About the Series
For nearly 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.”
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.
Distinguished Carlson Lecturers
William F. Buckley, Jr.
Honorable Warren Burger/Honorable Harold Stassen
George H.W. Bush
The Right Honourable Jean Chrétien
Hillary Rodham Clinton
William Jefferson Clinton
His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama
Ossie Davis/Ruby Dee
William H. Gray III
Coretta Scott King
Ibram X. Kendi
Walter F. Mondale
Thomas P. “Tip” O’Neill, Jr.
General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.)
Margot Lee Shetterly
Her Majesty Queen Silvia of Sweden
Ellen Johnson Sirleaf
Laurence Douglas Wilder