Johnson Lecture Series

A collaborative effort with the Office of the Dean, the H.B. Johnson, Jr. ‘26 Distinguished Lecture Series attracts speakers who address key themes from international and cultural perspectives, including contemporary foreign and domestic issues, leadership, moral-ethical questions, and civic responsibilities. 

Speaker Bio

Profile image in uniform of David Bellavia Medal of Honor Recipient Iraq War VeteranDavid Bellavia is the first and only living Iraq veteran to receive the Congressional Medal of Honor, which is our country's highest military honor. He was awarded this medal at the White House on June 25, 2019, surrounded by his family and every living member of his Task Force.

Bellavia was awarded the Medal of Honor for heroic efforts on Nov. 10, 2004, during the Third Battle in Fallujah — dramatic efforts that saved the lives of his unit members. He served three military campaigns: Kosovo 2003 and Operation Iraqi Freedom I and Operation Iraqi Freedom II. 

Bellavia enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1999 and chose to stay and fight following the Sept. 11 terror attacks. That sense of duty was ingrained in Bellavia by his World War II veteran grandfather, who served in the Army during the Normandy Campaign. Bellavia returned home in 2005 and founded advocacy organization Vets for Freedom and in 2019 founded Deuce Deuce Relief Fund, which supports the soldiers of his former Task Force 2-2 in Iraq. 

Bellavia returned to Iraq as an embedded reporter covering heavy fighting in 2006 and 2008, and in 2007 wrote and published House to House, a book detailing his experiences in Fallujah. His book is considered one of the best first-hand military accounts ever written. 

Bellavia’s many awards and decorations include the Bronze Star, the National Defense Service Medal, Kosovo Campaign Medal with Bronze Service Star, New York State Conspicuous Service Cross, the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, and the NATO Medal. He was inducted into the New York State Veterans Hall of Fame in 2005.

Bellavia is a Western New York native. He is a 1994 graduate of Lyndonville High School in Orleans County and studied biology and theater at the University of Buffalo.

Today he is active traveling the country as a speaker sharing the important message of service over self and as a sought-after source for national media.

Previous Speakers

  • General (ret.) Joseph L. Votel during 2019 "Disruption: Challenging Leadership at Every Turn" - watch his talk on 'The Campaign to Defeat ISIS: A Case Study on Leading in Disruptive Environments'
  • William "Bill" Bennett, Keynote, 2018 Annual Leadership and Ethics Conference "GRIT and the American Character"
  • Robert Kaplan, Convocation 2016 speaker "Our Current Geopolitical Climate" - watch his speech on Our Current Geopolitical Climate
  • Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster "Developing the Next Marshall: Trends in Future Strategic Leadership to 2040" - watch his remarks on our YouTube Channel
  • Daniel Rodriquez "Goal Setting: Achieving Your Goals"
  • Kirsten Powers, Convocation 2015 speaker, "Free Speech on College Campuses" - watch her speech on Free Speech on College Campuses
  • Ray Kelly "A Conversation with Ray Kelly on his Memoir: Vigilance: My Life Serving America and Protecting its Empire City"
  • Retired Four-Star General Keith Alexander "Ethical Dilemmas Facing Leaders in American National Security" - watch his presentation on Public Privacy and National Security
  • Retired Lieutenant Colonel Dave Grossman "The Bulletproof Mind: Psychological Preparations for Combat."
  • Edward Ayers, Ph.D. "The Shape of the Civil War"
  • Nina Totenberg "The Supreme Court and Its Impact on You."
  • Mr. Edward Viesturs "No Shortcuts to the Top."
  • Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam