The 2008 Power 100

by Editorial

In Washington, the most obvious source of power is political. However, we’ve omitted names of those who draw government paychecks, figuring that it would be too obvious to list all the senators, congressmen, and political appointees as they’d propel our modest list into an unwieldy, phone-book-sized directory.

Power is knowledge. Power is access. Power is influence, and, almost as important, it is the perception of power itself. These things by their very nature cannot remain static – and therefore our list changes with the times. Power in Washington is different than in other big cities. Unlike New York, where wealth-centric power glitters with the subtlety of old gold, in Washington, wealth doesn’t automatically confer power; rather, it depends on how one uses it.

Washington’s power is fundamentally colored by its proximity to politics, and in this presidential season, even more so. This year, reading the tea leaves, we gave a larger nod to the power behind the candidates: foreign policy advisors, fundraisers, lobbyists, think tanks that house cabinets in waiting, and influential party leaders. When one takes the nature of that beast into consideration (regimes are curtailed neatly – or dramatically, depending on the transition – by the inexorable flux of our nation’s campaign cycles) – it would make sense that our power would change direction, bending with the current of the moment. This year in particular, it would be impossible (really, almost laughable) to call Washington’s power anything but supercharged with political electricity. WL explores the human conduits of this energy (or, at least, an extrapolation) revealing some of the principle power centers in our nation’s Capital.

George Vradenburg

George Vradenburg


G. Wayne Clough
Secretary of the Smithsonian
As the newly appointed head honcho, Clough, the former president of Georgia Institute of Technology, will oversee: 136 million objects, artworks and specimens; 26.8 million visitors; 19 museums; 9 research centers; and one dirty mess left by Lawrence Small. His predecessor’s spending habits had a trickle-down effect that will force Clough to clean house and restore faith in the museum powerhouse. It’s expected that Clough will send a message from day one that employees are there to serve the Institution and not their personal agendas. He’ll have the power to do this, and congressional watchdogs will be taking note.

John “Jack” DeGioia
President, Georgetown University
When the first “scholar without a collar” became the 48th president of Georgetown University, many were skeptical about how things would shake out. But it seems that DeGioia’s steady hand has led to a successful $1 billion capital campaign, a lower (more competitive) rate of admissions, the basketball team finally winning after a several-year depressing losing streak, and a teaching staff that reads like a list of former cabinet members.

Placido Domingo
General Director, Washington National Opera
Washington’s, and perhaps the world’s, most beloved tenor has boldly been pushing the boundaries as the director of WNO, putting the company on the international stage through challenging productions such as Wagner’s The Ring in 2009. His sexy version of La Boheme brought in younger audience members, and even more experienced the show via a telecast to several colleges and universities. The opera has more social cachet than almost any other arts institution, and that’s due in large part to Domingo’s draw.

Stephen Fuller, Professor from GMU
Head of George Mason University’s School of Public Policy
Known for making economics as lively as a Redskins football match, this go-to-guy (and head of George Mason University’s School of Public Policy) is the number-one source for the economic, housing, and employment trends in the Washington area. The regional economic powers-that-be gobble up his analysis before making their investment decisions.

Paul Greenhalgh
Director, The Corcoran Gallery of Art
It was no secret that when Greenhalgh arrived from across the pond, the gallery was in need of major repairs. The director quickly took charge by bringing together one of the largest exhibitions in contemporary art: Modernism, a show that won critical praise and audience appreciation. He followed up with blockbuster shows devoted to Annie Leibowitz and Ansel Adams, which were picked up by other museums across the country.

Michael Kahn
Artistic Director, Shakespeare Theatre Company
Michael Kahn has brought some of the most daring new interpretations of classical theater to Washington in recent years – as well as some of the big names like Kevin Spacey and Dame Judy Dench. With the opening of the brand-new Harman Center, things can only get bigger for the Shakespeare Theatre Company.

Michael Kaiser
President, The John. F Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
With record-breaking fundraising, critically acclaimed performances, and successful renovations underway, Kaiser remains the backbone of Washington’s preeminent performing arts center. His experience arranging contracts with the Kirov Opera and the Kirov Ballet, the Royal Shakespeare Company, New York City Ballet, and the Bolshoi Ballet as well as his famed festivals keep seats sold-out and patrons regularly contributing.

Mason Lecky and Maureen V. Miller
Directors of Admissions, St. Albans School and National Cathedral School
Like a Bravo channel reality competition, these ladies decide whose child is in and whose is out. As spots in top-notch private schools (Sidwell Friends, Landon, Maret, Georgetown Prep, and The Potomac School, to name a few) become increasingly competitive to procure, parents will go to any length to enroll their kids in these schools. Getting in pays off – the alumni roster from these A+ academic institutions are as impressive as a list of attendees of a Grid Iron Club dinner party. Bush brothers Neil and Marvin, J.W. Marriott Jr., and Former Congressman Jesse Jackson will all confirm, if asked, that the backdrop to their playground was the National Cathedral.

George Vradenburg
President of the Phillips Collection
He’s the president of the Phillips Collection and the Vradenburg Foundation, making him one of the most prominent members of Washington’s art community. This former AOL-Time Warner strategic advisor’s commitment to the city’s cultural life has made Washington a better place to explore.

Related Articles