Distinguished Carlson Lecture with Liz Cheney: A Call to Action

Cheney received a warm welcome as she discussed the importance of integrity in politics
October 11, 2023
Liz Cheney standing behind a podium speaking to the audience at Northrop
Liz Cheney delivers the Distinguished Carlson Lecture on October 4, 2023, at Northrop. Photo: Bruce Silcox

"I believe that defending our democracy is the cause of our time," said former U.S. Rep. Liz Cheney as she delivered the Distinguished Carlson Lecture on October 4. 

She did not mince words as she spoke to a capacity crowd at Northrop about the importance of upholding the Constitution and demanding integrity and accountability from our elected officials. 

The Distinguished Carlson Lecture Series is presented by the Humphrey School of Public Affairs with support from Carlson and the Carlson Family Foundation. 

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

Because of that role, and her vocal criticism of former President Donald Trump, Cheney lost her bid for re-election in 2022 when she was defeated by a Republican primary challenger.  

Humphrey School Dean Nisha Botchwey said Cheney exemplifies the mission of the Distinguished Carlson Lecture series: to provide a platform for diverse perspectives and meaningful dialogue that advance our understanding of complex challenges.

Liz Cheney, right, with moderator Tane Danger
Cheney and Tane Danger

“Displaying courage, discipline, and integrity in the wake of a national crisis, Congresswoman Cheney’s actions during her last term in Congress laid bare her commitment to country over politics,” said Botchwey. “She brings a wealth of experience, insight, and passion for the principles that underpin our democracy.” 

Cheney’s remarks and subsequent conversation with moderator Tane Danger, host of the Theater of Public Policy, were tinged with humor even as she delivered a stark warning about the future of American democracy. 

Here are some key points from her remarks:

Trump and the GOP: Cheney had harsh words for former President Trump and the Republican Party, which in large part continues to support him. Democracy is at risk in America because they continue to attack the integrity of our elections and the Constitution, she said. “Donald Trump tried to steal the election, and if we don’t hold him accountable, there is no going back.” 

The Constitution: She stressed the importance of upholding, defending, and teaching about the Constitution.  “We must have a renewed commitment to teaching American history—not just the good parts,” she said. “The Constitution and other institutions that underpin our freedoms don’t protect themselves. They only held because of the people who did the right thing, despite the pressure from Donald Trump.”

Trust in office holders: Voters are not demanding enough of their elected officials. Cheney described some current office holders, particularly at the federal level, as “low caliber,” and said they aren’t capable of addressing the serious threats the country faces domestically and globally. She encouraged voters to support candidates who have substantive proposals on the issues, and have integrity. “When you vote, choose people you can trust, regardless of their party,” she said.  

Get more involved: More people should run for office at all levels of government, especially women, Cheney said. She stressed that partisan politics as usual will not be enough in these times. “We need to look at politics differently … we need to work together to save our republic.”

Support for Ukraine: While some Republicans in Congress say the U.S. should cut back its funding for Ukraine in its war with Russia, Cheney said our country has “a responsibility to support those fighting for freedom around the world, including the Ukrainian people.” If the U.S. walks away from its allies, it will cede its influence in the world to Russia, China, and other authoritarian countries. “We cannot be neutral,” she said. 

See more photos of the event

About the Distinguished Carlson Lecture 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.” 

Previous lecturers include Malala Yousafzai, Presidents Jimmy Carter, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton, as well as Nikole Hannah-Jones, Gloria Steinem, Jon Meacham, and His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. See the complete list here.