Past Speakers 2014 – 2016

January 2016: Jane Livingston

Jane Livingston, one of the nation’s leading art curators, spoke to a standing-room-only crowd. Livingston, who lives in Flint Hill, was the associate director and chief curator at the Corcoran Museum in Washington, DC for many years. She told us about her newest project, a four-volume catalogue detailing the career of the American artist Richard Diebenkorn.

Over the years Livingston presented some fifty major shows, on topics from African-American folk art to National Geographic photography to the work of Richard Avedon to Hispanic art. In 1989 she curated a show on the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe. When the Corcoran canceled the show, Livingston resigned in protest.

December 2016: Mike Sands

Mike Sands, local farmer and entrepreneur, spoke about farming and development and how they can peacefully coexist.  Sands lives and farms in Flint Hill. He told us about his ongoing work with a large and thriving program called Prairie Crossing on the outskirts of Chicago which involves hundreds of homes, an organic farm, and large expanses of preserved woods and wetlands. Sands and his wife Betsy Dietel moved to Rappahannock in 2011, and they own and operate Bean Hollow Grassfed. In 2016 they received a Clean Water Farm Award from the state of Virginia. Sands discussed farming and rural communities and how they can best weather the pressures they face.

November 2016: Mike Canning

Mike Canning discussed his book Hollywood on the Potomac, which offers a lively look at how Washington, DC has been portrayed in American feature films. Canning has reviewed films for the Hill Rag newspaper for more than twenty years. His talk was aimed at everyone who loves movies and who loves (or hates) Washington’s shenanigans.

Mike Canning was a foreign service officer for nearly thirty years, working in eight countries on four continents. He is a movie buff of even longer standing. He saw his first film at the age of four, in Fargo, North Dakota. His book covers some fifty films, from classics to froth to thrillers to duds, and includes information on “Goofs” that made it onto the big screen. Canning had tales galore about Hollywood’s Washington and the real thing, and how the two compare.

October 2016: Rob Cary

Lawyer and author Rob Cary told the inside story of one of the most notorious trials of recent years. In 2008, with less than 100 days remaining before he was to stand for re-election, Alaska senator Ted Stevens was charged with taking bribes. Cary defended Stevens, and his book, Not Guilty, tells the stunning story.

Cary and his colleagues were hailed for conducting “one of the best criminal defense performances in memory.” The case rose to notoriety when a special investigation by a federal judge concluded that Justice Department prosecutors had intentionally concealed evidence they should have turned over to the defense. Cary will discuss the case and the lessons it holds for the criminal justice system generally.

Cary has won wide acclaim as one of the nation’s leading lawyers. Bob Woodward hailed Not Guilty as a book that every American “should read and study.” Barry Scheck, co-director of the Innocence Project, called it a “riveting account from one of our country’s great lawyers.”

September 2016: Fred Catlin

Fred Catlin, executive director of Rappahannock’s Child Care & Learning Center, was the season’s first speaker. Over the years Catlin has worked with children from age two through college and gave an informal overview of how people learn and how young minds develop. He called his talk “The Care and Handling of a Child: A Human’s Development from Preschool through Adolescence.”

Less formally, Catlin said, the topic was “How to Cope with Your Child or Grandchild.” Catlin is a renowned speaker with years of experience and anecdotes to draw on. He shared his hard-won insights into that strange and daunting landscape, the developing mind.

May 2016: Molly Peterson and Forrest Pritchard

Molly Peterson and Forrest Pritchard brought the 2016 season of Second Friday at the Library talks to a rousing finish. Peterson is a Rappahannock farmer, a prizewinning photographer, and together with Forrest has produced a much-acclaimed new book. Peterson and Pritchard discussed Growing Tomorrow: Behind the Scenes with 18 Extraordinary Sustainable Farmers Who Are Changing the Way We Eat.

Molly Peterson and her husband Mike have lived in Rappahannock since 2008. They raise beef, lamb, and pork and run Heritage Hollow Farms, in Sperryville.

March 2016: Jim Northup

Jim Northup, superintendent of Shenandoah National Park, spoke to an overflow crowd. He discussed his own career, which has included stints at some of America’s most iconic national parks – Smoky Mountains, Grand Teton, Grand Canyon, and Big Bend, among others. He also spoke about this year’s centennial celebration of the creation of the National Park Service, and of issues facing Shenandoah in particular.

February 2016: John Isaacs

John Isaacs has worked for many years on such issues as Iraq, Congress, and nuclear weapons. How should we respond to Russia’s belligerence in Ukraine, Crimea, and Syria? With ISIS a threat in the Middle East and at home, what can the US do? Isaacs, who is a Senior Fellow at the Council for a Livable World, is one of the leaders of the nation’s arms control community.

January 2016: Bill Dietel

Bill Dietel, storyteller and philanthropist extraordinaire drew a standing room only crowd once again with  “Room 5600,” about his experiences working alongside one of America’s most storied families. Room 5600 was the headquarters of the Rockefeller family at Rockefeller Center in New York. In the ’70s and ’80s, Bill worked for the Rockefeller family philanthropic office and as President of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. He gave us a touching and fascinating behind-the-scenes peek at what he saw from the top of the world.

December 2015: Nevill Turner

Rappahannock’s own Nevill Turner spoke about the joys and woes of his life as an entrepreneur. Turner, whose storytelling skills have several times been displayed at No Ordinary Person, called his talk “My Brilliant Career.” Ten years ago his wife, Clare, started up the Virginia Chutney Company, and Nevill and their son Oliver joined six months later. In the food industry, nine out of ten start-ups fail within two years. Even knowing that, the Turners plunged ahead. Nevill discussed why the odds are so daunting and how they have managed to survive and thrive (mostly) even so.

November 2015: Jon Sawyer

Jon Sawyer, a prize-winning journalist for many years, gave a talk called “The World is Better Than You Think: The Case for Hope in a Gloomy Time.”  Sawyer, who is the director of the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, believes that the long-term, global picture is actually encouraging, despite the bad news in today’s headlines.  He drew on his own first-hand experience in some five dozen countries and on work that the Pulitzer Center supports worldwide.

October 2015: Ron Maxwell

Ron Maxwell, the acclaimed film director, spoke about his Civil War movies, Gettysburg, Gods and Generals, and Copperhead, and in particular about the challenges in telling historical stories.  Maxwell’s theme was the famous observation that “the past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.” Maxwell’s quest is “feeling the way into the past,” and CBS proclaimed his skill at stepping out of the present and into an alien world “awesome to behold.”

September 2015: Diane Trister Dodge

Diane Trister Dodge, one of the leading figures in the field of early childhood education, has worked all over the world – in Mississippi, in the earliest days of the Head Start program, in the Middle East, and in Rappahannock! Dodge has been a weekend resident of Slate Mills since 1976 and is on the board of the CCLC. She spoke about what she has learned in her long career and how the learning center uses her innovative teaching program.

May 2015: Chris Miller

Chris Miller, the head of the Piedmont Environmental Council, spoke about threats to land conservation in the Virginia piedmont and in Rappahannock County in particular.  Chris is one of the leading conservation thinkers in the area and shared his insightful, “insiders” view on critical land conservation issues.

March 2015: John Henry

John Henry talked about his love of stone and told the stories behind the vast stoneworks he has built on his Flint Hill property. He accompanied his talk with a short documentary by Bruce Dale and dozens of still photos by Ray Boc.  You can see a video of his talk on vimeo or youtube.

February 2015: Paul McGeough

McGeough gave a talk entitled “Decisions and Consequences,” on the lessons we learn — or fail to learn — from our actions overseas. His focus was less on the view from Washington and more on the lives and experiences of the people on the ground in the affected countries. McGeough has been a foreign correspondent for 25 years and covered the war in Afghanistan, the war in Iraq, and the 9/11 attack on New York City, among many other assignments. The author of half a dozen books and a long-time editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, McGeough has been named Australian Journalist of the Year two times and has won the Australian counterpart of the Pulitzer Prize, the Walkley, eight times.

January 2015: New Writers

We heard from three area writers, Pete Pazmino, Penny Pennington, and Sheila Lamb.

Pete Pazmino is a Rappahannock resident and a prize-winning author. In 2014, he was named one of 11 Claudia Mitchell Arts Fund grantees by the Rappahannock Association for the Arts and Community (RAAC).

Penny Pennington, who lives in Warrenton, spent years working in films and TV in various jobs. She’s written an acclaimed novel called It Gives a Lovely Light.

Sheila Lamb teaches at Rappahannock County High School and has also completed the first two novels in a historical trilogy.

November 2014: Lester Brown

Brown is an internationally acclaimed environmentalist, hailed by the Washington Post as “one of the world’s most influential thinkers.” He spoke on global issues — population, energy, climate – with a special focus on the politics of food and hunger. Brown was introduced by Bill Dietel, his friend for many years.

October 2014: Bill Dietel

Bill Dietel, a philanthropist and long-time Rappahannock resident, gave a humorous talk called “Memoirs of a Head Mattress.” A one-time educator, Dietel recalled his years as a school headmaster.

September 2014: Cliff Miller

Cliff Miller discussed the reasons behind the many changes he has made in his way of farming in recent years. His family has been farming in Rappahannock since 1827, on 845 acres of land near Sperryville. Miller took over Mt. Vernon Farm in 1998, after a career off the farm working for IBM. The changes involved his approach to the Thornton River, which runs through his land, and to crops and livestock.

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