Lincoln’s presidency was marked by the biggest conflict over the meaning of democracy that the United States has seen. Here at the Cottage, Lincoln struggled with how to achieve unity among Americans amidst their incompatible definitions of what freedom is and what the future of the country should look like. He paced the floor in his upstairs bedroom in the middle of the night, looking for answers.

Now, as then, our nation wrestles with questions of voting rights, paramilitary power, and hatred. Join us as we bring together experts, scholars, and the public to explore the present-day threats to democracy, their ramifications, and what solutions might be possible.

Tickets HERE



Barry Spodak, Moderator

Barry Spodak will be joining us in person. For over 40 years he has served as a training consultant to the nation’s top federal law enforcement agencies in the fields of threat assessment, protective intelligence, hostage negotiation and the prevention of campus violence. Drawing on 25 years of service as a forensic clinical specialist at St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, DC, Barry has been in the forefront of designing and leading simulation-based training that offers threat assessment investigators the opportunity to perfect their skills in protective intelligence investigations. He has served as a trainer to the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Capitol Police, the agencies that protect the three branches of federal government. In addition, the High Value Detainee Interrogation Group (HIG), NCIS, the Pentagon Force Protection Agency, The U.S. Senate, the Department of Veteran Affairs as well as many of the country’s leading universities and corporations use his training models. In the wake of the shooting at Columbine High School, Spodak was a member of the select training team assembled by the National Threat Assessment Center and the Department of Education to train school officials in strategies to prevent school violence. His work has been featured on “60 Minutes”, “Nightline”, CNN and “All Things Considered” as well as The New York Times, The Washington Post and The Wall Street Journal. Barry now serves as a Strategic Advisor to the international security firm, Control Risks.

Gowri Ramachandran, Speaker

Gowri Ramachandran will be joining us virtually. She serves as senior counsel in the Brennan Center for Justice’s Democracy program. Her work focuses on election security, election administration, and combatting election disinformation. Before joining the Brennan Center, she was professor of law at Southwestern Law School, in Los Angeles, California, where she taught courses in constitutional law, employment discrimination, critical race theory, and the Ninth Circuit Appellate Litigation Clinic. Her work was published in Election Law Journal, North Carolina Law Review, and Yale Law Journal online, among others. She served on the Ninth Circuit’s Fairness Committee, which considers racial, religious, gender, and other disparities in the administration of justice. Ramachandran received her undergraduate degree in mathematics from Yale College and a master’s degree in statistics from Harvard University. While in law school, she served as editor-in-chief of the Yale Law Journal. After graduating from law school in 2003, Ramachandran served as law clerk to Judge Sidney R. Thomas of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in Billings, Montana.

Brian Hughes, Speaker

Dr. Brian Hughes will be joining us in person. He is the co-founder and Associate Director at the Polarization and Extremism Research and Innovation Lab (PERIL) at American University. PERIL develops studies and interventions to reduce the risk of radicalization to extremism. Dr. Hughes is also a Research Assistant Professor in the program of AU School of Public Affairs, program on Justice, Law, and Criminology. His scholarly work explores the impact of communication technology on political and religious extremism, terrorism and fringe culture. This work look to identify the social and emotional commonalities of extremists of differing ideologies, cultures, times, and places. His writing has appeared in the CTC Sentinel at West Point, the International Journal of Communication, CNN, and the Center for Analysis of the Radical Right. Dr. Hughes is a Draper Richards Kaplan Foundation Entrepreneur.

Holly Hollman, Speaker

Holly Hollman will be joining us in person. Holly Hollman is general counsel and associate executive director of Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty, providing legal analysis of church-state issues that arise before Congress, the courts and administrative agencies. Her work includes preparing friend-of-the-court briefs, issue briefings for congressional staff and presentations for research institutions and religious groups. She consults regularly with churches, individuals and organizations about religious liberty issues and writes a column for BJC’s magazine, Report from the Capital. Hollman often discusses matters relating to church-state relations with members of the media and has appeared in numerous publications and broadcasts. She is the co-host of BJC’s Respecting Religion podcast series. Hollman also serves as an adjunct professor of law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where she co-teaches the Church-State Law Seminar. She is a member of the District of Columbia, U.S. Supreme Court and state of Tennessee bars. Hollman earned a B.A. in politics from Wake Forest University and a J.D. from the University of Tennessee College of Law, where she was a member of the Tennessee Law Review and the National Moot Court Team. Hollman and her husband, Jay Smith, have two sons and live in Falls Church, Virginia.

Dr. Lauren Bairnsfather, Speaker

Dr. Lauren Bairnsfather will be joining us in person. She served as Executive Director of the Holocaust Center of Pittsburgh from 2015 to February 2023 and was a leader early in the effort to rebuild the Tree of Life. Under her leadership the Holocaust Center extended its reach from a regional focus to an international audience, drawing more than one hundred thousand guests to exhibits and programs. She has brought innovation to Holocaust education, defining its potential to address present day antisemitism, racism, and identity-based violence. Dr. Bairnsfather began her career in the Photo Archives of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, going on to earn an MA at the University of Chicago and a PhD at the University of Texas, including an intervening stint with Spertus Museum in Chicago. Bairnsfather is an Adjunct Professor of History at Chatham University and serves on the boards of the Association of Holocaust Organizations and the Council of American Jewish Museums. She has been invited to lecture at universities across the country about antisemitism, Holocaust remembrance, and building resilient communities. Photo by Josh Franzos.


Questions? Contact President Lincoln’s Cottage with any questions at 202-829-0436 or [email protected].