After one of the most contentious U.S. presidential elections in recent memory, increasingly hostile political discourse has made the gap between conservatives and liberals seem more insurmountable than ever. Yet there is a growing sense among Americans of all political stripes that the institutions designed to safeguard democracy and serve the public no longer do so. The next generation of policymakers and advocates must seize this moment to rejuvenate America’s civic culture and restore faith in political institutions. 

Carnegie’s James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Conference is a premier annual event held in Washington, DC, for young public policy professionals. This year’s conference will explore the erosion of civic norms and declining faith in political institutions in the United States. Light refreshments will be provided, and the event will conclude with a reception. 

This year’s conference will bring together leading thinkers and a select group of young domestic and foreign policy professionals from across the political spectrum to discuss how to address Americans’ waning commitment to bipartisan discourse and low confidence in government. The conference will include panels and speeches featuring notable experts as well as innovative breakout sessions and online polls that give participants the chance to directly engage experts and each other. Participating experts will draw upon their experiences dealing with democratic challenges both in the United States and abroad to shed light on how to rejuvenate American political discourse and institutions.

We are currently accepting applications from young professionals under the age of thirty who have distinguished themselves as promising future leaders. 
Applications are due Friday, June 2, at 5:00 p.m. EST. Please click here to apply. 

The James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program extends special thanks to Young Professionals in Foreign Policy (YPFP). 




1:00 to 1:30 p.m.

1:30 to 1:45 p.m. 
Opening Remarks

William J. Burns, President, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

1:45 to 2:20 p.m.
Keynote Address

2:30 to 3:45 p.m.
The Populist Moment: Understanding Citizens’ Frustration with American Democracy (Panel)

A bipartisan and interdisciplinary discussion that aims to analyze the factors driving Americans’ waning commitment to civic norms and low confidence in democratic institutions.

Panelists include: 

Kyle Kondik, Managing Editor, Sabato's Crystal Ball (Moderator)
Stuart Rothenberg, Senior Editor, Inside Elections
Lilliana Mason, Assistant Professor, University of Maryland 


3:55 to 4:40 p.m.  
From Diagnosis to Treatment: Brainstorming Solutions to Polarization and Disunity (Breakout Session)

Conference participants will be assigned to breakout groups of 8 to 10 individuals where they will both assess the merits of the arguments presented in the preceding panel and use that panel as a launchpad for policy recommendations. 

4:50 to 6:05 p.m.
American Democracy in Comparative Perspective: Pathways to Democratic Renewal (Panel)

A discussion that brings together democracy experts and civic engagement practitioners that have worked in the United States and in other countries and regions to identify ways the U.S. government and civil society can rejuvenate U.S. democracy.

Panelists include: 

Mary Beth Goodman, former Senior Director for Development and Democracy, National Security Council (Moderator)
Michael Shifter, President, Inter-American Dialogue
Sarah Yerkes, Fellow, Middle East Program, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace 


6:15 to 6:25 p.m.
Closing Remarks

Thomas Carothers, Senior Vice President for Studies, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

6:30 to 7:30 p.m.




William J. Burns

William J. Burns is president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He previously served as U.S. deputy secretary of state.

Thomas Carothers

Thomas Carothers is senior vice president for studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. He is a leading authority on international support for democracy, human rights, governance, the rule of law, and civil society.




The James C. Gaither Junior Fellows Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace offers one-year research fellowships to uniquely qualified university graduates to work in tandem with Carnegie’s scholars on projects including nuclear policy and cybersecurity, energy and climate change, democracy and rights, geoeconomics and strategy, and regional area studies related to the Middle East, East Asia, South Asia, and Russia. The 2017 Junior Fellows Conference is organized primarily by the current class of Junior Fellows.