Freedom and Learning Forum

The Freedom and Learning Forum at George Mason University allows for the campus community to engage in an interactive dialogue series with the University President, Dr. Ángel Cabrera and extraordinary thought leaders from around the world.  In support of our University’s motto, “Freedom and Learning”, the forum connects our academic mission with the work of our namesake, American Patriot, Founding Father and author of the Bill of Rights, George Mason. The program emphasizes that freedom and learning are mutually interdependent and that one cannot happen without the other. Participants will have an opportunity to hear personal leadership stories and life experiences from our guest leaders as Dr. Cabrera hosts this engaging and enlightening series.

The LEAD Office and the Office of the President have been cosponsoring the Freedom and Learning Forums since 2014

Join us on March 25th for Freedom and Learning Forum, featuring Dr. Gail Christopher, visionary and architect of the Kellogg Foundation-led Truth Racial Health and Transformation effort for America

Join us for a conversation between President Angel Cabrera and Dr. Gail Christopher on March 25, 2019 from 4:00pm-5:30pm.  Dr. Christopher is widely recognized for designing holistic strategies for social change. Dr. Christopher is the visionary for and architect of the Kellogg Foundation-led Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort for America. TRHT is an adaptation of the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model. TRHT evolved from the decade long America Healing, racial equity and racial healing initiative, designed and led by Dr. Christopher.  She is the former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the Kellogg Foundation and past Executive Director of The Institute for Government Innovation at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.









Dr. Gail Christopher 

Dr. Gail C. Christopher is an award winning social change agent and former Senior Advisor and Vice President of the W. K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF), one of the world’s largest philanthropies.

She is the visionary for and architect of the WKKF led Truth Racial Healing and Transformation (TRHT) effort for America. TRHT is an adaptation of the globally recognized Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) model. TRHT evolved from the decade long WKKF America Healing, racial equity and racial healing initiative, designed and led by Dr. Christopher. Over the last ten years she has had responsibility for several other areas of foundation programming. These include, Food, Health and Well-Being, Leadership, Public Policy, Community Engagement and place-based funding in New Orleans and New Mexico.

In August of 2017, Dr. Christopher left her leadership position with WKKF to launch the Maryland based Ntianu Center for Healing and Nature; and to devote more time to writing and speaking on issues of health, racial healing and human capacity for caring. She is currently Chair of the Board of the Trust for America’s Health and a Fellow of The National Academy of Public Administration.

Previous Freedom and Learning Forum Topics and Guest Leaders

Jose Antonio Vargas

Jose Antonio Vargas is a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, Emmy-nominated filmmaker, and a leading voice for the human rights of immigrants.  He is the founder and chief executive officer of Define American, the nation’s leading nonprofit media organization that fights injustice and anti-immigrant hate through the power of storytelling.  He is the author of the forthcoming memoir, Dear America: Notes of an Undocumented Citizen, to be published by HarperCollins in fall 2018.

In 2011, the New York Times Magazine published groundbreaking essay he wrote in which he revealed and chronicled his life in America as an undocumented immigrant.  A year later, he appeared on the cover of TIME magazine worldwide with fellow undocumented immigrants in a follow-up cover story.  He then produced and directed Documented, a documentary feature film on his undocumented experience.  Broadcasted on CNN and streamed on Netflix, the film received a 2015 NAACP Image Award nomination for Outstanding Documentary.  In 2015, MTV aired White People, an Emmy-nominated television special he produced and directed on what it means to be young and white in a demographically changing America.

Among accolades he has received are: The Salem Award from the Salem Award Foundation, which draws upon the lessons of the Salem Witch Trials of 1692; The Freedom to Write Award from PEN Center USA; and honorary degrees from Colby College and the John Jay College of Criminal Justice.  Passionate about the role of the arts in society and promoting equity in education, Vargas is a member of the Tony Awards Nominating Committee, and serves on the advisory board of TheDream.Us, a scholarship fund for undocumented immigrant students.

A product of the San Francisco Bay Area, he is a proud graduate of San Francisco State University (’04), where he was named Alumnus of the Year in 2012, and Mountain View High School (’00).



H.E. The Ambassador of Spain, Ramón Gil-Casares

H.E. The Ambassador of Spain, Ramón Gil-Casares was born in Madrid on October 26th, 1953. He entered the Foreign Service in May 1982. Between 1982 and 1996 he worked in the Spanish Embassies of Equatorial Guinea and Uruguay, and in Spanish Consulates in Manila and New York, as well as in the Spanish Agency of International Cooperation in Madrid. In May 1996, following José María Aznar’s election, he was appointed Director of the Department for International Affairs and Defense of the President’s Office. He held this position until July 2002, when he became the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs until 2004.

From September 2004 to March 2005 he worked at the German Marshall Fund in Washington DC. From September 2005 until October 2008 he was the Ambassador of Spain to South Africa, with multiple accreditation in the Kingdom of Lesotho and the Republics of Mauritius and Madagascar. Between October 2008 and April 2011, he worked as Ambassador at Large at the Directorate General of Foreign Policy for Africa at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Madrid. From May 2011 to April 2012 he was the Ambassador of Spain to Sudan. As of April 13th, 2012 he has been appointed Ambassador of Spain to the United States of America. He has a degree in Philosophy and in Law and a Diploma in International Studies from the Diplomatic School of Madrid. He is a Second Lieutenant of the Infantry.


José Andrés, minibar by josé andrés

Named as one of Time’s “100” Most Influential People and awarded “Outstanding Chef” by the James Beard Foundation, José Andrés is an internationally-recognized culinary innovator, author, educator, television personality, humanitarian and chef/owner of ThinkFoodGroup as well as minibar by josé andrés. A pioneer of Spanish tapas in the United States, he is also known for his groundbreaking avant-garde cuisine and his award-winning group of 21 restaurants, located throughout the country in Washington, DC, Miami, Puerto Rico, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. He is a committed advocate of food and hunger issues and is known for championing the role of chefs in the national debate on food policy. In 2012, Andrés formed World Central Kitchen, a non-profit that provides smart solutions to hunger and poverty by using the power of food to empower communities and strengthen economies. Andrés also serves as Culinary Ambassador for the Global Alliance for Clean Cookstoves. Andrés’ work has earned him awards and distinctions such as Outstanding American by Choice, awarded by President Barack Obama and the Refugees International McCall-Pierpaoli Humanitarian Award. In 2015, he was named EY Master Entrepreneur of the Year in Greater Washington for his leadership and impact on the global business community, and also became a Presidential Ambassador for Citizenship and Naturalization to help increase awareness regarding the contributions of new Americans.


Yoani Sánchez — Executive Director, 14ymedio

Yoani Sánchez is an acclaimed Cuban blogger, journalist and founder of 14ymedio, Cuba’s first independent daily digital news outlet. She is currently the Yahoo! Fellow at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.

A University of Havana graduate in Philology, she emigrated to Switzerland in 2002 to build a new life for herself and her family. Two years later, she returned to Havana, promising herself to live there as a free person. In 2007, she began Generation Y, her personal blog about daily life in Cuba. She has been arrested and detained by the Cuban government for starting her activities.

In 2009 U.S. President Barack Obama wrote that her blog “provides the world a unique window into the realities of daily life in Cuba” and applauded her efforts to “empower fellow Cubans to express themselves through the use of technology.” TIME magazine listed her as one of the World’s 100 Most Influential People, stating that “under the nose of a regime that has never tolerated dissent, Sánchez has practiced what paper-bound journalists in her country cannot: freedom of speech.” Foreign Policy magazine has named her one of the Top 100 Global Thinkers.

In May of 2014, Sánchez combined her passion for journalism and digital media to launch14ymedio, Cuba first independent daily digital news outlet. It serves as a fresh voice in the island, with exclusive national news, highlighting not only political and economic developments but also social and cultural activities.

She has received much international recognition for her work, including the Ortega y Gasset Prize, Spain’s highest award for digital journalism; the Maria Moors Cabot Prize from Columbia University; the World Press Freedom Hero Award from the International Press Institute; and the Prince Claus Award from the Netherlands.


Rosemary Trible, President and Founder of Fear 2 Freedom

Rosemary Trible is the President and Founder of Fear 2 Freedom. Rosemary’s compassion to help others move from victim to victory led her to write the book Fear to Freedom in which she shares her own healing journey after being raped at gunpoint in 1975. Rosemary has dedicated her life to walking alongside those wounded by abuse and helping others find joy. Her husband, former U.S. Senator, Paul Trible Jr. currently serves as the President of Christopher Newport University. Rosemary, originally from Little Rock, Arkansas, has been married to Paul since 1971. They have two children, Mary Katherine, who is married to Dr. Barrett W. R. Peters, a pediatric dentist; and Paul III, who is the co-founder and CEO of Ledbury, a men’s shirt-making company. One of her greatest joys is being a grandmother of two.


Rangina Hamidi, Founder of Kandahar Treasure

Demonstrating Strength in the Face of Early Adversity: Kandahar Treasure’s founder, Rangina Hamidi, escaped her native Afghanistan in 1981, at the age of three, during the Soviet occupation. She moved first to Pakistan and then, in 1988, to the United States. Settling with her family in Virginia, Rangina earned a Bachelors degree in Religious Studies and Gender Studies from the University of Virginia and worked for the Institute for International Public Policy, an affiliate of the United Negro College Fund. Committed to Her Homeland: Rangina returned to Kandahar, in 2003. With a personal commitment to help lead change in Afghanistan she assumed the leadership of the Women’s Income Generation (WIG) Project for Afghans for Civil Society (ACS), a development organization dedicated to the social development of Southern Afghanistan.  Transforming the income generation project of ACS into a viable business has brought sustainability to the women’s work and now serves as a successful model of sustainable work in a developing nation.  Rangina’s work and experience has enabled her to serve as a voice for Afghan women in international platforms.


Note: This program meets one of the requirements for the Patriot Experience Program.  For more information about the Patriot Experience program, visit