Virtual ThinkTalk: The role of Think Tanks in developing policy positions and priorities

Virtual ThinkTalk: The role of Think Tanks in developing policy positions and priorities

Derasat and the Embassy of United States of America, presented a virtual ThinkTalk on Wednesday, October 7th, 2020, titles, “The role of Think Tanks in developing policy positions and priorities,” – a moderated discussion with two former members of the United States Congress, who reflected on the role of Think Tanks in developing legislative positions and policy priorities.

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Congressman Bobby R. Etheridge

Bob Etheridge was born in Sampson County but spent all of his school-age years in Johnston County. He attended Cleveland School, a union school that housed grades K-12. He graduated with the class of 1959.

The son of tenant farmers, Etheridge worked for two years after high school graduation saving enough money to enter Campbell College.

Arriving at Campbell as a day student, Etheridge took advantage of Campbell basketball coach Fred McCall’s offer to all students to a weeklong tryout for the team. At the end of the tryout period, coach McCall tossed the young Johnston County man a uniform. After one semester, Etheridge was accorded a scholarship for tuition and after the first year he was on full basketball scholarship. Etheridge served as co-captain during his senior year.

Etheridge married Faye Cameron just after college, and was called in to the U.S. Army for 2 years of service.  After his discharge he settled in Harnett County. He later owned a building supply store and a radio station, was vice president of sales for Sorenson-Christian Industries and later served four years on the Harnett County Board of Commissioners, two of which he served as chairman. He took a leading role in consolidating the county’s small high schools and began the life-long interest in improving public schools.

In 1978 Etheridge was elected to the N.C. House of Representatives and served as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee from 1984-1988. He introduced the Basic Education Plan, which focused on providing millions of dollars to the public school budget for North Carolina and establishing a core curriculum for all students in K-12, in both rural and urban areas of the State.

In 1988, Etheridge was elected as State Superintendent of Public Instruction, becoming the first non-educator since 1856 to hold that post. In eight years as superintendent, Etheridge quickly cut the state bureaucracy in the Department of Public Instruction by 25% and instituted an accountability system that has greatly improved student test scores.

In 1996, Etheridge was elected to Congress from N.C.’s second district. He served fourteen years in Congress where he served for twelve years on the House Agriculture Committee and as Chairman of the General Farm Commodity and Risk Management Subcommittee for two years.  Etheridge then moved to the House Ways and Means Committee for two years, the first North Carolinian to serve on that committee for 60 years.

In the spring of 2011 Etheridge was appointed by Gov. Beverly Purdue to monitor federal stimulus recovery funding.  Following a devastating tornado in central NC and a devastating hurricane in eastern North Carolina, he was asked to identify and secure funding for the victims of those natural disasters.

In December of 2013 Etheridge was appointed by President Obama to be State Executive Director or the USDA/ Farm Service Director of North Carolina. He served in this capacity until January 2017.

Four institutions of higher learning have conferred honorary doctor degrees on Etheridge: Campbell University, Fayetteville State University, Pfeiffer College and Shaw University. He is also a member of the Campbell Sports Hall of Fame and the Johnston County Sports Hall of Fame.

Etheridge and his wife, Faye, have been married for 54 years and have three children and nine grandchildren. Bob is an active member of Leaflet Presbyterian Church where he is an elder, president of the Presbyterian men and a long-time Sunday school teacher. Bob still spends as much time as he can on the family farm where he has beef cattle.

Congressman Michael D. Bishop

Michael D. Bishop, is the founder and President of American General Counsel PLC, a full-service law and government consulting firm located in Rochester, Michigan. Michael’s firm offers a unique blend of legal, business and political experience, coupled with a broad-sweeping personal network of decision makers and business leaders. He also currently serves as the Co-President of iPSE-US, a national association of independent professionals, self-employed. The launch of Michael’s business was a natural transition back into the private sector having served as a member of the United States Congress (2014-2018). During his tenure in Congress, Michael was appointed to and served on the House committee on Ways and Means, the Judiciary, and Higher Education. While serving in Congress, Michael championed legislation to support health care, benefit families and businesses, and worked directly with both Presidents Obama and Trump to sign into law, legislation to improve higher education and tax policy. Michael has been around the world representing our country, meeting with world leaders and military personnel to support our men and women of the armed forces and assess national security concerns. Preceding his service in the United States Congress, Michael was the General Counsel/Chief Legal Officer of International Bancard Company in Detroit, Michigan. While working with the company, Michael shared his legal and business expertise as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the Thomas M. Cooley Law School, teaching third year law students Constitutional Law and Procedures of Public Policy. Michael was in private legal practice, prior to his role at International Bancard. As a Senior Attorney with Clark Hill PLC, an international law firm in Birmingham, Michigan, Michael concentrated his practice in the areas of Public Policy and Business Law. Prior to joining the Clark Hill PLC, Michael was elected to and served in the Michigan State legislature. Originally elected in 1998, Michael finished his term in Michigan’s 12th Senate District in December 2010. During his service in the Senate, he was nominated by his caucus and chosen by his peers to serve as the Senate Majority Leader. In his role as Senate Majority Leader, Michael oversaw all senate operations and personnel, and acted as chief negotiator in balancing Michigan’s $48 Billion annual state budget. Michael served on a number of committees in the Michigan House and Senate, including chairing the Senate Banking and Financial Institutions Committee and the Constitutional Law and Ethics Judiciary Committee. Michael began his professional career by starting two successful small businesses to pursue his interest in practicing law and real estate investment. His legal experience involved daily courtroom appearances representing clients in criminal defense and civil litigation. Michael also served as a local prosecutor, representing communities and working directly with law enforcement agencies to protect families and ensure justice. Michael is licensed to practice law in the state of Michigan, the District of Columbia, and before the U.S. Supreme Court. He is also a licensed Real Estate Broker and served as President of Freedom Realty, Inc. Michael is a graduate of the University of Michigan (1989) and received his law degree from Michigan State University Law (1993). In addition to his accomplishments in the private and public sectors, Michael has received numerous honors, including: Credit Union National Association Federal Legislator of the Year, Small Business Association of Michigan Legislator of the Year, Dads and Moms of Michigan Legislator of the Year, and Michigan Business and Professional Association Distinguished Service Award. In 2006, Michael was named one of Crain’s Detroit Business 40 under 40. Michael is a lifelong resident of Rochester, Michigan, where he lives with his wife, Cristina, and their three children, Benjamin, Gabriella, and Nathan (and dog, Koda).

Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli



Dr. Omar Al-Ubaydli is Director of Studies and Research, and Director of Economics and Energy Studies. He previously worked as an Assistant Professor of Economics at George Mason University, USA, as well as being a member of Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell’s Joint Advisory Board of Economists. Dr. Al-Ubaydli received his BA in Economics from the University of Cambridge (Queens’ College) and his MA and PhD in Economics from the University of Chicago. Dr. Al-Ubaydli’s research has been published in several international, peer-reviewed journals and has been featured by media outlets including the Economist magazine.

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