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History of Presidential Debates Bios

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Karen Hughes, Carole Simpson, Robin Sproul, Mike McCurry

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Ambassador Karen Hughes is a leading communications strategist, specializing in strategic messaging, crisis communications and executive communications. She is Worldwide Vice Chair of Burson Cohn & Wolfe.

Since joining Burson Cohn & Wolfe in 2008, Karen has provided strategic communications counsel to many high-profile clients. Karen was the senior strategist on the team advising the first U.S. hospital to diagnose a patient with Ebola; she helped Blue Bell Ice Cream manage the largest food safety recall of 2015 after listeria was found in several of its products; she helped develop the strategy to differentiate Ford in the aftermath of the auto bailout; she advised a global healthcare company as it managed recalls of some of its most iconic consumer products; and she guided a major Texas retailer as it managed a complex data breach. She has led numerous communications workshops and media trainings, and works directly with several CEOs and senior executives on their messaging and communications strategies.

Karen’s varied career has spanned public policy and government service, political campaigns, communications and journalism, 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.

Karen serves on the Board of Directors for Parsley Energy. 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.

Karen 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. She 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.

Mike McCurry is Director of the Center for Public Theology and a Distinguished Professor of Public Theology at the Wesley Theological Seminary in the nation’s capital.

McCurry has nearly four decades of experience in Washington. McCurry served in the White House as Press Secretary to President Bill Clinton (1995-1998). He also served as Spokesman for the U.S. Department of State (1993-1995) and Director of Communications for the Democratic National Committee (1988-1990). McCurry held a variety of leadership roles in national campaigns for the Democratic ticket from 1984 to 2004 and worked as a Press Secretary in the United States Senate from 1976 to 1983, serving Senators Harrison A. Williams, Jr. (D-NJ) and Daniel Patrick Moynihan (D-NY).

McCurry serves on several boards or advisory councils including Share Our Strength, the Children’s Scholarship Fund, the White House Historical Association, and the Global Health Initiative of the United Methodist Church. He is former Co-Chair of the Commission on Presidential Debates, which organizes the fall general election debates between the major candidates for President and Vice President of the United States. McCurry is also of counsel at the Washington, DC public affairs and communications consulting firm Public Strategies Washington, Inc.

McCurry received his Bachelor of Arts from Princeton University in 1976 and a Master of Arts in Liberal Studies from Georgetown University in 1985 in addition to his MA degree from Wesley Seminary which he received in 2013.

Carole Simpson started her career at local radio and TV stations in Chicago and had the great fortune to meet and cover Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., during his civil rights crusade in the North. The NBC network News Division noticed her work, and offered her a job to work for NBC News in Washington, D.C. After this, Simpson joined ABC News, where she worked for 24 years; eventually becoming weekend anchor for ABC World News Tonight. Simpson was the first black woman to anchor the news for a major network. In this role, Simpson covered the release of Nelson Mandela from 27 years in jail in South Africa; and was the first woman and first minority to moderate a presidential debate.​

Robin Sproul is the Executive Vice President of Javelin, a public relations company. Sproul has been a Vice President of ABC News for the past 25 years. For 21 of those years she served as Washington bureau chief, a role in which she supervised Washington coverage on the network’s TV, radio, and digital platforms, and served as the news division’s liaison to the federal government.  Most recently, she focused on the network’s political debates and interviews, polling, external relations in Washington, and was the Executive in Charge of This Week with George Stephanopoulos.

A well-known and respected journalist in Washington, Robin is also an active member of the Gridiron Club, often producing musical skits for the annual white tie dinner.  She has served as chairman of the National Press Foundation Board, is a member of the Harvard Kennedy School Joan Shorenstein Center Advisory Board, and was a member of the Newseum Advisory Board and the Radio-Television News Directors Foundation board.  She currently is a member of the Department of Justice’s Media Dialogue Group.  She was a Fellow at Harvard’s Joan Shorenstein Center in 2007, and a Punch Sulzberger News Media Fellow at Columbia University in 2011.

In her tenure at ABC News, Sproul led teams winning Emmy, Peabody, and DuPont Columbia awards.  She has personally been recognized with numerous awards for leadership and support of the first amendment.​

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