Fall Lectures Discuss Lincoln’s Legacy and Derivatives Markets


Public Interest Faculty Visitors
From left: Dr. Heath P. Tarbert and Annette Gordon-Reed

This fall, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law hosted two of its most popular lecture series. The fifth annual Abraham Lincoln Lecture on Constitutional Law was held on October 14, featuring Annette Gordon-Reed, Carl M. Loeb University Professor and Professor of History, Faculty of Arts & Sciences, at Harvard University; and the Brodsky Family JD-MBA Lecture Series was held on November 9, featuring Dr. Heath P. Tarbert, Chairman and Chief Executive of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission.

More than 300 individuals registered for Gordon-Reed’s lecture, hosted by series founder Steven G. Calabresi, Clayton J. and Henry R. Barber Professor of Law. The conversation took a deep dive into Abraham Lincoln’s decorated history, not only as a president, but as a lawyer. In 1859, Northwestern University (then Union College) closed down classes for a week in order for students to see Lincoln argue a case before the appellate court. Gordon-Reed and Calabresi also discussed President Andrew Johnson, who had very opposing views to his predecessor. Lincoln was ready and willing to move all his citizens, including the recently freed Black Americans, into reconstruction, while Andrew Johnson did not include the African American community. “Johnson resented African American people,” Gordon-Reed said. “Sometimes your upbringing can make you sympathetic, and sometimes it can make you hard.” Calabresi added that Johnson’s opposition to land reform kept Black people away from independence after the emancipation proclamation. History repeated itself when the US Housing authority implemented redlining and segregation after World War II, he said. After the nearly hour-long conversation, the event was opened up to questions. During the Q&A, Gordon-Reed shifted to more modern-day challenges facing politicians. She emphasized that she thinks one of the biggest issues our government is dealing with today is healthcare and the fight for everyone to access it.

Gordon-Reed is the award-winning author of six books: Thomas Jefferson and Sally Hemings: An American Controversy; Vernon Can Read!: A Memoir; Race on Trial: Law and Justice in American History; Andrew Johnson: The American Presidents Series—The 17th President, 1865–1869; Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination; and The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family, which won a Pulitzer Prize for history and the National Book Award for nonfiction.

Tarbert’s lecture, “Self-Regulation in the Derivatives Markets: Stability through Collaboration,” discussed the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, U.S. derivatives markets, and stability through collaboration. Nearly 400 individuals tuned into the sixth lecture in the Brodsky series. Before starting his presentation, Tarbert pointed out the important role that the Law School and Kellogg School of Management have played in the CTFC. “There are a number of graduates that serve not only as staff at the CFTC, but as leaders at the CFTC,” Tarbert said. Northwestern graduates at the commission include trial attorneys, division directors, senior trial attorneys, and many more. Over the course of 40 minutes, Tarbert explained derivatives (“financial products that are valued on price movements of an underlying asset, [which] can be virtually anything”), its current market (“anything from corn to crypto”), and their purpose in our current economic system (“[allowing] people in our real economy to hitch risk”).

Tarbert has  has served in multiple senior leadership roles in the public and private sector. Before his role as Chairman and Chief Executive of the CFTC, he served as Assistant Secretary for International Markets and subsequently as acting Under Secretary for International Affairs at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

The Abraham Lincoln Lecture on Constitutional Law was established in 2016 by Professor Steven G. Calabresi. This lecture series honors President Lincoln’s extraordinary work as a lawyer and as the leader who ended slavery, and recognizes his personal connection to the Law School. The Brodsky Family JD-MBA Lecture Series was established by William and Joan Brodsky to honor their family: Michael B. Brodsky (JD-MBA ’93) and Aleta Margolis (MSEd ’91); Stephen A. Brodsky (JD-MBA ’96) and Elizabeth Klein Brodsky (MBA ’96); and Jonathan P. Brodsky (JD-MBA ’00) and Lena Brodsky. It is jointly sponsored by Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the Kellogg School of Management.