Press release

Freedom House Welcomes Five New Trustees

Today, Freedom House, the nation’s longest-operating international prodemocracy organization, welcomed new members to its Board of Trustees.

“Freedom House’s newest board members bring a tremendous wealth of experience, a deep commitment to Freedom House’s work, and a diversity of perspectives which will be crucial to supporting Freedom House’s mission to defend and expand freedom and democracy around the world,” said Michael Chertoff, Board chairman and former secretary of homeland security. “In the face of declining democracy and spreading authoritarianism, I am confident that our new trustees’ insight and commitment to the cause of democracy will contribute to reversing that trend and creating a world where all people are free. We are grateful and honored that these five extraordinary individuals have chosen to join Freedom House, and I look forward to working with them on this vital cause.”

The new trustees:

Ambassador (ret.) Reuben E. Brigety II, PhD, is the 17th vice-chancellor and president of the University of the South. Prior to his ambassadorship, Reuben had a long career in the State Department, serving as deputy assistant secretary of state for African affairs and as deputy assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration. Reuben also served as director of the Sustainable Security Program at the Center for American Progress and at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) as special assistant in the Bureau for Democracy, Conflict, and Humanitarian Assistance. Since leaving government, Reuben has served as the dean of the Elliott School of International Affairs at the George Washington University and has conducted research missions in Iraq and Afghanistan with the arms division of Human Rights Watch (HRW). Reuben began his career in public service as an active-duty US naval officer and in multiple positions at the Pentagon. He earned a BS in political science from the US Naval Academy and holds an MPhil and a PhD in international relations from the University of Cambridge.

Nina Jacobson founded the independent production company Color Force in 2007. Color Force’s feature credits include The Hunger Games franchise, Crazy Rich Asians, and the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series. Color Force has also produced television shows ranging from the groundbreaking Pose to The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story and the Emmy Award– and Golden Globe Award–winning The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story. Color Force also produced the recently premiered Impeachment: American Crime Story and Y: The Last Man. Prior to Color Force, Jacobson built an impressive career as a senior film executive at three major motion picture studios, rising to president of the Walt Disney Motion Picture Group. Nina is a graduate of Brown University.

Tom Kahn is a distinguished faculty fellow at the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies at American University and a senior consultant at the Cormac Group, a Washington, DC public affairs firm. He is also a consultant to the National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. A leading scholar of congressional and presidential studies, Tom brings a wealth of knowledge from serving on Capitol Hill for over 30 years, including 20 years as staff director and chief counsel of the House Budget Committee. Prior to working on Capitol Hill, Tom practiced law at Sullivan & Cromwell in New York. In addition to Freedom House, Tom serves as a member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and the National Budgeting Roundtable and is on the boards of the Jewish Electorate Institute, the American Jewish Committee, the Israel Policy Forum, and the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry. Tom graduated magna cum laude from both Georgetown Law School and Tufts University.

Cater Lee is a seasoned media and communications executive with over 25 years of experience. Most recently, Cater launched—and is vice president of news and content for—the Southern California operations of Spectrum News 1, which operates several 24-hour local news networks. Prior to joining Spectrum News 1, she served for seven years as vice president of programing and senior director of television program development at the EW Scripps Company, and for 14 years as executive producer and development executive for Turning Point Productions. In addition to her distinguished work in the media industry, Cater was an adjunct professor at the University of Southern California (USC) Annenberg School of Communications and Journalism. Cater earned a BA in marketing from the University of Virginia and an MA in journalism from USC.

General (ret.) Joseph L. Votel is a former US Army four-star officer and, since January 2020, president and chief executive of Business Executives for National Security. His last military post was as commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM), which is responsible for US and coalition military operations in the Middle East, the Levant, and Central and South Asia. During his 39 years of military service, he commanded special operations and conventional military forces at every level, including combat in Panama, Afghanistan, and Iraq. Prior to his assignment at CENTCOM, Votel served as commander of US Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command. His service has been recognized by the Atlantic Council, the National Medal of Honor Society, the Lead the Way Foundation, and the Intrepid Sea, Air, and Space Museum. He serves in various capacities at the CFR, the Middle East Institute, the Sierra Nevada Corporation, Noblis Corporation, Service to School, Minnesota Wire, and Digital Force Technologies, among others. Votel also lectures and advises at some of the nation’s leading academic institutions, including the Belfer Center of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and the Center for Ethics and the Rule of Law at the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. Votel is a 1980 graduate of the US Military Academy and earned master’s degrees from the US Army Command and Staff College and the Army War College.

The board of Freedom House is proud to have included many prominent members since Eleanor Roosevelt and Wendell Willkie spearheaded its founding in 1941. These include civil rights attorney Charles Morgan, Jr.; pioneering Black labor leader and civil rights activist A. Philip Randolph; civil rights and human rights activist Bayard Rustin; diplomat and negotiator Sol Linowitz; Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan; lawyer and public servant William H. Taft IV; union leader Daniel J. Tobin; investor and author Peter Ackerman; Saturday Review editor Norman Cousins; NPR political correspondent Mara Liasson; author Bette Bao Lord, who received the Eleanor Roosevelt Award for Human Rights in 1998; author and political satirist PJ O’Rourke; famed detective novelist Rex Stout; anti-Nazi journalist Dorothy Thompson; and foreign policy scholar Paul Seabury.