Karen Hughes: Communications strategist, specializing in strategic messaging, crisis communications and executive communications.
Karen has more than 40 years of public policy, communications and political experience, from helping lead winning presidential campaigns to serving at the highest levels of government. Karen served as Counselor to the President for President George W. Bush from 2001 to 2002. In this role she acted as strategic advisor to the president on policy and communications and led the White House Offices of Communications, Media Affairs, Speechwriting and Press Secretary. Karen also served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs where she led the U.S. government’s efforts to communicate America’s values abroad.
She serves on the Board of Directors for Parsley Energy, the National Football Foundation and Manos de Cristo, a non-profit that provides dental, educational and emergency basic needs services to low income residents in Austin. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, an organization created to foster ties between the women of America and Afghanistan. Karen also serves on the Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council at the Bush Institute in Dallas.
She is the best-selling author of Ten Minutes from Normal, a book about working for President Bush and her decision to leave the White House to return with her family to Texas in 2002. Karen was selected to serve as a Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for the Spring 2013 semester where she led a study group on communications.
Mark McKinnon: Political advisor, reform advocate, media columnist, and television producer. He was the chief media advisor to five successful presidential primary and general election campaigns and is cofounder of No Labels, an organization dedicated to bipartisanship, civil dialogue, and political problem solving.
McKinnon has worked for many causes, companies, and candidates, including former President George W. Bush, Senator John McCain, late former Governor Ann Richards, and Bono. He serves on the boards of numerous organizations dedicated to reforming the influence of money in politics. In 2014, McKinnon launched Mayday PAC to force ethics reform in the United States Congress, along with Harvard Law Professor Larry Lessig and tech moguls Steve Wozniak, Peter Thiel, and Reid Hoffman. McKinnon and Julian Castro, HUD Secretary, served as co-chairs of Southerners for the Freedom to Marry before the historic Supreme Court ruling affirmed the right of all Americans to wed.
For 20 years, McKinnon worked at Public Strategies, Inc., where he was an owner and served as vice chair. In 2010, Public Strategies merged with Hill+Knowlton Strategies, where McKinnon served as global vice chair. He remains an advisor to the firm. An award-winning media producer and communications strategist, McKinnon has been awarded more than 30 Pollie and Telly Awards, honoring the nation's best political and public affairs advertising.
President Bush appointed McKinnon to serve as a governor of the Broadcasting Board of Governors. He serves on the board of the Austin Film Society and he lectures frequently at universities, including the JFK School of Government at Harvard University and the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin.
McKinnon has been a regular columnist for THE DAILY BEAST and THE DAILY TELEGRAPH (U.K.) and a consultant to the television series THE NEWSROOM and HOUSE OF CARDS.
Joe Lockhart: Founding partner with The Glover Park Group who specializes in media relations and political strategy. He served as chief spokesman for President Clinton and the Clinton administration from 1998-2000, where he conducted daily press conferences for White House journalists and briefed the president and senior members of his administration on all press matters. He also coordinated the creation and dissemination of message for all departments within the administration.
Lockhart has extensive experience working with clients in an agency setting. From 1991-1995, he was executive vice president at Bozell Sawyer Miller. In that capacity he advised a range of high-profile corporate and institutional clients, including Microsoft, Coca-Cola and the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities.
Lockhart is also a veteran of political campaigns. Before joining the White House in 1997, he was national press secretary for the Clinton-Gore '96 reelection campaign. He was the deputy press secretary for the Dukakis-Bentsen '88 presidential campaign, traveling with the nominee. In 1984, he was assistant press secretary for the Mondale-Ferraro campaign and during the 1980 Carter-Mondale campaign he was a regional press coordinator.
An award-winning journalist, Lockhart has held key positions at SKY Television News of London, Cable News Network (CNN) and ABC Network News. At SKY Television News, Lockhart served as foreign producer for Europe's first 24-hour television direct broadcast news service and contributing reporter/producer to the International Business Report. As deputy assignment manager for CNN, he tracked Washington-oriented news stories involving the White House, Congress and federal agencies. Lockhart was also an assignment editor for ABC Network News.