from 2017 to 2023, served as the vice chair of the Select Committee investigating the January 6, 2021, insurrection. "I believe that defending democracy is the cause of our time," she said,  emphasizing the importance of civil discourse and upholding the Constitution. Read a recap and view photos from the event. 

2022 Lecture

Read a recap and view photos from the December 6, 2022, Distinguished Carlson Lecture featuring Nikole Hannah-Jones, in conversation with Kyndell Harkness of the Star Tribune. 


The Humphrey School’s namesake, Hubert H. Humphrey, believed in an innovative, creative, and humane approach to public service. As Minneapolis mayor, U.S. senator, and vice president, Humphrey dedicated his life to strengthening the American democratic process through broad participation of informed citizens and had a profound impact on many people whose lives he touched, including Curtis Carlson, founder, CEO, and chairman of Carlson and the Carlson Family Foundation.

Carlson is known to have loved attending public lectures and credits them for influencing his aspirations and philosophy. His friendship with Humphrey prompted Carlson to seek out a forum in which Humphrey’s ideals would be kept at the forefront. Accordingly, as a tribute to his late friend, Carlson established the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series to honor Humphrey and "contribute to the intellectual life of the greater Twin Cities community by sponsoring lively forums of broad interest."

With this gift, Carlson provided his and future generations of Minnesotans the same opportunity he had in his youth: The chance to see and listen directly to some of the greatest voices of our time, here in the Twin Cities. In the tradition of the lecture series Carlson attended earlier in his life, the Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series features renowned public figures of international note, ranging from authors to heads of state.

The first Distinguished Carlson Lecture featured John Gardner, founder of Common Cause, former U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare, and former president of the Carnegie Corporation, on October 29, 1980. To date, the Carlson Lecture has presented more than 50 speakers.

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Distinguished Carlson Lecturers

Peter Arnett
Hanan Ashrawi
Les Aspin
Bill Bradley
Tom Brokaw
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Honorable Warren Burger/Honorable Harold Stassen
George H.W. Bush
James Callaghan
Robert Caro
Jimmy Carter
Rosalyn Carter 
Liz Cheney
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Hillary Rodham Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Ossie Davis/Ruby Dee
Robert Dole
Abba Eban
Geraldine Ferraro
John Gardner
Barry Goldwater
William H. Gray III
Philip Habib
Alexander Haig
Nikole Hannah-Jones
Anita Hill
Jesse Jackson
Coretta Scott King 
Ibram X. Kendi
Lane Kirkland
Jeane Kirkpatrick
Nicholas Kristof
Jon Meacham
Rigoberta Menchu
Walter F. Mondale
Toni Morrison
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
Condoleezza Rice 
Jehan Sadat
Helmut Schmidt
Patricia Schroeder
Margot Lee Shetterly
Eduard Shevardnadze
Beverly Sills
Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Richard Snelling
Will Steger
Gloria Steinem
Terry Waite
Elie Wiesel
Laurence Douglas Wilder
George Will
Harry Wu
Andrew Young
Malala Yousafzai
Fareed Zakaria