Past Program Faculty

Murray Bessette, PhD
Murray Bessette is the director of academic programs at the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, where he leads its educational and scholarly activities. Before joining the Foundation, Bessette was an associate professor of government at Morehead State University, specializing in political philosophy, national security, intelligence studies, and counter-terrorism. He is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, including “The Philosophic Background to Kojève's Critique of Leo Strauss's On Tyranny” and “The Crisis of the West, the Challenge of Technology, and the Reaffirmation of Political Philosophy.” He is a past president of the Kentucky Political Science Association, Lincoln fellow of the Claremont Institute, academic fellow of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, and co-director of the Bluegrass State Intelligence Community Center of Academic Excellence. Bessette holds a BA honours and MA from the University of Alberta, an MA and PhD in political science from the Claremont Graduate University, and an executive certificate in counter-terrorism studies from the International Institute for Counter-Terrorism at the Interdisciplinary Center, Herzliya, Israel.
Claire McCaffery Griffin
Claire McCaffery Griffin, Principal of CGC, LLC, is an independent consultant with nearly 40 years of experience in civic education. She was a high school teacher for 28 years and then served as vice president for education programs of the Bill of Rights Institute, where she co-authored eight curricular resources and presented professional development programs to thousands of teachers from all 50 states.
Gregory McBrayer, PhD
Gregory McBrayer is an assistant professor of government at Ashland University. He holds a PhD in government and politics from the University of Maryland, and a BA in political science and economics from Emory University. McBrayer’s specialty is in the history of political thought, and he has regularly taught thinkers in the history of economic thought as well, including Aristotle, Xenophon, Locke, Montesquieu, Marx, Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. He is currently a senior editor for PEGS: The Political Economy of the Good Society and was formerly managing editor.
Heather Miller
Heather Miller is native to Hillsdale, Michigan and graduated from Hillsdale College in 2015 with a BA in history and mathematics. During the summer of 2014, Miller interned for the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation and became familiar with the mission and initiatives of the Foundation. Miller taught 12th grade US government and 8th grade American history at the The Vanguard School, a classical charter school in Colorado Springs. She currently teaches at Hillsdale Academy in Michigan.
Jonathan Pidluzny, PhD
Jonathan Pidluzny is an associate professor of government and government program coordinator at Morehead State University. He teaches a broad range of courses in American politics and political theory, and researches the social prerequisites of liberal democracy. He recently published book chapters and journal articles on the failure of the Arab Spring, the democracy deficit in the Middle East, and Alexis de Tocqueville’s democratic theory. He has held summer fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies and the Jack Miller Center, and is presently working on Pope John Paul II's criticism of Marxism as a political ideology. Pidluzny holds a PhD in political science from Boston College.
Elizabeth Edwards Spalding, PhD
Elizabeth Edwards Spalding is an associate professor of government and director of the Washington Program of Claremont McKenna College. She holds a PhD and an MA in international politics and political theory from the University of Virginia, and a BA in political science from Hillsdale College. Spalding’s specialty is US national security and foreign policy, including the Cold War and America’s role in the post-Cold War World. She is the author of numerous articles and book chapters, as well as The First Cold Warrior: Harry Truman, Containment, and the Remaking of Liberal Internationalism, and co-author of A Brief History of the Cold War.
F. Flagg Taylor, IV, PhD
F. Flagg Taylor, IV is an associate professor of government at Skidmore College. He holds a PhD and an MA in political science from Fordham University and a BA from Kenyon College. Taylor’s specialty is in the history of political thought and American government, especially the question of executive power. He is the co-author of The Contested Removal Power, 1789-2010, author of numerous articles, and editor of The Great Lie: Classic and Recent Appraisals of Ideology and Totalitarianism and The Long Night of the Watchman: Essays by Václav Benda, 1977-1989.

Past Witnesses

Enrique Altimari
Enrique Altimari is a Venezuelan pro-democracy advocate. He is currently studying philosophy at King's College London where he is researching the metaphysical status of politics from the viewpoint of ancient philosophy. He is the official international Representative of Primero Justicia in London. Enrique is a graduate of Monteavila University, where he conducted extensive research on political philosophy and the Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 that led to an award-winning essay combining political philosophy, political theory and constitutional law. Previously, he was an intern in Baker McKenzie's Banking and Finance Department.
Lianchao Han, PhD
Lianchao Han is a long time pro-democracy activist. He began his advocacy in the late 1970s in China as a student leader in Hunan and was one of the organizers of the early student protests for free elections in China. Han worked in the Chinese Foreign Ministry after graduating from law school. He later left China to study in the US. After the Tiananmen Square Massacre in 1989, Han was one of the founders and the first vice president of the Independent Federation of Chinese Students and Scholars, the largest overseas pro-democracy organization, and successfully worked to influence the US human rights policy toward China. He worked in the US Senate for 12 years, serving as legislative counsel and policy director for three Senators responsible for legislative strategy in the areas of federal budget, taxation, Social Security and economic policy. Han is a registered US patent attorney and specializes in intellectual property protection strategies and innovation-related issues. Han is also an expert on China’s economic and political development, and currently serves as a Visiting Fellow at the Hudson Institute. Han holds graduate degrees from China Foreign Affairs University, Yale University, George Mason University, and Johns Hopkins University.
Grace Jo
Grace Jo was born in North Korea, a place where she almost starved to death as a child during the Great Famine of the 1990s. Jo's father was tortured and starved to death for the "crime" of leaving the country to search for food for his family in China. Jo lost most of her family during this time, and in 1998, Jo's mother concluded there was no hope for her family in North Korea. On Jo's seventh birthday, she, her mother, and her older sister Jinhye crossed the Tumen River into China. For ten years the family hid in China in fear as undocumented North Koreans, moving between locations frequently to avoid discovery. During this time, Jo was caught and repatriated to North Korea twice, spending time in Chinese and North Korean detention centers and a North Korean orphanage. In 2006, Jo and her family were granted protection by the UN High Commissioner for Refugees in Beijing and allowed to enter the United States as refugees in 2008. Today, Jo volunteers as Vice President of NKinUSA and is also a full-time college student.
Joseph Kim
Joseph Kim is from the northern region of North Korea. Growing up during the great famine of the 1990s, at the age of 12, Kim saw his father starve to death, his mother disappear, and his sister flee to China to search for food. In 2006, when he was 16, he decided to make the dangerous escape alone out of North Korea to look for food—and for his sister. While hiding in China, he met a Korean-Chinese grandmother who protected and fed him until he found help from Liberty in North Korea, a NGO that provided more stabilized shelter and later helped him to escape to the United States. Kim arrived in the US in 2007 as a refugee. He is now in college studying international business. He is still searching for his sister.
Merita McCormack
Merita McCormack was born in Korce and raised in the rural village of Cangonj in Southeastern Albania. McCormack's maternal grandfather was branded a "kulak" (rich peasant) in 1948. He, his family, and others so labeled had no right of assembly, education, or free movement. Her paternal grandfather was also a staunch opponent of the regime and joined the National Front to fight against communism. McCormack currently teaches Albanian language and culture at FSI and for DLI contractors. She served as the president of VATRA DC from 2007-2009 and is currently a member of its governing board. A convert to the Christian faith, McCormack has helped many of her compatriots find truth and often organizes high-level meetings with Albanian and Kosovo politicians and clergy (including the Vicar General of Kosovo) at the Library of Congress. She has also worked with the Diocese of Arlington to provide Albanian language masses. McCormack has a degree in Agricultural Economics and an MBA from Surrey University, UK. She is working on a book entitled Life Under Communism.
Jianli Yang, PhD
Jianli Yang is a scholar and democracy activist internationally recognized for his efforts to promote democracy in China. He has been involved in the Chinese democracy movement since the 1980s. He participated in the 1989 Tiananmen protests and co-authored the Constitution of a Federal Democratic China. He holds PhDs in mathematics from the University of California at Berkeley and in political economy from Harvard University. In 2002, Yang returned to China to support the labor movement and was imprisoned for five years. Following his release and his subsequent return to the US, Yang founded Initiatives for China, a.k.a. Citizen Power for China, an organization that promotes China’s peaceful transition to democracy. In March, 2010 Yang co-chaired the Committee on Internet Freedom at the Geneva Human Rights and Democracy Summit. In December 2010, Yang represented Liu Xiaobo at the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony. In December 2011, Yang joined H.H. Dalai Lama and four other delegates to attend Forum 2000, hosted by former Czech president Václav Havel. Yang is a recipient of numerous international human rights awards, including the 2013 Truman-Reagan Freedom Medal from the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation.