Photos: The Many Faces of Democracy

University Communications’ photographer Sanjay Suchak had approximately two minutes – or less – to photograph participants and capture their personalities. (Photo by Shannon Reres, University Communications)


On Oct. 6, 1817, former Presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison and then-current President James Monroe gathered to lay the cornerstone for Pavilion VII, the first structure at the University of Virginia. In the two centuries since, UVA has welcomed elected representatives, political scholars, White House officials and presidents. Today, the tradition continues.

Last week, UVA’s Miller Center gathered more than 90 of the nation’s most influential political minds for the inaugural Presidential Ideas Festival. In this three-day, bipartisan gathering, participants addressed some of the most pressing issues facing our nation’s highest office.

UVA Today took advantage of this unique gathering and asked participants to pose for portraits. Given the size of the event, we had approximately two minutes to photograph each subject and try to capture their individual personalities. The result is a collection of portraits – titled “Where Do I Stand?” – that reflects the diversity of opinion and thought vital to American democracy.

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“I don’t think America should be a country where fear is the governing factor. Hope is the governing factor.” – Madeleine Albright, former secretary of state

“The ‘to-do’ list for the president has gotten bigger, longer and more complex, and the tools have shrunk.” – John Dickerson, “60 Minutes” correspondent, contributing editor to the Atlantic and UVA alumnus

Dickerson emceed the event and discussed an article he wrote for the Atlantic, “The Presidency: The Hardest Job in the World.”

“Our politics are broken; we have issues that have been around for 20 years. … The big questions [for any president] turn on their vision for America, the problems they see for the country and their ideas for dealing with those.” – Stephen Hadley, foreign policy adviser to President George W. Bush

“That fundamental human yearning to be ourselves, be able to express ourselves and live in some fundamental freedom I believe will win out over time.” – Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and national security adviser to President Barack Obama

“It’s clear that we cannot take the existence of democracy for granted, which is why we are gathered here today. We all have a role to play, as citizens, elected officials, business leaders and members of the media. But I believe that universities have a unique responsibility to do our part to strengthen and sustain democracy, and while this is true for all universities, it is especially true for this university.” – Jim Ryan, UVA president

“We have this chronic political necessity to overpromise to the American people, and we are consistently and chronically underdelivering. That has led to partisanship, frustration and now fury from American voters, and the need and desire for something to happen.” – Mona Sutphen, deputy chief of staff to President Barack Obama

Jason Johnson is a UVA grad and a professor in the School of Global Journalism & Communication at Morgan State University. He is the author of “Political Consultants and Campaigns.”

Dan Bartlett served in several high-ranking positions at the White House, completing his service as counselor to President George W. Bush in July 2007.

“We need to create ‘bridging ties,’ with those who are different from each other in various ways, still coming together and working across that cleavage to find common cause for the good of civic health, the good of the country.” – Melody Barnes, co-director of UVA’s Democracy Initiative and former director of Obama’s White House Domestic Policy Council

John Bridgeland served as director of the White House Domestic Policy Council, assistant to the president and director of the USA Freedom Corps during the George W. Bush presidency.

When discussing the 2020 election, UVA Center for Politics Director Larry Sabato predicted the possibility for “the highest turnout in modern American history.”

“This campaign, more than any I have seen in my lifetime, is going to depend on the individual performance of the campaigns over a sustained amount of time.” – Karl Rove, deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush

Amy Walter is the national editor of The Cook Political Report, where she provides analysis of the issues, trends and events that shape the political environment.

“This is going to be one great election,” said MSNBC's “Hardball” host, Chris Matthews, talking about the upcoming 2020 election.

John Negroponte is the Miller Center’s Schlesinger Distinguished Professor. He served as director of national intelligence and deputy secretary of state under President George W. Bush.

Robert Rubin served as the 70th secretary of the U.S. Treasury from 1995 to 1999. He joined the Clinton administration as the first director of the National Economic Council.

“Health is not just the absence of disease, but the ability to live to your full potential.” – Kathleen Sebelius, secretary of health and human services for President Barack Obama.

“You do not try to please the president. You serve the president, whether or not he is pleased.” – Andy Card, chief of staff to President George W. Bush

“[When] you have to win the election, you’re a winner, but then as president you have to prove that you’re a leader. And some presidents have proven that and some have not.” – Mack McLarty, White House chief of staff, counselor to the president and special envoy for the Americas during the administrations of three U.S. presidents

“As a president, you have to lead people who didn’t select you to lead them. And that’s a difficult part of the job.” – Denis McDonough, chief of staff to President Barack Obama

Jamelle Bouie is a graduate of UVA and a columnist for the New York Times and political analyst for CBS News. He covers campaigns, elections, national affairs and culture.

Chris Lu worked in all three branches of the federal government, including seven years in the Obama administration, and is now a practitioner senior fellow at UVA's Miller Center.

Referencing the increasing number of female anchors on television, “Face the Nation” moderator and UVA alumna Margaret Brennan said, “That is a shift, and that is notable. I would love to get to a place where it is not notable.”

Yoni Appelbaum is senior editor for politics at the Atlantic. He holds an A.B. from Columbia University and a Ph.D. in history from Brandeis University.

“It is not just the presidency that has become more prominent in our democracy, but the federal government overall.” – Risa Goluboff, dean of the UVA School of Law

William J. Antholis is the director and CEO of UVA’s Miller Center and a former member of the Clinton White House, where he served as director of international economic affairs for the National Security Council.

Barbara Perry is the Gerald L. Baliles professor and director of presidential studies at the Miller Center and served on two panels at the event.

Sidney Milkis is a professor of governance and foreign affairs at the Miller Center, a Cavaliers’ Distinguished Teaching Professor and a professor of politics studying the presidency, political parties, elections and social movements.

UVA alumnus Kyle O'Connor was a speechwriter for President Barack Obama - one of the youngest in history. He now serves as a senior assistant to UVA President Jim Ryan.

Media Contact

Shannon Reres

Office of University Communications