American Graduate Day 2013

American Graduate Day 2013 Host Bios

Air date: 09/28/2013

American Graduate Day 2013


Host Biographies



Bill Basl

Director of AmeriCorps


Bill Basl began his national service career as a VISTA volunteer in 1970-71 helping migrant farm workers in Eastern Washington establish their own businesses and continued as a VISTA volunteer leader in ’71-’72 where he helped form a regional services network.

He continued to make his mark in the national service movement by founding the Washington Service Corps in 1983, the first statewide youth service initiative in the nation designed to address priority local education and human services needs, and helped develop national service legislation.

Basl also founded the nation’s first veterans’ corps and is noted for establishing a collaborative regional network to provide AmeriCorps training across the Pacific Northwest. He is a past chair and board member of the American Association of State Service Commissions and was selected by the White House as a Champion of Change-Service Innovator in June 2011.

Service runs in the new AmeriCorps leader’s family: His wife served in the Peace Corps in Western Samoa and his daughter recently finished her term as an AmeriCorps member in Seattle. During Basl’s time in the Pacific Northwest, he became adept at growing vegetables in the region’s cloudy climes and participated in popular outdoor activities bicycling and cross-country skiing.

He is an avid sports fan, following the University of Washington Huskies football and basketball teams; the Seattle Seahawks, Mariners, and Sounders; as well as his hometown Pittsburgh Steelers and Pirates. Basl holds a B.S. degree in Business Administration from the University of Rhode Island, and he enjoys reading biographies, especially those related to volunteerism and service.

Basl joins CNCS CEO Wendy Spencer on social media to spread the word about AmeriCorps and national service. You can keep up with him on Twitter by following @americorps.


Juju Chang

Correspondent, ABC News


Juju Chang is an Emmy Award-winning special correspondent and fill-in anchor for ABC News “Nightline.” She also reports regularly for “Good Morning America” and “20/20.” Chang covered breaking news of the devastating effects of Superstorm Sandy from lower Manhattan to Breezy Point to the Rockaways. She reported on the mass shootings in Newtown, CT, interviewing a mother of one of the young victims. For a special “Nightline” series following the shooting at Sandy Hook, she profiled a young family of gun enthusiasts in Utah.

Chang has covered global events and issues like the earthquake in Haiti and maternal and infant mortality in Mozambique. Her “Nightline” segments on parenting and lifestyle issues include a report on the shocking epidemic of newborns de-toxing from painkillers. Her “On the Town” profiles with celebrities include Rod Stewart, Celine Dion and Carrie Underwood. Chang’s many hour-long reports include the story of murdered 8th grader Larry King which examined the issues of anti-gay bullying and juvenile justice. She also anchored hours for “Primetime: Nightline” on “Twin-tuition”; on an “Extra-ordinary family” the Bates of Tennessee who have 18 biological kids; and on Mommywood which featured interviews with celebrity moms Denise Richards and Tori Spelling.

Chang received one of her two Emmys for team coverage of the California wildfires. She won one of her two Gracies for a “20/20” story on gender equality in the sciences. Chang’s hour-long “20/20” reports include an in-depth look at the impact on foreign adoptions gone wrong; the struggles of people with Albinism globally, including the plight of Tanzanian albinos; and an intimate portrait of one family dealing with gender transition.

Chang’s award-winning investigative reports include the case of Hannah Overton, a young Texas mother sentenced to life in prison for the salt-poisoning death of her foster son, Andrew Burd.

A former news anchor for “Good Morning America,” Chang had previously anchored the early morning newscasts “World News Now” and “World News This Morning” back in 2000.

Chang began her career at ABC News as a desk assistant and eventually became a producer at “World News Tonight.” She rose to become a correspondent covering such stories as the U.S. Embassy bombings in Kenya, Hurricane Georges, and the anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear accident. Chang was based in Washington, DC from 1996-1997, where she covered the White House, Capitol Hill and the 1996 presidential election for NewsOne, ABC’s affiliate service. Prior to her assignment in Washington, Chang was a reporter for KGO-TV in San Francisco, from 1995-96.

Born in Seoul, South Korea and raised in California, Chang graduated with honors from Stanford University with a BA in political science and communication. At Stanford, she was awarded the Edwin Cotrell Political Science Prize. Chang is married to Neal Shapiro and has three sons. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and a founding board member of the Korean American Community Foundation.

Rehema Ellis

General Assignment and Education Reporter, NBC News


Rehema Ellis joined NBC NEWS in 1994 as a general assignment correspondent.  In 2010 she was named Education Correspondent and was an integral part of NBC’s first annual Education Nation summit that focused on the strengths and weaknesses of America’s education system.

Her reports appear on NBC Nightly News with Brian Williams, Today, and MSNBC. She is also a digital journalist. Ellis shoots, blogs, writes for NBC on-line and she tweets. Ellis was part of the NBC Emmy award-winning coverage of the plane crash in the Hudson River called, Miracle on the Hudson.  She also won an Emmy for her reporting on the 2008 Presidential Election of Barack Obama and his historic inauguration.

Ellis has been part of other headliner stories including the attacks on the World Trade Center.  She was the first person to identify the attack on the air as “Nine-Eleven”. She’s reported on Hurricane Katrina, the death of Michael of Jackson and the Haiti earthquake.

As a correspondent for NBC, Ellis traveled to Zaire to report on the mass killings that left an estimated one million people dead in Rwanda.  A few years later she spent a month in Greece covering the summer Olympics.

Ellis began her broadcast career at KDKA Radio and TV in Pittsburgh.  Later, she worked in Boston at WHDH-TV as a reporter and weekend anchor.

She has distinguished herself as a lead correspondent and received numerous awards including local and national Emmys, Edward R. Murrow Awards, Associated Press awards and awards from the National Association of Black Journalists.  She’s also a recipient of an Honorary Doctorate Degree in Journalism.

Born in North Carolina, and raised in Boston, she graduated from Simmons College in Boston and Columbia Graduate School of Journalism in New York. Ellis currently lives in New York City with her young son.

Harold Ford, Jr.

Former U.S. Representative; Chairman, Democratic Leadership Council & NBC News Analyst


Harold Ford, Jr. served Tennessee in the United States Congress for 10 years. Described by President Bill Clinton as “the walking, living embodiment of where America ought to go in the 21st century,” Ford is now Chairman of the Democratic Leadership Council, Executive Vice Chairman of Bank of America, a news analyst for NBC and MSNBC, and a Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service.

During his five terms in the Congress, Ford’s focus was results. He served on both the Financial Services and Budget Committees and was an active member of the House Blue Dog coalition, where he worked passionately to balance the budget and promote free enterprise.

Ford’s highly anticipated book on his political education, More Davids Than Goliaths (Crown), was published in August 2010. Reflecting on what he’s learned from his extended political family, the slings and arrows of the campaign trail, and those across our nation who inspire him, More Davids Than Goliaths explains Ford’s conviction that “at its best, leadership in government can solve, inspire, and heal.” Along the way, Ford reminds us that in America there are more Davids than Goliaths, more solutions than problems, more that unites us than divides us.

Ford is active with several nonprofits and foundations. He serves as an overseer for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), is a member of the Pentagon’s Transformation Advisory Group (TAG), is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and serves on the Board of America’s Promise. He is also a member of the Posse Foundation Board of Directors.

Ford is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where he received a B.A. in American History, and a graduate of the University of Michigan Law School. At the podium, Ford shares his belief that government is most effective when it’s working for the betterment of everyone. He discusses the challenges and opportunities to grow America’s economy, strengthen our moral stature and standing in the world, make America safer and stronger through a revolution in clean energy technologies, and modernize our military to better be able to fight the enemies of democracy and tolerance around the world. Ford’s confidence in American ingenuity to overcome any foe bolsters his belief that America’s best days are in front of us.

Ford lives and works in New York City with his wife.


Susie Gharib           

Co-Anchor, Nightly Business Report produced by CNBC


Award-winning journalist Susie Gharib has been the co-anchor of public television’s “Nightly Business Report” (NBR) for almost 15 years. Now produced by CNBC, Gharib will co-anchor the program from CNBC’s Global Headquarters in Englewood Cliffs, N.J.   Previously, she anchored “NBR” from the New York Stock Exchange.

Gharib is known for her no-nonsense interview style of corporate America’s leading power brokers from Wall Street to Washington. Her interviews have included Microsoft’s Bill Gates, ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson, General Electric’s Jeff Immelt, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett, J.P. Morgan’s Jamie Dimon, Ford’s Alan Mullaly, BlackRock’s Larry Fink, and Pimco’s Mohamed El-Erian. She has interviewed former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan and most of the Fed’s policymakers. Gharib has also been welcomed into the White House several times to interview President Bill Clinton and President George W. Bush.

Gharib joined “NBR” in 1998 after a distinguished 20-year career working at some of America’s most prestigious print and broadcast organizations, including CNBC, NBC, ESPN, and WABC-TV/ New York. Gharib launched her career as a business journalist at Fortune magazine where she was a senior writer and associate editor. Her previous work includes reporter positions at Newsweek, Associated Press and the Cleveland Plain Dealer.

In 2013, Gharib received the prestigious Elliot V. Bell Award from the New York Financial Writers’ Association for significant contribution to financial journalism. Gharib is the recipient of a 2013 Gracie Allen Award for “NBR’s” profile of Harvard University’s first female president Drew Gilpin Faust. Gharib has also won the Fullbright Award in 2012 for furthering global business understanding, a 2001 Gracie Allen Award as the top anchorwoman of a national news program and the “Front Page Award” from the Newswoman’s Club of New York in both 2007 and 2002.

A magna cum laude, Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Case Western Reserve University, Gharib also earned her master’s degree in international affairs at Columbia University. She is on the Board of Trustees of Case Western Reserve University, the Board of Advisors of Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, and a member of the Economic Club of New York.


Bianna Golodryga

Co-Anchor, “Good Morning America” Weekend Edition

ABC News Business Correspondent


Bianna Golodryga is the co-anchor of “Good Morning America’s” weekend edition, as well as ABC News’ Business Correspondent. She contributes to all ABC News broadcasts and platforms in her role as Business Correspondent, including “Good Morning America,” “ABC World News with Diane Sawyer” and “Nightline.” Golodryga joined ABC News in July 2007, covering the economy and business beat. She was named co-anchor of “GMA Weekend” in April of 2010. Since then, the program has become the most watched Saturday morning news program in the timeslot.

Golodryga has reported extensively on the automobile, housing and credit crises, and the financial crisis. She has also reported on the World Economic Forum from Davos, Switzerland and Warren Buffett’s annual shareholders’ meeting in Omaha, Nebraska. Additionally, she was responsible for the network’s digital media and social networking coverage during the 2008 Presidential election.

Golodryga began her career in television news in 2001 as a bureau producer from the New York Stock Exchange for the cable news channel, CNBC. In that role she produced live coverage following the 9/11 terrorist attacks and conducted countless interviews with top business leaders. In 2004 she became a segment producer for “The Wall Street Journal Report with Maria Bartiromo,” the nation’s most watched financial news program, producing interviews with the world’s top corporate and political leaders. At CNBC, Golodryga covered various high profile events for the network, including the World Economic Forum in Switzerland. In addition to her production duties at CNBC, she also began contributing as an on-air correspondent for the financial channel in 2006. At CNBC she was responsible for all of the network’s financial reports for NBC Network affiliates around the country, and also served as a reporter and substitute anchor.

Prior to her career in television, Golodryga worked in the financial services sector. Golodryga graduated from the University of Texas at Austin, where she received a bachelor’s degree in Russian/East European and Eurasian Studies and a minor in economics. She is fluent in Russian. Golodryga is married to Peter Orszag, Vice-Chairman at Citigroup and former OMB and CBO director.


Christina Ha 

Correspondent for NYC Arts on WNET/PBS 


Fine art, fashion, food…it’s all in a day’s work for Christina Ha. Every week, Christina travels to New York’s best museums and most-talked about exhibits to deliver the latest arts and culture news as a correspondent for NYC Arts on WNET/PBS.

She has also reported from the hottest runways and interviewed the world’s top designers as one of the hosts of the long-running, Emmy-nominated Full Frontal Fashion, on Ultra/Voom HD.

Christina’s appetite for all things New York came in handy when she covered the restaurant scene for Metro Channel.  Her work earned her a James Beard Award nomination for Best Local TV Reporting.  She has also worked as an entertainment reporter for E! and as a lifestyle reporter for New York 1. Her first on-air job was at WMUC radio at the University of Maryland.

Christina’s appreciation for global sophistication can be traced to her grandfather – South Korea’s first Ambassador to Great Britain and Turkey. This native New Yorker is married to WABC-TV reporter Marcus Solis and has 2 children.


Maria Hinojosa

Senior Correspondent, NOW/PBS


Maria Hinojosa is the Senior Correspondent for the Emmy Award-winning broadcast news magazine NOW on PBS. Hinojosa is also the anchor and managing editor of NPR’s “Latino USA,” and the anchor of her own Emmy Award-winning talk show “One on One” with Maria Hinojosa from WGBH/La Plaza. Hinojosa has won top honors in American journalism including two Emmy Awards, the Robert F. Kennedy Award for Reporting on the Disadvantaged, and the Overseas Press Club’s Edward R. Murrow Award for best documentary for her groundbreaking NOW on PBS special “Child Brides: Stolen Lives.”

Prior to joining NOW in 2005, Hinojosa spent eight years as the Urban Affairs Correspondent for CNN. Before joining CNN, Hinojosa was a news correspondent for National Public Radio in New York. Hinojosa also worked at CBS News as a radio producer for Walter Cronkite and Charles Osgood. At WNBC-TV in New York she hosted Visiones, a public-affairs talk show.

Three times over the past decade, Hinojosa has been named one of the “100 Most Influential Latinos in the United States” by Hispanic Business magazine. She has received the Ruben Salazar Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Council of la Raza and was inducted into the “She Made It” Hall of Fame at the Paley Center/Museum of Television and Radio. The Paley distinction honors women trail blazers in the media.


In 2009, Hinojosa was honored with a Gracie Award for “Best TV Correspondent” from American Women in Radio and Television. Also that year, NOW won the USC Annenberg School for Communication’s Cronkite Award for “Best Political Reporting”.

An author of two books including a motherhood memoir, Hinojosa was named one of the “25 Most Influential Working Mothers in America” by Working Mother magazine. In 2008, the National Association of Hispanic Journalists gave Hinojosa their most prestigious distinction, The Leadership Award, and also named the NOW on PBS program, “Child Brides: Stolen Lives” Best TV Documentary. Hinojosa and NOW also won a 2008 Emmy Award for her piece “Taxing the Poor,” which documented the plight of the poor in Alabama.

Hinojosa was given a Lifetime Achievement Award in Media by the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors, and received the Crossing Borders Award from the Feminist Press. She was also honored with the North Star News Prize in recognition of her continuing in the tradition of Frederick Douglass. Other recognitions include the Imagen Award, the Latino Leaders Eagle Leadership Award, and the Catalyst Award by the National Association of Minority Media Executives.

Hinojosa’s personal experiences as a Mexican-American career woman, wife and mother were published in 1999 in her critically acclaimed memoir, “Raising Raul: Adventures Raising Myself and My Son.” In 1995 she published “Crews: Gang Members Talk with Maria Hinojosa,” a book based on her award-winning NPR report that showed how jail has become a rite of passage for young men of all races. She has also contributed essays to several books including “Why I Stay Married” and “Borderline Personalities.”

Hinojosa was born in Mexico City, raised in Chicago, and is married to the artist German Perez and along with her son and daughter lives in Harlem, New York City.


Rebecca Jarvis

Chief Business and Economics Correspondent, ABC News


Rebecca Jarvis was named ABC News Chief Business and Economics Correspondent in April 2013. Deeply knowledgeable about financial news, she files reports for all ABC News programs and platforms including “Good Morning America,” “World News with Diane Sawyer,” “Nightline,” “20/20,” and “This Week with George Stephanopoulos.”

Jarvis has conducted wide-ranging interviews with the biggest names in business, including mega-investor Warren Buffett, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg, Twitter founder Jack Dorsey, former Federal Reserve Chair Paul Volcker and Lloyd Blankfein from Goldman Sachs. She has also covered the Madoff scandal, and virtually every aspect of the Great Recession and financial crisis – from the housing bubble and foreclosures, to the collapse of Bear Stearns and the General Motors bankruptcy, to soaring unemployment. In 2008 and 2012 she covered the Presidential elections. Jarvis is currently nominated for an Emmy for her work covering the Newtown tragedy.


Before joining ABC News, Jarvis was co-host of “CBS This Morning: Saturday,” Business and Economics correspondent for CBS News, and the founder, host, and managing editor of “The Startup with Rebecca Jarvis” on Prior to CBS News, Jarvis spent 3 years at CNBC reporting on market news from the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ and the New York Mercantile Exchange.  She also contributed to MSNBC and NBC News including the “Today Show” and “Nightly News with Brian Williams”.

Jarvis began her journalism career writing for numerous publications, including Crain’s Chicago Business and Business 2.0. She also has worked in investment banking and foreign currency trading.

A graduate from the University of Chicago, Jarvis holds a degree in Economics and Constitutional Law. A recipient of the University of Chicago Dean’s Grant, she studied European banking and financial markets and the formation of the European Union at the Université Sciences Po in Paris, France.

She has received national recognition for her work with Colin Powell to empower children and improve communities. In 2000, she was named “One of Twenty Teens Who Will Change the World” by Teen People magazine and also named a “National Point of Light,” receiving accolades from Presidents Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush.


Alma J. Powell

Chair, America’s Promise Alliance


Alma J. Powell sits on the boards of several educational, cultural, charitable and civic organizations, including her role as chair of the Board of Directors for America’s Promise Alliance. With more than 400 national partners, America’s Promise is currently leading a ten-year campaign, Grad Nation, mobilizing America to end the dropout crisis.

Mrs. Powell was appointed by President Barack Obama in 2010 to be a member of the President’s Board of Advisors on Historically Black Colleges and Universities. She resigned from her position at the end of 2012. She also chairs the advisory board for Civic Change, Inc. and serves on the YouthBuild USA Advisory Board. From 1989 to 2000, she served as the chairman of the National Council of the Best Friends Foundation, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of young girls. Mrs. Powell serves as Vice Chair of the Board of Directors’ Committee of Community & Friends for the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Mrs. Powell is the recipient of an Honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from Emerson College, an Honorary Doctor of Humanities from Shenandoah University and the Civic Change Award from the Pew Partnership for Civic Change. She has also been honored by Washingtonian magazine as Washingtonian of the Year and is the recipient of the Leadership Award from the Women’s Center in Virginia. In addition to her many service-minded activities, Mrs. Powell has added “author” to her list of credits. In 2003, her two children’s books, My Little Wagon and America’s Promise, were launched with great success.

Mrs. Powell was born and raised in Birmingham, Alabama. She graduated from Fisk University in Nashville, Tennessee, and went on to study speech pathology and audiology at Emerson College in Boston. She worked as the staff audiologist for the Boston Guild for the Hard of Hearing.

Alma and Colin Powell were married in 1962. Mrs. Powell spent the next 33 years raising a family and accompanying her husband on his various military assignments in the United States and overseas. While her husband was stationed at the Pentagon, she served as the Army liaison to the National Red Cross as part of a team of volunteer consultants from the military services. During Gen. Powell’s tenure as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, she was the Advisor to the Red Cross of the Military District of Washington. Most recently, during her husband’s tenure as the 65th Secretary of State, Mrs. Powell served as the honorary president of the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide. She also sat on the advisory board of the Hospitality and Information Service and was an honorary member of the Department of State Fine Arts Committee.


General Colin L. Powell

USA (Retired)


For over fifty years, General Colin L. Powell, USA (Ret.) has devoted his life to public service. Having held senior military and diplomatic positions across four presidential administrations, Powell’s deep commitment to democratic values and freedom has been felt throughout the world.

The son of Jamaican immigrants, Powell was born in Harlem in April 1937 and was raised in the South Bronx. He was educated in the New York City public schools and after graduating from Morris High School attended the City College of New York where he earned a B.S. in Geology. It was not until he joined the Army ROTC program at CCNY that he discovered his calling and launched his military career. He received a commission as an Army second lieutenant upon graduation in 1958 and went on to serve in the United States Army for 35 years, rising to the rank of Four-Star General.

From 1987 – 1989 Powell served as President Ronald Reagan’s National Security Advisor. He served from 1989 – 1993 as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff for both President George H.W. Bush and for President Bill Clinton, and was not only the youngest officer and first ROTC graduate to ever serve in the position but also was the first African American to do so. During his time as Chairman, he oversaw 28 crises to include the Panama intervention of 1989 and Operation Desert Storm in the victorious 1991 Persian Gulf War.

Under President George W. Bush, Powell was appointed the 65th Secretary of State and was unanimously confirmed by the U.S. Senate. As Secretary of State, he led the State Department in major efforts to address and solve regional and civil conflicts—in the Middle East, Sudan, Congo and Liberia, in the Balkans, Cyprus, Haiti, Northern Ireland, Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere. In all areas, he used the power of diplomacy to build trust, forge alliances and then help transform these unstable regions into areas where societies and cultures have the potential to prosper. He also worked at the forefront of American efforts to advance economic and social development worldwide.

Among the many U.S. Military awards and decorations Powell has received are the Defense Distinguished Service Medal (with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters), the Army Distinguished Service Medal (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit (with Oak Leaf Cluster), Soldier’s Medal, Bronze Star Medal and the Purple Heart. His civil awards include two Presidential Medals of Freedom, the President’s Citizens Medal, the Congressional Gold Medal and the Secretary of Energy Distinguished Service Medal. In addition, he has also received awards from over two-dozen countries to include a French Legion of Honor and an honorary knighthood bestowed by H.M. Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain.

Powell is the Honorary Chair of the Colin L. Powell School for Civic and Global Leadership at his alma mater, the City College of New York. The School was inaugurated May of 2013 and stands alongside CCNY’s other premiere named schools.  He is the Founder and Chairman Emeritus of the America’s Promise Alliance, dedicated to forging a strong and effective partnership alliance committed to seeing that children have the fundamental resources they need to succeed.

Currently Powell is a strategic limited partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the renowned Silicon Valley venture capital firm, and is on the board of Bloom Energy. He is the Chairman of the Advisory Board of Leeds Equity Partners, a private equity firm focused on investments in the education, training, information and business services industries. He is also Chairman of the Eisenhower Fellowships, a cross-cultural program for emerging international leaders. He has previously served as a member of the Board of Trustees of Howard University, the Board of Directors of the United Negro College Fund, and the Board of Governors of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America.

Powell is a member of the board of directors of the Council on Foreign Relations. He is on the Executive Leadership Cabinet of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and is the Honorary Chairman of the education center for the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He also serves on the board of the Smithsonian Institute’s African American Museum of History and Culture.

His autobiography, My American Journey, was a best seller and has been published in more than a dozen different languages. Powell’s second book, It Worked for Me (May, 2012), was an instant New York Times best seller and reveals the lessons that shaped his life and career.

Powell is married to the former Alma Vivian Johnson of Birmingham, Alabama. They live in McLean, Virginia and have three children and four grandchildren.


Brian Stokes Mitchell

Stage, film and television actor


Dubbed “The Last Leading Man” by the New York Times, Brian Stokes Mitchell has enjoyed a rich and varied career on Broadway, television and film, along with appearances in the great American concert halls.

His musical versatility has kept him in demand by some of the country’s finest conductors and orchestras. He has performed: selections from “Porgy and Bess” with Michael Tilson Thomas and the San Francisco Symphony at Carnegie Hall, works by Aaron Copland and various contemporary composers at the Hollywood Bowl with the L.A. Philharmonic under the batons of Leonard Slatkin and John Mauceri; Broadway tunes at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center in Washington DC under the baton of Marvin Hamlisch; and jazz standards with Maestro John Williams at Disney Hall and with the Boston Pops. In 2005 he debuted Pulitzer prize winning composer David Del Tredici’s “Rip Van Winkle” with the National Symphony Orchestra under the baton of Leonard Slatkin. He has been invited to the White House and has performed for Presidents Clinton and Obama.

He reprised his Tanglewood performance in John Williams’ Jazz version of “My Fair Lady” at Disney Hall singing opposite Dianne Reeves. In 2005 he made his cabaret debut as both singer and musical arranger in New York at Feinstein’s at the Regency in his critically acclaimed one-man show “Love/Life” which then moved to the Vivian Beaumont Theater at Lincoln Center. He received both the New York Bistro and Nightlife awards for his cabaret debut. He returned there in November of 2008 with a critically acclaimed concert where he was accompanied by a guitarist, a bassist and a percussionist.

He headlined the Carnegie Hall concert presentation of Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “South Pacific” with Reba McEntire, which aired on PBS in the Spring of 2006. It was also released on DVD and CD . He reprised his role along with Reba McEntire in July of 2007 at the Hollywood bowl then returned to The Hollywood bowl in August of 2008 starring as Javert in Les Miserables. Later that year he performed as the musical guest artist on “Christmas with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir” which was aired on PBS.

His Broadway career includes performances in “Man of La Mancha” (Tony nomination and Helen Hayes Award); “Kiss Me Kate” (Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Awards); “Ragtime” (Tony nomination); August Wilson’s “King Hedley II” (Tony nomination); “Kiss of the Spider Woman;” “Jelly’s Last Jam;” David Merrick’s “Oh, Kay!” and “Mail,” which earned him a Theatre World award for outstanding Broadway Debut.

In 2010, Stokes returned to Broadway after a 7 year absence to do concerts, film and TV. The show was Lincoln Center Theatre’s production of “Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown” and also starred Patti LuPone. Based on the Pedro Almodovar film of the same name, Stokes played the philandering Ivan. The cast album was released May 10, 2011.

At Encores he has starred in “Do, Re, Mi” and “Carnival” and in 2006 starred in “Kismet.” In 1998 he joined the likes of Helen Hayes, Sir John Gielgud, Alec Guinness and James Earl Jones when he became the sole recipient of that year’s Distinguished Performance Award from the Drama League, the nation’s oldest theatrical honor, for his performance in “Ragtime.”

His long television career began with a seven year stint on “Trapper John, MD.” Numerous film and and recurring TV appearances include his role on Glee as one of Rachel’s two dads; PBS Great Performances; and his ‘Presidential Debut’ in The Singer and the Song from the White House. In 2011 he appeared in the film Jumping The Broom opposite Angela Bassett.

Stokes has appeared on more than 20 albums. He produced, arranged and orchestrated his eponymous solo debut album in 2006. His newest self-produced release is “Simply Broadway”, which he co-arranged and recorded “old-school style” with his pianist of many years, Tedd Firth.

As a writer Stokes has contributed to the book Hirschfeld’s Harlem, wrote the preface to At This Theatre, and co-authored the children’s book Lights on Broadway.

For fun he has been known to fly planes and jump out of them (not at the same time), and can ride a bicycle on a high wire. Stokes has enjoyed working with numerous charitable organizations from the March of Dimes to the USO, and is in his 10th term as Chairman of the Board of the Actors Fund.


Wes Moore

Youth Advocate


Wes Moore is a youth advo­cate, Army com­bat vet­eran, social entrepreneur, and host of Beyond Belief on the Oprah Winfrey Network.  His first book The Other Wes Moore became an instant New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller.

Born in 1978, Wes and his sisters were raised by their widowed mother.  Despite early academic and behavioral struggles, he graduated Phi Theta Kappa in 1998 as a com­mis­sioned offi­cer from Val­ley Forge Mil­i­tary Col­lege, and Phi Beta Kappa from Johns Hop­kins Uni­ver­sity in 2001, where he also played football and earned a bachelor’s degree in Inter­na­tional Rela­tions.  He then became a Rhodes Scholar, studying Inter­na­tional Rela­tions at Oxford Uni­ver­sity.

After his studies, Wes, a paratrooper and Cap­tain in the United States Army, served a com­bat tour of duty in Afghanistan with the 1st Brigade of the 82nd Air­borne Divi­sion.  Wes then served as a White House fellow to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.  He serves on the board of the Iraq Afghanistan Vet­er­ans of Amer­ica (IAVA), The Johns Hopkins University, and founded an orga­ni­za­tion called STAND! that works with Bal­ti­more youth involved in the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.

Wes is committed to helping the parents, teachers, mentors, and advocates who serve our nations youth.  A portion of all book proceeds for “The Other Wes Moore” are being donated to City Year and the US Dream Academy.


Alan Muraoka

Cast Member, Sesame Street


Alan Muraoka is the proprietor of Hooper’s Store, which was recently redesigned to reflect a more authentic urban store. Muraoka, an Asian-American of Japanese descent, is not only an important part of that change, but his warm and open character has helped make Hooper’s Store the heart of the Sesame Street community.

Muraoka joined the Sesame Street ensemble ten seasons ago. His stage credits include the Broadway productions of Pacific Overtures, The King and I, My Favorite Year, Shogun, Mail, and Miss Saigon, where he played the lead role of the Engineer, as well as the national tours of Miss Saigon, M. Butterfly, and Anything Goes. He was last seen in the Kennedy Center revival of Mame, starring Christine Baranski.

Muraoka has appeared on numerous network television programs and film credits include It Could Happen to You, Showtime’s Brotherhood, The Tonight Show, As The World Turns, The Guilding Light, One Life To Live, and Day of Independence, a short film by Academy Award-winning director Chris Tashima.

As a director, Muraoka’s 1998 production of Falsettoland for the National Asian American Theater Company received high praise from The New York Times, and was revived in 2007 for the first ever National Asian American Theatre Festival in New York City.

Other directing credits include:

  • Disney’s High School Musical (Lyric Theatre of Oklahoma)
  • Up In The Air (Associate Director, Kennedy Center)
  • Opening Doors at the Brava Theatre in San Francisco
  • John Tartaglia’s Ad-Liberty at Joe’s Pub, TLC (Three Loud Chicks) at Birdland
  • The Leading Men and The Leading Men 2 benefit concerts for BC/EFA
  • Empty-Handed for Musicals Tonight
  • Ann Harada’s Broadway Spotlight at the ARS/Nova
  • Disney’s High School Musical at the MUNY in St. Louis

He is an active member of multiple Asian-American organizations, and is the recipient of an Inspiration Award from the mentoring group APEX.


Ray Suarez

Chief National Correspondent, PBS NewsHour


Ray Suarez joined The NewsHour in October 1999 as a Washington-based Senior Correspondent. Suarez came to The NewsHour from NPR where he had been host of the nationwide, call-in news program “Talk of the Nation” since 1993. Prior to that, he spent seven years covering local and national stories for the NBC-owned station, WMAQ-TV in Chicago.

His new book, the companion volume to a documentary series airing on PBS, chronicling the history of Latinos in America will be published in September 2103. He is also the author of The Holy Vote: The Politics of Faith in America. Suarez wrote The Old Neighborhood: What We Lost in the Great Suburban Migration (Free Press, 1999), and has contributed to several other books, including The Oxford Companion to American Politics (Oxford University Press, 2012), What We See (New Village Press, 2010), How I Learned English (National Geographic, 2007), Brooklyn: A State of Mind (Workman, 2001), Local Heroes (Norton, 2000), Saving America’s Treasures (National Geographic, 2000), and Las Christmas (Knopf, 1998). Suarez also hosts the monthly foreign affairs radio program “America Abroad” for Public Radio International. From 2008-11, he was the anchor of the weekly program on Latino politics, “Destination Casa Blanca,” for HITN TV

At the NewsHour, Suarez has been the lead correspondent for the program’s global health coverage. He has reported on some of the world’s most threatening health crises from Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

Earlier in his career, Suarez was a Los Angeles correspondent for CNN, a producer for the ABC Radio Network in New York, a reporter for CBS Radio in Rome, and a reporter for various American and British news services in London. Over the years he has narrated, anchored and reported many documentaries for public radio and television including the nationally-broadcasts Homeland (2012, PBS/KETC TV), Anatomy of a Pandemic (2009, PBS) and Jerusalem: The Center of the World (2009, PBS), a weekly series, Follow the Money (1997, PBS), and programs including Who Speaks for Islam? (LinkTV, 2005, 2009) By The People (PBS, 2004-07), The Journey Home (2004, WETA) The Execution Tapes (2001, Public Radio), and Through Our Own Eyes (2000, KQED).

In 2010 Suarez was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists. He is a co-recipient of NPR’s 1993-94 and 1994-95 duPont-Columbia Silver Baton Awards for on-site coverage of the first all-race elections in South Africa and the first 100 days of the 104th Congress, respectively. He was honored with the 1996 Ruben Salazar Award from the National Council of La Raza, and the 2005 Distinguished Policy Leadership Award from UCLA’s School of Public Policy.


Brian Williams

Anchor & Managing Editor, NBC Nightly News and Rick Center with Brian Williams


Brian Williams is seen by more U.S. television viewers on a daily basis than any other individual.  Since taking over as anchor and managing editor of NBC Nightly News in 2004, he has strengthened the broadcast’s position as the most-watched newscast in all of television and has become the most highly decorated evening news anchor of the modern era.  He has received eleven Edward R. Murrow Awards, twelve Emmy Awards, the duPont-Columbia University Award, the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism and the industry’s highest honor, the George Foster Peabody Award.

Williams began his broadcasting career in 1981 at KOAM-TV in Pittsburg, Kan. He worked at several local stations in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York City before joining NBC News in 1993. He became NBC’s chief White House correspondent and then anchor and managing editor of The News With Brian Williams on MSNBC and CNBC.

In 2004, he took over as anchor of NBC Nightly News, the nation’s top-rated nightly news program, a distinction it has maintained throughout Williams’ tenure in the anchor chair. Two years later, Time named him one of the 100 most influential people in the world.

In 2011, NBC News launched Rock Center with Brian Williams, the network’s first new primetime newsmagazine in nearly two decades.  Williams’ coverage of world events has earned him high praise and several citations for journalistic excellence, many of which were awarded for his work covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. The New York Times said his reporting of Katrina was “a defining moment,” and Vanity Fair later called his work “Murrow-worthy” and reported that during the crisis he became “a nation’s anchor.” He has covered numerous presidential campaigns, nominating conventions, and elections, and has moderated eight presidential debates.

Williams is a native of Middletown, NJ where he was a firefighter for several years.  Before his start in broadcasting, Williams worked in the White House during the Carter administration, beginning as an intern. He later worked as assistant administrator of the political action committee of the National Association of Broadcasters in Washington. He attended Brookdale Community College, Catholic University and George Washington University, and is a member of the Board of Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.


Lauren Wanko

Correspondent, NJTV Today


NJTV Correspondent Lauren Wanko concentrates on news in South Jersey for the Garden State’s nightly newscast, NJToday.  A native of New Jersey, viewers may remember Wanko as a reporter for NJN’s weekly news magazine, NJ Works.  Most recently, she anchored the CBS Saturday Early Show’s live webcast, Backstage Live, and produced features for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and with Scott Pelley.  She also served as producer for Steve Hartman’s Emmy Award-winning series, Assignment America.