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

Past Guest Leaders and Topics

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