PrezFest 2019 / About Prezfest

Democracy in Dialogue

From May 21–23, 2019, the Presidential Ideas Festival took a critical and compelling look at America's most important institution


At the University of Virginia’s Miller Center, we know that understanding the governing challenges of the past can help unlock policy solutions for the future. In fact, each challenge is an opportunity for further exploration and learning.

Presidential Ideas Festival logo

From May 21–23, 2019, the Miller Center and UVA's new Democracy Initiative brought these lessons to life by convening political insiders, top scholars, and students—our future leaders and influencers—for the Presidential Ideas Festival: Democracy in Dialogue. The three-day event on UVA's historic Central Grounds featured working sessions about specific aspects of the presidency.

These sessions served as presidential laboratories through which participants with different points of view investigated the issues and grappled with solutions. It was a unique process that encouraged a real-world approach to problem-solving.

As a university whose cornerstone was laid by three presidents, the University of Virginia is uniquely positioned to facilitate these presidential laboratories—to create a space where understanding past challenges can drive the creation of solutions for the future.

"Why Now?" headline

As part of the University of Virginia’s Bicentennial—celebrating its founding 200 years ago by President Thomas Jefferson--PrezFest 2019 engaged promising undergraduate and graduate students, supporting Jefferson’s mission for the University to forge the “leaders of tomorrow through . . . the candid exchange of ideas.”

We brought future leaders into conversation with former White House officials and the nation’s leading scholars, creating a unique environment in which discourse could be turned into action.

WHY HERE headline

For more than four decades, the Miller Center has worked to apply the lessons of history to the nation’s most pressing governance challenges, dedicating itself to the comprehensive study of the U.S. presidency.

Through rigorous scholarship, we shine a light on the ways our democracy has worked—and on the times it has struggled. Through civil discourse, we carry forward a unique nonpartisan tradition, generating insights and proposals to help unite our divided nation.

Why join us? headline

The Presidential Ideas Festival addressed the toughest challenges facing our democracy by:

  • Collecting and curating the viewpoints of top political leaders, scholars, and students
  • Delivering insights that help steer our country in a secure and prosperous direction
  • Cultivating future leaders of America
  • Establishing long-term connections with students, offering mentorship and guidance
  • Preparing students from all disciplines for public service

Discussions included some of the nation’s top political thinkers:

  • Former presidents and White House officials, first ladies, and ambassadors
  • Scholars and journalists
  • Business leaders and philanthropists
  • Current and former policy makers
  • Undergraduate and graduate students
  • Curious and engaged citizens from around the country, both in person and online

The Presidential Ideas Festival was part of the Miller Center’s ambitious “Presidency at a Crossroads” research project.