The Honorable Henry Waxman Addresses Symposium

The Honorable Henry Waxman addressed Wednesday night’s symposia as part of the JHU Leadership Lecture series. 

 Mr. Waxman recently retired from Congress, after having served for 40 years representing the 33rd Congressional District in California.   Mr. Waxman was a prolific leader on the Hill in the areas of the environment, healthcare, energy, and technology.  He served as Chair of the powerful House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, as well as the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. His legislative accomplishments are numerous, but some of the highlights include: the Infant Formula Act, the Ryan White CARE Act, the Drug Price Competitition and Patent Term Restoration Act, the Clean Air Act, the Food Quality Protection Act, the State Children’s Health Insurance Program,  the Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act, and most recently the Patent Protection and Affordable Care Act. 

Mr. Waxman shared that he entered government with the conviction that there are two essential roles for government:  to provide all citizens with the opportunity to succeed and to provide a safety net that recognizes the humanity of all citizens.   Thus, he decided to focus early in his career on domestic issues, and in particular health care and environmental policy.

Mr. Waxman discussed how as a liberal Democrat, he sought out the support and opinions of Republicans, not simply for the sake of compromise, but with the  main goal of sharpening and improving policy.  He noted that he had to battle with a fellow Democrat John Dingell over automobile emission levels in the Clean Air Act amendments and that the bill passed because a Republican president, George H.W. Bush, made it a priority.  Some of his proudest legislative accomplishments, Mr. Waxman recounted, came under President Reagan with the expansion of Medicaid, and his bipartisan collaboration with pro-life Republican Henry Hyde, who became his close ally on prenatal care legislation.  He also worked closely with Republican Senator Orrin Hatch on the Orphan Drug Act.

Acknowledging the increasing partisanship in Congress, the origins of which Mr. Waxman traces back to Newt Gringrich, he concluded that he still holds an optimistic view of Congress, especially in its capacity to educate the public through hearings.  He recalled holding the first ever hearing on what was then a new epidemic, AIDs, in the early 1980s as well as on Big Tobacco in the 1990s.  He also reiterated the positive role of Congress in stepping in to fill in the gap of market failures, such as what we saw most recently in the passage of the Affordable Care Act.



Paid Internship Opportunity NADA

Ivette Rivera, a member of the Alumni Advisory Board, shared an opportunity for a paid internship at NADA.  Please apply online, mention your JHU affiliation and Ivette's name.


Public Management's Nomzana Augustin was on the winning team of the 2015 NASPAA Student Simulation Competition. See Below:

The National Winner of the 2015 NASPAA Student Simulation Competition is Team CRAB that competed at the National Capital Region in College Park, Maryland. The team is comprised of:


•             Nomzana Augustin, Graduate Program in Public Management, Krieger School of Arts and Sciences at Johns Hopkins University

•             Zachary Blackburn, Frank Batten School at the University of Virginia

•             Christophe Combemale, Heinz College at Carnegie Mellon University

•             Mark Rucci, School of Public Policy & Administration at the University of Delaware


These teammates showed exemplary understanding of health care challenges and current policy concerns and showed a mastery of the technical simulation and displayed sophisticated reasoning to craft composite policies that substantially benefit health care for the long-term which have maximum potential to be implemented in a politically charged world.


The team understood the technical model, but instead of trying to obtain the highest score on the model, they aligned their thought process with stakeholder concerns and the current policy environment to affect actual change. They made sophisticated tradeoffs that would allow their policies to be organizationally and politically feasible.


To be considered for the national winner, each of the 5 regional winners showed mastery of the technical simulation, but this team combined their understanding of the model, with their knowledge of systems, organizational dynamics, and political will. This confluence of factors created a scenario that fixed bottlenecks in the system, balanced public and private funding and created solvent hospitals. This team used a technical model to view the universe of the health care challenges and identify a realistic and possible solution to the problem.



JHU Panel Addresses "Do Jews Have A Future in Europe"

Fro L to R: Geoffrey Harris, Justin Geist, Benjamin Ginsberg, and Robert GuttmanThe question of whether Jews have a future in Europe is an, unfortunately, timely one, as anti-semitic attacks are increasingly taking place on European soil, most notably in Paris and most recently in Denmark.  A panel convened at JHU this afternoon to discuss what is happening in Europe and, if indeed, European Jewry should considering leaving Europe.  Benjamin Ginsberg, the Chair of the Center and David Bernstein Professor of Political Science at JHU, opened the discussion by reframing the question, noting that it is perhaps better to ask, "do Jews want to have a future in Europe?" because a lot of cities in Europe have become increasingly uncomfortable for Jews. That is, while the situation for Jews is nowhere near the level of say, the days preceding Kristallnacht, it is becoming abundantly clear that it is harder for Jews to be openly Jewish in Europe without being harassed.  Ginsberg offered three reasons behind the growing anti-semitism in Europe:

1) The rise in the Muslim population, the majority of which, as surveys show, dislike Jews.  The root of most of the anti-Jewish violence in Europe is done by Muslims, who are not as well integrated in European countries, as say, immigrants in the United States, thus they highly identify with causes from their home countries.

2)  The emergence of anti-zionist discourse, principally from the Left in Europe.  At the end of WW II, socialists in Europe supported the creation of the state of Israel, seeing it as the embodiment of the socialist vision.  There was a major shift among the European Left after the 1967 War, when Israel emerged as a regional power and as part of the US security empire.  The Left saw the arrival of Muslim immigrants in Europe as a source of power, mobilizing new voters by capitalizing on the one thing they had in common, anti-zionism. 

3) European welfare states have difficulty confronting violence, whereas radicalized Muslim groups make violence their recruiting tool.  Europeans in charge of police and security forces are unable to respond to serious violence.

Dr. Ginsberg concluded that he thinks Jews probably don't want to have a future in a Europe which requires that they hide their Jewishness to stay safe.  

Justin Geist, a professor at George Mason University, believed that you can't address the problem of Jews in Europe without connecting it to a broader question of do immigrants have a future in Europe?  By isolating attacks against Jews as primarily anti-semitic in nature, he argued, Europeans lose sight of the larger problem that they all must face.  For Geist, Europe may be uncomfortable for Jews, but it is also uncomfortable for all minorities, who are not absorbed and assimiliated into the culture.  Similarly, Geoffrey

A full room of over 45 attendees listened to the panel discussion

 Harris, the Deputy Head of the European Parliament Office with the US Congress believed that all minorities are experiencing difficulties in Europe.  He noted that anti-semitism is hardly new but is part of the Jewish experience in Europe.  The inoculation against anti-semitism of the post war years has now worn off, and Jews do have every reason to feel threatened he argued.  That said, he finds anti-semitism in Europe to be part of a larger problem or question:  "Is multiculutural Europe going to survive?" as he put it.  

The panel discussion was followed by a lively question and answer period in a room filled to capacity -- a very good exchange of views took place, led by moderator Robert Guttman, who teaches at both JHU and George Mason University.  


How does the FCC analyze millions of public comments?

The Government Analytics Breakfast Forum welcomed Charles Aaron, Deputy Chief Information Officer for the FCC.  Mr. Aaron spoke about how the FCC has collected millions of public comments related to net neutrality.  In the fall and summer of 2014, the FCC received 3.23 million comments from the web, email, post mail and faxes.  The FCC then partnered with analytics experts to translate this tremendous amount of unstructured textual data into quantitative information that could be analyzed, summarized and acted upon.

Mr. Aaron’s talk highlighted some of the many challenges associated with analyzing textual information.  For example, the FCC received a combination of unique comments and template comments.  Advocacy organizations frequently encourage citizens to send template comments to agencies, and the FCC has received hundreds of thousands of these “bulk comments” on net neutrality.  Should a template comment be treated the same way as a unique comment when calculating sentiment counts and other summary statistics?  Social media has increased the volume of bulk comments received by the FCC and other agencies, but it’s not always clear whether these comments are indicative of the true opinions of the senders (or the American citizenry as a whole).

Beyond addressing these analytical challenges, the FCC is also striving to improve the storage and sharing of public comments.  The FCC would like to make the public comments available in a form such that they can be analyzed by anyone versed in natural language processing.    

You can view the full presentation here.

Click here to view previous presentations from the GAB Forum.