show episodes
 
Welcome to American Optimist hosted by Joe Lonsdale, entrepreneur, investor, and founder of four multi-billion dollar companies and other mission-driven organizations. American Optimist is an alternative to the fear, cynicism, and zero-sum thinking in mainstream media. Learn from the innovators and leaders who are solving our nation’s most pressing challenges -- and doing it in a way that will lift everyone up. Hope should dominate our discourse, and American Optimist will show you why.
 
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show series
 
Tony Fadell is one of the great engineers, designers, and business leaders of our time, responsible for creating the iPod, iPhone, and Nest Thermostat. He runs the investment firm Future Shape and recently released his memoir titled “Build: An Unorthodox Guide to Making Things Worth Making." In this episode, he discusses the lessons he learned at G…
 
Joe Lonsdale sits down with Zach Latta, Founder of Hack Club, a non-profit network of high school coding clubs with over 15,000 members worldwide. At age 15, Zach helped design one of the most popular apps in the world. At 16, he dropped out of high school to become a programmer before founding Hack Club. He then received a Thiel Fellowship and dec…
 
What are American conservatives trying to conserve? What is Natural Law, and how can we know it? Is there a single "good life"? Robert P. George, Director of the James Madison Program in American Ideals and Institutions, joins the show to answer these questions and others in the Season One finale. Robert P. George's personal website: https://robert…
 
Gene Berdichevsky is the co-founder and CEO of Sila, a next-gen battery technology company. Previously, he was the seventh employee at Tesla, where he served as Principal Engineer on the Roadster battery and led the development of the world’s first mass-produced lithium-ion car battery. In this episode, he explains how Sila's new battery chemistry …
 
Francisco Gimenez is Partner at 8VC and focuses on Bio-IT investments. He received his Ph.D. from Stanford in Biomedical Informatics and B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Sciences from UC Berkeley. In this episode, Francisco explains how breakthroughs in AI, gene editing, and cell therapies converged to jumpstart a new age in biology. He …
 
What does it mean to be a great leader? Have we entered an "Age of Artificial Intelligence"? Why is Joe Lonsdale so optimistic? Joe Lonsdale is an entrepreneur, investor, and philanthropist. He is a co-founder of Palantir, managing partner at 8VC, and host of the "American Optimist" podcast. He joins Madison's Notes to answer these questions and ot…
 
Jacob DeWitte is the Co-Founder and CEO of Oklo, a nuclear energy startup building small advanced reactors that can reuse spent fuel from conventional reactors. In this episode, DeWitte explains how the regulatory state has stymied new reactor designs for decades, and how he's working to break through and bring game-changing nuclear power technolog…
 
Dr. Mark Esper served as the U.S. Secretary of Defense from 2019 to 2020 and Secretary of the Army from 2017 to 2019. He's currently the Distinguished Chair of the Modern War Institute at West Point and sits on the Board of Directors of Epirus [a defense startup co-founded by Joe]. His forthcoming memoir is titled "A Sacred Oath: Memoirs of a Secre…
 
What does Xi Jinping want, and what is he afraid of? What is the future of China's relationship with Russia? What should the United States be doing to counter China? Matt Pottinger, Distinguished Visiting Fellow at the Hoover Institution and former Deputy National Security Advisor, joins Madison's Notes to answer these questions and others. Matt Po…
 
Judge Glock is the Director of Research and Policy at the Cicero Institute and an expert on housing and homelessness in the U.S. In this episode, Glock dissects the root causes of America's affordable housing shortage and explains how the right incentives can jumpstart development and bring down home costs for working-class families. He also expose…
 
Dr. Jeannette zu Fürstenberg is Co-Founder and General Partner of “La Famiglia”, a Berlin-based Venture Capital fund, and holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and Entrepreneurship from the Free University of Berlin. She’s also a princess of one of Europe’s oldest royal families by marriage, as well as a thoughtful leader in the innovation and business world…
 
What's wrong with vaccine mandates? What is the "biosecurity surveillance regime"? Is trust in our public health institutions damaged beyond repair? Dr. Aaron Kheriaty, who was fired by the UC Irvine School of Medicine for refusing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine, joins Madison's Notes to answer these questions and more. Dr. Kheriaty's website: htt…
 
Jared Meyer is the Executive Director of Cicero Action. In this episode, Jared discusses how special interests stifle competition and why Cicero Action is using the special interests' playbook against them to promote innovative, bottom-up reforms. He explains the government affairs strategy that creates real policy changes in states across the coun…
 
Thomas Chatterton Williams is a writer, cultural critic, fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and author of two critically-acclaimed books on race in America, most recently "Self-Portrait in Black and White: Unlearning Race." In this episode, he discusses the dangers of Critical Race Theory and how to move beyond race-first, collectivist mi…
 
Why should we study Robert E. Lee? Why did he make the fateful decision to betray his country? How should we judge Robert E. Lee? Allen C. Guelzo, Director of the James Madison Program's Initiative on Politics and Statesmanship, joins Madison's Notes to answer these questions and others. Robert E. Lee: A Life: https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/rober…
 
Hayes Barnard is the Founder and CEO of GoodLeap, one of the fastest-growing and largest financial technology companies in the renewable energy sector. In 2008, Barnard founded Paramount Solar, which was later acquired by SolarCity and then Tesla. Barnard discusses his role on the leading edge of America's solar energy expansion and what he learned…
 
Tyler Cowen is a professor, best-selling author, blogger, podcaster, and one of the most influential economists of this generation. In the early days of the pandemic, Cowen launched the Fast Grants program, which funded COVID-related science in less than 48 hours -- a remarkable feat in the medical sector. He discusses his efforts to accelerate inn…
 
Pano Kanelos is the President of the University of Austin (UATX), the most ambitious new university venture in America in decades. Recognizing the plight of America's higher education system, Pano stepped down as the President of St. John's College to build a new institution rooted in the pursuit of truth, open inquiry, and educating the next gener…
 
Will Russia invade Ukraine? Has America lost its military edge to Russia and China? Is nuclear war a possibility in the 21st century? Marshall Billingslea, Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, has held many important positions in the U.S. government, including those of Special Presidential Envoy for Arms Control at the U.S. Department of State an…
 
Ambassador Kelly Craft is a businesswoman, philanthropist, and former diplomat who served as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations from 2019 to 2021 and U.S. ambassador to Canada from 2017 to 2019. She played an integral role in shaping major foreign policy decisions and achievements, such as the landmark Abraham Accords and the USMCA trade agreeme…
 
Charles Koch, Chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, is one of the great business minds of our time. He grew a small engineering firm from $21 million in revenue to over 10,000 times the revenue. Yet in both his business and philanthropic work, he is first and foremost a philosopher. Koch explains how thinkers such as Abraham Maslow and Joseph Schump…
 
On September 23, 2021, the James Madison Program and the Ethics and Public Policy Center hosted a discussion of Robert P. George and Ryan T. Anderson's 2019 National Affairs essay, "The Baby and the Bathwater." George and Anderson delivered remarks and then spoke with Alexandra DeSanctis and Antonin Scalia about the central themes of the essay, and…
 
Chris Sprowls is the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives. Under his leadership, Florida has set itself apart as one of the most innovative state legislatures in the country, slashing regulations that prop up entrenched interests and injecting true competition into the marketplace. We discuss his strategy for successfully combatting cron…
 
Congressman Ro Khanna is the Democratic Congressman from California’s 17th District, which covers large swaths of Silicon Valley. A self-described "progressive capitalist," Khanna bucks the current political norms and works to advance meaningful bipartisan legislation. In this episode, we debate income inequality, wealth taxes, and other hot-button…
 
The James Madison Program's new Initiative on Freedom of Thought, Inquiry, and Expression (the "Free Speech Initiative") will "promote, explain, and defend free speech and academic freedom." Keith Whittington and Bernard Haykel, co-directors of the Initiative, join Madison's Notes to discuss the need for and work of the Initiative. Initiative Homep…
 
Dhani Jones spent 11 seasons in the NFL as a middle linebacker, the linchpin of the defensive unit. Since then, he has become a leader in other arenas: hosting TV shows, launching charities, and investing in startups. His passion is bringing out the best in others. In this episode, he pushes back against the notion of lowering standards to minimize…
 
Mike Reeser and Michael Bettersworth are the Chancellor and Chief Innovation Officer, respectively, at Texas State Technical College (TSTC). In 2014, TSTC became the FIRST college in the country to fully align its public funding with its students' future earnings. Since then, graduates have seen their earnings increase over 100 percent! Their succe…
 
Maleka Momand is the co-founder and CEO of Esper, a technology platform that transforms how governments oversee the regulatory process. In recent decades, the size of the administrative state has exploded. Yet, many regulators still operate via Word, Excel, and, in some cases, pen and paper! This has led to a lack of transparency and accountability…
 
What did Aristotle and Shakespeare mean to Harry Jaffa, and what might they mean to America? Can extremism be prudent? What is the nature of the crisis facing the West today? Glenn Ellmers, senior fellow with the Claremont Institute, joins the show to discuss his new book, "The Soul of Politics: Harry V. Jaffa and the Fight for America." The Soul o…
 
Over the past few decades, the U.S. military’s long-held advantages have waned. Today, we are reliant on outdated technologies and in jeopardy of falling behind China. Bo Marr, the co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of Epirus, is bucking the trend. Marr and his team invented the world’s most powerful phased array, Leonidas, that can disable dr…
 
Daniel Lubetzky is the founder of Peaceworks, the OneVoice Movement, and the multi-billion dollar snack company KIND. The son of a Holocaust survivor, Lubetzky’s upbringing inspired him to use business to bridge cultural and economic divides. In this episode, he explains America’s unique role in the world and why we must work together to repair our…
 
Can we learn how to rule? How do military innovations change civil society? What did Machiavelli learn from Xenophon? Shilo Brooks, Faculty Director and Teaching Associate Professor in the Engineering Leadership Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, joins the show to discuss "The Education of Cyrus," by Xenophon. The Education of Cyrus: ht…
 
Did the sexual revolution create identity politics? Why are young men and women so unhappy? Mary Eberstadt, Panula Chair in Christian Culture at the Catholic Information Center and Senior Research Fellow at the Faith and Reason Institute, joins the show to answer these questions and others and discuss her new book, "Primal Screams: How the Sexual R…
 
How are hiring and admissions decisions made in the hard sciences if not by merit? What are the risks of allowing science to be politicized? Professors Dorian Abbot (University of Chicago), Anna Krylov (University of Southern California), David Romps (University of California, Berkeley), and Bernhardt Trout (Massachusetts Institute of Technology), …
 
Why doesn't Socrates get drunk? Is love finding your "other half"? What's the relationship between comedy and tragedy, love and immortality? Marcus Gibson, Director of the Princeton Initiative in Catholic Thought, returns to Madison's Notes to continue our journey through the Platonic dialogues with a discussion of Plato's Symposium.…
 
Dorian Abbot is an Associate Professor of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) had invited Abbot to deliver their prestigious Carlson Lecture, but rescinded the invitation after receiving complaints about an article Abbot had written for Newsweek, titled "The Diversity Problem on Campus.…
 
Jack Phillips is the owner of Masterpiece Cakeshop in Lakewood, Colorado. In 2012, Jack Phillips declined to create a custom wedding cake celebrating a so-called same-sex marriage. The men who requested the cake filed a charge with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission, beginning a legal battle that reached the U.S. Supreme Court. Jack Phillips join…
 
Maureen Hillenmeyer is the Founder and CEO of Hexagon Bio, a cutting-edge biotech company whose mission is to harvest new drugs and cures from the natural world, beginning with fungi. In 1928, Sir Alexander Fleming’s accidental discovery of penicillin launched a new age of antibiotics derived from fungi. However, the process of discovery was slow a…
 
In 1978, John Mackey co-founded his first natural foods store in Austin, Texas with only $45,000. Two years later, he and his business partners launched the first Whole Foods Market, which quickly became the nation's fastest-growing organic grocery store. In 2017, Amazon acquired the company for over $13 billion. In this episode, the Whole Foods Fo…
 
What went wrong in Afghanistan, and who is to blame? Is America safer today than on September 10, 2001? What lessons should the leaders of America's foreign policy draw from the war in Afghanistan? Ambassador Nathan Sales is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, the former U.S. State Department Coordinator for Counterterrorism, and f…
 
Jake Kloberdanz is the CEO and Founder of ONEHOPE Wine, an award-winning vineyard located in the heart of Napa Valley. What sets ONEHOPE apart is its unique business model: every bottle of wine sold helps fund a charitable organization. Kloberdanz is a champion of cause-centric commerce, and to date, ONEHOPE has donated over seven million dollars t…
 
This week's episode features three talented and successful innovators behind many game-changing technologies and companies. First is Sal Churi, a former law professor who is now general partner at Trust Ventures -- an Austin-based venture capital firm. Churi helps founders overcome the collision points of innovation and regulation, and explains how…
 
Why is Jordan Peterson so popular? In what ways is Jordan Peterson's approach to Scripture unique? What can Christians learn from Peterson about the Bible? Christopher Kaczor, Professor of Philosophy at Loyola Marymount University, joins Madison's Notes to answer these questions and discuss his new book, "Jordan Peterson, God, and Christianity: The…
 
Adrian Fenty is currently a founding managing partner at MaC Venture Capital, a former advisor at Andreessen Horowitz, and served as the Mayor of Washington, D.C. from 2007-2011. During his tenure as Mayor, he took on special interests and the teachers' unions, fought for accountability in government and greater opportunities for children while als…
 
Niall Ferguson is a renowned historian, Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, and prolific author of more than a dozen best-selling works on economics, culture, and politics. His newest book, "Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe,” examines how our leaders and societies have dealt with disasters, including pandemics, and how we must learn from the …
 
Balaji Srinivasan is a bold and forward-thinking writer, investor, and entrepreneur, who was formerly the Chief Technology Officer of Coinbase and general partner at Andreessen Horowitz. Currently, he's launching innovative ventures, such as his 1729 Project, while also advocating for cryptocurrency and the larger decentralized finance movement. In…
 
Ronnie Lott is an NFL Hall of Famer, four-time Super Bowl champion, and one of the greatest defensive players of all time. But his impact and legacy off the field are equally impressive: He's a successful businessman, philanthropist, and community leader who has mentored and shaped the lives of underserved youth across three decades. In this episod…
 
What is academic freedom for? What are the greatest threats to academic freedom today? Should Critical Race Theory be taught on college campuses? What about in K-12 classrooms? Keith Whittington, Chairman of the Academic Freedom Alliance's Academic Committee and the William Nelson Cromwell Professor of Politics at Princeton University, joins the sh…
 
From 2006 to 2015, the Right Honorable Stephen Harper served as the 22nd Prime Minister of Canada. His premiership confronted challenges ranging from a global recession to the war against ISIS, but his smart and courageous leadership increased Canadian prosperity and bolstered security. Small businesses surged, while tech hubs from Waterloo to Toro…
 
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