Jim Messina & Karen Hughes

For a fascinating event and robust debate on top political issues, consider Jim Messina and Karen Hughes.

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Jim Messina headshot

Jim Messina

  • White House Deputy Chief of Staff (2009-2011)
  • Campaign Manager for President Obama's successful 2012 re-election campaign
  • Senior Strategic Adviser for David Cameron’s EU referendum campaign
  • National Chair, Organizing for Action

When political strategist Jim Messina used big data and technology to help President Barack Obama win a second term in the White House, Bloomberg Businessweek called it “the highest-wattage crash course in executive management ever undertaken.” Since then other nations' governments, including the European Union and UK Prime Minister Theresa May, have brought Messina into their camps to help them win their fights.  Businesses are also taking advice from Messina as they try to use big data and technology to break into new markets, win a competitive play, and harness consumer loyalty. Audiences who hear Messina speak are wowed by his quick and sharp insights of the business of politics and the levers that surge campaigns forward.

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Karen Hughes headshot

Karen Hughes

  • Counselor to President George W. Bush (2001-2002)
  • Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs (2005-2007)
  • Worldwide Vice Chair, Burson-Marsteller
  • One of the World’s Foremost Communication Strategists

Karen Hughes serves as Burson-Marsteller’s Worldwide Vice Chair.  She is one of the world's foremost communication strategists, specializing in strategic messaging and communications, crisis communications and executive positioning with clients ranging from global corporations to Fortune 500 CEOs.

For her work in U.S. government, she has been described as "the most powerful woman ever to serve in the White House" (Dallas Morning News) and "the most powerful public diplomacy czar in decades" (The Boston Globe). As Under Secretary of State, she traveled to more than 50 countries, meeting world leaders and reaching out to international audiences.

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Jim Messina's Biography



Former White House Deputy Chief of Staff and President Barack Obama’s 2012 Campaign Manager

Jim Messina is arguably one of the world’s most successful political advisors. The mastermind behind President Obama’s 2012 re-election campaign, Jim Messina seized the reins on what Bloomberg Businessweek dubbed “the highest-wattage crash course in executive management ever undertaken”—and succeeded, earning the President another term in the White House. With the guidance of technology’s foremost leaders, Jim abandoned every step of a traditional presidential campaign and merged technology and politics in a way that was both unpredictable and unprecedented.

Jim’s strategies established the modern presidential campaign—Google’s Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt called it “the best-run campaign ever.”  The American Association of Political Consultants later crowned him the Campaign Strategist of the Year (2013).

Since then he has gone on to advise Presidents and Prime Ministers on five continents including: UK’s Theresa May and David Cameron, Mexico’s Enrique Peña Nieto, Argentina’s Mauricio Macri, Italy’s Matteo Renzi and in 2016 helped Spain’s President Mariano Rajoy win a surprising re-election margin.

In 2013, Messina launched The Messina Group. In this role, Messina provides strategic consulting to businesses around the world.  The firm has been involved in winning public policy campaigns on five continents.  Clients include Uber, Airbnb, Google, Delta Air Lines, Hutchison Whampoa, and over 70 others.

Previously, Jim served as Deputy Chief of Staff in President Barack Obama’s White House, where he was integral to the passage of the historic health care bill, the economic stimulus act credited with saving the US economy, and the landmark repeal of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.”

Messina continues to advise and guide Democratic candidates and organizations at all levels, as well as providing insight on news outlets such as MSNBC, CNN, Bloomberg, BBC and others.

Jim serves on the boards of Organizing for Action (OFA), Virgin HyperloopOne, Google’s Advanced Technology Panel, Vectra.ai, Pillpack, Patient Safety Movement Foundation, LanzaTech, Hyp3r, the United States Soccer Foundation, and the Montana Land Reliance.

Karen Hughes's Biography

Karen Hughes is one of the world's foremost communication strategists, specializing in strategic messaging and communications, crisis communications and executive positioning with clients ranging from global corporations to Fortune 500 CEOs.

Since joining Burson-Marsteller in 2008, she has provided strategic communications counsel to many high profile clients. Karen helped develop the strategy to differentiate Ford in the aftermath of the auto bailout; she advised a global healthcare company as it managed recalls of some of its most iconic consumer products; she guided a major Texas retailer as it managed a complex data breach; she was the senior strategist on the team advising the first U.S. hospital to diagnose a patient with Ebola; and she helped Blue Bell Ice Cream manage the largest voluntary total recall of 2015 after listeria was found in several of its products. She has led numerous communications workshops and media trainings, and works directly with several CEOs and senior executives on their messaging and communications strategies.

Karen has more than 35 years of public policy, communications and political experience, from helping lead winning presidential campaigns to serving at the highest levels of government. Karen served as Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs from 2005-2007, reaching out on behalf of the United States to audiences across the world. Karen dramatically reshaped the State Department’s communications efforts, rebuilt an agency demoralized by years of budget cuts, launched a new focus on America’s “diplomacy of deeds” and made public diplomacy central in the development of foreign policy.

From 2001 to 2002, Karen served as Counselor to the President, a title reflective of her role as strategic advisor to President George W. Bush. Told by the President that he wanted her “in the room whenever a major decision is made,” Karen worked on a range of domestic and foreign policy issues, and led the White House Offices of Communications, Press Secretary, Media Affairs and Speechwriting. When she left the White House, the New York Times said: “The rule of thumb in any White House is that nobody is indispensable except the president. But Karen Hughes has come as close to that description as any recent presidential aide.” The Associated Press called her “perhaps the most influential woman ever to serve an American president.”

Karen was President Bush’s Communications Director and one of the “Iron Triangle” of three people who led his winning presidential campaign in 2000 and served as a senior communications strategist on his 2004 re-election campaign. She was instrumental in developing and shaping his image as a “compassionate conservative.” She served as Director of Communications in the Texas Governor's office (1995-1999) and directed communications during Governor Bush's successful gubernatorial campaigns in 1994 and 1998.

Karen was Executive Director of the Texas Republican Party from 1992 until 1994, and served as a consultant and frequent spokesman for the Party throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s. She was the Director of Media Relations for Halcyon Associates, a Dallas-based public relations firm, from 1987 until 1990. She has worked on numerous political, issue and bond campaigns in Dallas and was Texas press coordinator for the Reagan-Bush '84 campaign.  

Karen began her career as a journalist, working as a television reporter for KXAS-TV (NBC affiliate) in Dallas-Fort Worth from 1977 until 1984. She is the author of Ten Minutes from Normal, a book about working for President Bush and her decision to leave the White House to return with her family to Texas in 2002. Karen was selected to serve as a Resident Fellow at Harvard University’s Institute of Politics for the Spring 2013 semester where she led a study group on communications.

She serves on the Board of Directors for the National Football Foundation and Manos de Cristo, a non-profit that provides dental, educational and emergency basic needs services to low income residents in Austin. She is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the U.S. Afghan Women’s Council, an organization created to foster ties between the women of America and Afghanistan. Karen also serves on the Women’s Initiative Policy Advisory Council at the Bush Institute in Dallas and on the 2016 ONE Campaign Advisory Board.  

Karen is a Phi Beta Kappa and received a Bachelor of Arts in English and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Journalism from Southern Methodist University. She received the Distinguished Alumni award from SMU in 2003. She is an elder in the Presbyterian Church and a long-time Sunday School teacher. She is married to attorney Jerry Hughes and has two children, Leigh and Robert.