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February 28, 2024

Frazier, Chenault discuss corporate America's role in democracy in ABA Presidential Speaker Series

CHICAGO, Feb. 28, 2024 — In an era of vigorous national dialogue on democracy, affirmative action and diversity, the American Bar Association’s Presidential Speaker Series offers an in-depth exploration of these vital issues with a special Black History Month program. Renowned leaders in business and social justice Kenneth Frazier, former CEO of Merck, and Kenneth Chenault, former CEO of American Express, come together for a thought-provoking session titled “The Business of Democracy,” marking a highlight of the influential series.

Frazier and Chenault, esteemed figures with deep roots in the corporate and legal communities and special advisers to the ABA Task Force for American Democracy, will be interviewed by Paulette Brown, past ABA president (2015-2016) and advocate for diversity and equity in the legal profession. The program can be viewed at 3 p.m. EST on Thursday, Feb. 29 online. No advance registration is required.

Their candid conversation will delve into the dynamic challenges and opportunities at the intersection of corporate America and democracy, including the significant impact of affirmative action within the business community following the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling. Frazier and Chenault will reflect on their leadership in advocating for diversity, inclusion and equitable justice, particularly their proactive response to the George Floyd tragedy and their collaborative efforts to unite the business sector against restrictive voting legislation in 2021. Their discussion and contributions to the ABA Task Force for American Democracy emphasize the essential role of the legal and corporate sectors in championing democratic principles.

Frazier is chairman of General Catalyst’s Health Assurance initiatives and is the former chairman and CEO of Merck. Frazier, with more than three decades at Merck, including a decade as CEO, has long been a formidable advocate for social justice and equality, both within and beyond the corporate sphere. As co-founder and co-chair of OneTen, he spearheaded efforts to secure family-sustaining jobs for 1 million Black Americans. Additionally, Frazier serves as co-chair of the Legal Services Corporation’s Leaders Council.

Chenault is the chairman and a managing director of the venture capital firm General Catalyst. Chenault, recognized for his transformative leadership at American Express, where he spent three decades and served as chairman and CEO for nearly two, has equally leveraged his corporate platform to advocate for social justice and equality. He is a co-founder of OneTen and co-chair of Concordance’s First Chance campaign to break the cycle of reincarceration.

Brown, the first woman of color to serve as ABA president, lends her extensive legal expertise and advocacy to the dialogue. After a notable career as a partner at Locke Lord, she founded MindSetPower LLC, dedicated to fostering environments of equal opportunity. With four decades’ expertise spanning labor and employment law, including a tenure as a judge, Brown has been recognized with prestigious awards such as the Margaret Brent Woman of Achievement Award from the ABA.

The ABA Presidential Speaker Series, an initiative of ABA President Mary Smith, is a collection of diverse virtual conversations with globally recognized figures, spotlighting trailblazers and thinkers shaping our collective future. Under the theme “Lifting Our Voices, Charting the Future,” these fireside chats promote dialogue, civility and exposure to diverse viewpoints, innovative ideas and career insights.

Previous episodes featured Ivo H. Daalder, former U.S. ambassador to NATO and current chief executive officer of the Chicago Council on Global Affairs (view here); civil rights icon Dolores Huerta (view here); Native American women “firsts” including Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland (view here); experts on artificial intelligence from the ABA Task Force on Law and Artificial Intelligence on how AI will affect the legal landscape (view here); Martin Scorsese, Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter and director of the new film, “Killers of the Flower Moon,” along with Chief Geoffrey Standing Bear, principal chief of the Osage Nation (view here); and former Secretary of Homeland Security Jeh Charles Johnson and former federal judge J. Michael Luttig, co-chairs of the ABA Task Force for American Democracy, discussing “Democracy in Peril” (view here).

Future speakers in the series will include:

·       A special Women’s History Month program, “America’s 250th Anniversary and the Contributions of Women: Past, Present and Future,” featuring Rosie Rios, chair for the United States Semiquincentennial Commission and former treasurer of the United States in conversation with Frédérique Irwin, president and CEO of the National Women’s History Museum. Topics will range from the role of women in the history of our country, the visibility of women in prominent roles, and plans for the United States’ 250th anniversary celebration. Co-sponsored by the ABA Commission on Women in the Profession and the National Women’s History Museum. (March 7, 3 p.m. EST)

·       “The Tulsa Race Massacre and Where Do We Go From Here?” featuring one of the last two survivors of the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre, Lessie “Mother Randle” Benningfield Randle, who is 109 years old, along with her counsels, Damario Solomon-Simmons, managing partner at SolomonSimmonsLaw and founder and chair of Justice for Greenwood; Michael Swartz, partner at Schulte, Roth & Zable and member of the executive committee of the board of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law; and Professor Eric Miller, LMU Loyola Law School Anti-Racism Center. The program will be moderated by Areva Martin, CNN contributor, civil rights attorney and best-selling author. The Tulsa Race Massacre was a two-day massacre that took place between May 31 and June 1, 1921, when mobs of white residents attacked Black residents and destroyed homes and businesses in the Greenwood District in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Panelists will discuss the fight for compensation more than 100 years later and the long, arduous journey to achieve justice that remains elusive. (March 28, 3 p.m. EDT)

Additional programs will be announced. To introduce the series, this and other initial installments will be free to ABA members and the public. More information on the Presidential Speaker Series can be found at

The ABA is the largest voluntary association of lawyers in the world. As the national voice of the legal profession, the ABA works to improve the administration of justice, promotes programs that assist lawyers and judges in their work, accredits law schools, provides continuing legal education, and works to build public understanding around the world of the importance of the rule of law. View our privacy statement online. Follow the latest ABA news at and on X (formerly Twitter) @ABANews.