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Evening at the Square 2023

Featuring political commentators, David Axelrod and Michael Steele
5:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | 4525 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64111

Evening at the Square 2023

5:30 PM 8:30 PM
The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art | 4525 Oak St, Kansas City, MO 64111

American Public Square at Jewell along with event co-chairs, Mary and Mark Jorgenson and Stephenie and Rodney Smith, hosted American Public Square’s premier annual event, Evening at the Square, which took place Monday, December 4 at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.

This year’s event featured a conversation between two renowned political experts, David Axelrod and Michael Steele. David Axelrod is a political strategist, commentator, and former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama; he was the founding director of the University of Chicago’s non-partisan Institute of Politics and now serves as a senior fellow to that organization.  Michael Steele is the former Chairman of the Republican National Committee, the former Lt. Governor of the State of Maryland, a political analyst for MSNBC, and host of The Michael Steele Podcast.

The program was moderated by APS Founder, CEO and Chair, Amb. Allan Katz, and Margaret Talev, former White House correspondent for Bloomberg News and McClatchey Newspapers, now Director of the Syracuse University Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship.

The 2023 Founder’s Civility Award was awarded to SuEllen Fried, bullying prevention activist, writer, and educator.

Access the 2023 Evening at the Square program guide at the link below. Inside you’ll find featured guest biographies, sponsor acknowledgements, order of events and more!

Featured Guests

David Axelrod is a preeminent American political strategist and commentator and the former chief strategist and senior advisor to President Barack Obama.  Axelrod was the founding director of the University of Chicago’s non-partisan Institute of Politics.

He currently serves as a Distinguished Fellow at the University of Chicago and as a senior political commentator for CNN.  He is the host of The Axe Files, a top-rated podcast featuring in depth conversations with public figures across the political spectrum.

A former political writer for the Chicago Tribune, Axelrod produced media strategy and advertising for 150 campaigns across the U.S., culminating in President Obama’s historic elections.  Axelrod is also the author of The New York Times best-selling memoir, Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.

When elected Lt. Governor of Maryland in 2003, Michael Steele made history as the first African American elected to statewide office; and again, with his subsequent chairmanship of the Republican National Committee in 2009.
The RNC broke fundraising records and won the biggest pickup of House seats since 1938. His commitment to grassroots organization and party building produced 12 governorships and the greatest share of state legislative seats since 1928.

As Lt. Governor, his priorities included reforming the state’s Minority Business Enterprise program, improving the quality of the public education system, expanding economic development, and fostering cooperation between government and faith-based organizations.

Steele is a political analyst for MSNBC and the host of the Michael Steele Podcast. He is the author of Right Now: A 12-Step Program for Defeating the Obama Agenda and co-author of The Recovering Politician’s Twelve Step Program to Survive Crisis.

Born at Andrews Air Force Base in Prince George’s County, Maryland, Steele was raised in Washington, DC. Upon graduating Johns Hopkins University, he entered the Order of St. Augustine where he studied for the priesthood. He is a graduate of Georgetown Law Center, an Aspen Institute Rodel Fellow in Public Leadership, a University of Chicago Institute of Politics Fellow and Chair of The Gwendolyn S. & Colbert L. King Endowed Chair in Public Policy Lecture Series.


Amb. Allan J. Katz (ret.) is founder, CEO and Chair of American Public Square at Jewell.  Appointed as United States Ambassador to Portugal by President Obama in 2010, Allan has dedicated his life to public service, social advocacy and community engagement. A lawyer and political science professor, Allan founded American Public Square in 2013.

Allan serves as Executive Committee Chair of the Academic and Corporate Board to ISCTE Business School in Lisbon, Portugal. Additionally, he serves as a non-executive Board Member of EDP Renewables, a global energy company, leader in the utilities sector and part of the Dow Jones Sustainability Index; a board member of the Harry S. Truman Good Neighbor Foundation; and a former board member of the International Relations Council of Kansas City. Allan is a frequent speaker and moderator on civic engagement, civility, American Politics, and developments in Europe.

A lawyer by background, Allan was the National Director of the Public Policy Practice Group at the firm of Akerman Senterfitt from 2004 to 2010. Previously, he founded and was managing partner of Katz, Kutter, Alderman & Bryant, P.A., in Tallahassee, Florida, from the firm’s inception in 1987 until 2004, where he primarily worked with insurance companies and regulators.

Margaret Talev is Kramer Director of the Syracuse University Institute for Democracy, Journalism and Citizenship, a joint effort of the Newhouse School and the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs. She is based in Washington, D.C.

Talev joined Syracuse University following a 30-year career covering American politics and the White House. A graduate of the University of Maryland at College Park, Talev served as senior White House correspondent for Bloomberg News and McClatchy Newspapers, where she won the Scripps Howard Raymond Clapper Memorial Award as a part of a team that exposed the politicization of the Justice Department.

As a White House correspondent, she covered President Trump, Hillary Clinton’s 2016 campaign, Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, and President Obama’s two terms in the White House and Congress.

She has held positions at the Los Angeles Times, Sacramento Bee and Tampa Tribune. She is a past president of the White House Correspondents’ Association and the Washington Press Club Foundation, and has taught courses at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. Most recently, Talev was the managing editor for politics at Axios.

In addition to her role at the Newhouse School, Talev is also a senior contributor at Axios and a CNN political analyst.

2023 Founder's Civility Award Recipient

SuEllen Fried

SuEllen Fried is a long-time, passionate advocate for children who has worked with more than 75,000 students, educators, administrators, parents, and professionals in 37 states to prevent bullying. She is the founder of BullySafeUSA and has authored four books on the topic of bullying, including her latest publication, “SIBLINGS: Bullying, Betrayal and Bonding Across the Lifespan,” which was released in 2022.

Additionally, SuEllen has been a volunteer with the Kansas Department of Corrections for more than 40 years and co-founded a self-help program for incarcerated men and women – Reaching Out From Within, which operates in Kansas, Missouri, and North Carolina.

In addition to having served on community boards such as Prevent Child Abuse America, AileyCamp, KCPT (now Kansas City PBS), Country Club Bank, the Kauffman Fund, and the Local Investment Commission, SuEllen was a founding Advisory Board Member of American Public Square at Jewell and works with the organization’s Civics Education Initiative student participants – in fact, in 2022, she delivered a live tutorial on how to give a perfect hug! She is the recipient of numerous local, national, and international awards and recognition for her many accomplishments, and has appeared on Good Morning America, the TODAY Show, MSNBC, and has given two TEDx Talks.

Originally trained as a dancer, SuEllen is a Charter Member of the American Dance Therapy Association and had a career as a Dance Therapist in local psychiatric hospitals for 17 years. She attended Washington University in St. Louis and is a graduate of Park University.

Still dancing, singing, and advocating for others at age 91, SuEllen is the widow of Harvey Fried, the mother of three remarkable children — Jeff, Paula, and Marc — and the very proud grandmother to seven socially conscious grandchildren.

Learn more about SuEllen and her remarkable accomplishments in this special video tribute created by Conner Sisemore, American Public Square at Jewell Civics Education Initiative participant, APS volunteer, and senior at Belton High School.

2023 Evening at the Square Sponsors

Sponsorship opportunities are available now!  Learn more.


Presenting Sponsors

McDonnell Foundation

Sue Seidler Nerman & Lewis Nerman

Presenting Partner

The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art


Greg & Sybil Orman

Stacy & William Pratt

Leslie M. Westbrook & Paolo Frigerio

Jack and Glenna Wylie Foundation


Jennifer & Bud Bacon

Ann Baum — Kenneth G. and Ann Baum Philanthropic Fund

The Berkley Family

Stanley J. Bushman & Ann Canfield

Nancy Cohn & Amb. Allan J. Katz (ret.)

DeBruce Foundation

Enterprise Bank & Trust

SuEllen Fried

Christy & Bill Gautreaux

Health Forward Foundation

Mary & Mark Jorgenson

Kansas City Chiefs

Kemper Family Foundations, UMB Bank, n.a., Trustee

Optum Kansas


Jim & Becky Pruett

Fred and Jami Pryor Foundation

Beryl Raff & Paul Russell

Resurrection, A United Methodist Church

Cyprienne Simchowitz & Jerry White

R. Lee Smith

Charlie & Jeanne Sosland



Lance & Rania Anderson

Mary & Tom Bloch

Cathi & David Brain

Pete B. Browne & Julie Walker Browne

Children’s Mercy Kansas City

City of Kansas City, Missouri

Katherine DeBruce

ECCO Select

Joe Falk

Sandi & Ed Fried

The Howe Street Group

JE Dunn Construction

Donna & Ward Katz

Bill & Regina Kort


Lynne & Mark O’Connell

Shook, Hardy & Bacon L.L.P.

Rick & Betsey Solberg

UMB Bank

Laura Welch & Mike Lundgren

Cynthia & David Westbrook


Ivan & Karla Batlle

Sarah & Jon Baum

Merilyn & Dr. Loren Berenbom, M.D.

Claire & Denton Bishop

Phil Blank

Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas City


Stevi & Jeff Brick

Bonnie & Herb Buchbinder

Kelly Carnago & Doug Duty

Center for Practical Bioethics

Dr. Valerie E. Chow, M.D., & Judge Jon R. Gray (ret.)

Commerce Bank

Bunni & Paul Copaken

Erica & Lorin Crenshaw

Sam Cullan & James Landrum

Laura Curry Sloan & Peter Sloan

Dentons US LLP and Lisa Krigsten

Hon. Peggy & Terry Dunn

Mike & Debra Gerken

Laura & David Hall

Ellen & Irv Hockaday

Rebecca Hall Coulson & Harper Coulson

Sharon & John Hoffman

Hunt Midwest

Husch Blackwell LLP

Jenny & John Isenberg

Jackson County Legislature

Kay Johnson & Bill Koenigsdorf

Cindy & Vince Johnston

Linda & Topper Johntz, Jr.

Michele & Harvey Kaplan

Dr. Aman Kaur, President – Women in DSO

Kelly Shaw Consulting LLC

Jan & Tom Kreamer

Howard Lubow

Bill & Peggy Lyons

Cathy & Terry Matlack

Tricia & Josh Maxfield

Sue McCord-Belzer & Irv Belzer

Martina & Patrick McLarney

Alana Muller & Marc Hammer

Charlene & Max Muller

Sally & Ramon Murguia

Navrat Family Charitable Foundation

Roshann Parris & Jeff Dobbs

Mary & Terry Putney

Jerry & Patty Reece

Ann & Bob Regnier

Daniele Ross & Dr. Harry Ashenhurst

Rubin, Turnbull & Associates Inc.

Chesney & Patrick Sallee

Lisa & Charlie Schellhorn

Seigfreid Bingham

Marny & John Sherman

Sophic Solutions – Dr. Rodney & Stephenie Smith

Shaun Stallworth

Susan Stanton

M. Jeannine Strandjord

Swope Health

Ursula Terrasi & Jim Miller

UMKC Department of Political Science and UMKC Office of External Relations and Constituent Engagement

University of Saint Mary Lawrence D. Starr Center for Peace & Justice

Lauren Weinhold & Scott Fuller

Wickham James Strategies & Solutions

Beth & Karl Zobrist


Special Events Hosts

Dr. Valerie E. Chow, M.D., & Judge Jon Gray

Beryl Raff & Paul Russell

Dr. Rodney & Stephenie Smith


In-Kind Sponsors

Hotel Kansas City

The Kansas City Beacon

Kansas City PBS

KCUR 89.3



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