Past Speakers 2017 – 2019

May 2019, Brian Noyes

Brian Noyes gave us a glimpse behind-the-scenes in running  Red Truck Bakery – about his life and work and his new Red  Truck Bakery Cookbook. “Whatever Brian Noyes bakes tastes so familiar and yet so surprising that I can never decide whether to tell all my friends, or hoard every bite for myself,” the Washington Post raved.

April 2019, Katie Arnold

Katie Arnold spoke about her book Running Home. Katie, who has deep roots in Rappahannock, was a journalist at Outside magazine. She covered extreme athletes and was an ultramarathoner herself. (She ran her first marathon by accident, in the course of interviewing someone else.) Then her father died. Arnold found herself paralyzed with fear, terrified that she, too, would die suddenly. Her book is about how she managed — eventually — to recover.

 March, 2019, Joan Vernikos

NASA scientist Joan Vernikos discussed her new book Stress Beyond Fifty: Tools & Wisdom for a Healthier, Longer Life. One enthusiastic reviewer suggested that Vernikos’s book could have been called “The Handbook for Managing All of the Stresses Which Life May Bring After Fifty” and praised Vernikos’s insights into “when to retire, relaxation, loss and grieving, fear of losing control” and a host of other challenges.

February 2019, Sally Mott Freeman

Award-winning writer Sally Mott Freeman told us about The Jersey Brothers, a true, heroic story of three brothers in the Navy in World War II. The youngest was captured by the Japanese. This was a family saga as well as a work of history, for the missing brother was Sally’s uncle. The Jersey Brothers tells the dramatic, harrowing story of the search to find him. “Her book is liable to break the hearts of Unbroken fans,” the New York Times raved, “and it’s all true.”

January 2019, Joyce Harman

Rappahannock’s own Joyce Harman discussed the beauty of the night sky and talked about her efforts to preserve glorious vistas like the Milky Way. Harman has organized a program she calls the Dark Skies Initiative, in the hope that Rappahannock can fend off light pollution. Harman is an award-winning photographer. She showed her photographs and discussed all aspects of the night sky – why it matters, and how Rappahannock compares with other places, and how things are changing, and what steps local residents can take on their own.

December 2018, Cliff Mumm

Cliff Mumm, one of the world’s leading experts on rebuilding after disasters, spoke in December. Mumm was in charge of cleaning up the World Trade Center after 9/11, and trying to rebuild Iraq after the Gulf War, and coping with the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. These were immense and dangerous undertakings. In Iraq, after the overthrow of Saddam, fifty-two people working for Mumm were killed. Mumm told inside stories about such mega-projects as building the subway in London (with the Olympic games looming)  and the Channel Tunnel linking England and France.

November 2018, George Pettie

Rappahannock novelist and historian George Pettie discussed his trilogy of novels set in Rappahannock.  He also leads groups of readers on Rappahannock tours that he calls Walks Back in Time.

October 2018, Marion Winik

Marion Winik, acclaimed essayist (and Joyce Abell’s daughter-in-law), discussed her brand-new book. The Baltimore Book of the Dead is a series of mini-portraits of people, now dead, who played key roles in Winik’s life. The book is a follow-up to the much admired Glen Rock Book of the Dead. Winik teaches memoir writing at the University of Baltimore and is a long-time contributor to All Things Considered.

September 2018, Jack Ford

Jack Ford, a CBS and PBS news veteran, kicked off the new Second Friday season with a talk about a new novel set in Rappahannock. Chariot on the Mountain is based on a true courtroom case from the 1840s, about a young slave named Kitty who won her freedom fourteen years before the Civil War. Ford is an award-winning journalist and a former trial attorney with a particular interest in court cases where slaves argued that they had a  legal right to freedom.

May 2018, Al Regnery and Stephen Brooks – a conversation from the left and right

Al Regnery and Stephen Brooks had a stimulating conversation on many of the significant issue facing us today. Al and Stephen have built quite a following to their point-counterpoint classes at RappU. Al, the conservative, and Stephen, the liberal, dove into issues from their distinct perspectives and then entertained questions from the audience.

April 2018, Wil Sands

Wil Sands is a photographer and journalist whose newest project focuses on Rappahannock and the wide range of people who call it home. He has put together a unique photography exhibit, “Who We Are: The Rural Identities of Rappahannock,” that highlights “the role of identity in rural life, explores the legacies that define those identities, and documents some of the challenges currently facing rural communities across the United States.” He will be mounting an exhibit with ten-foot-high portraits at outdoor sites around the county; the photos feature a dozen or more Rappahannock residents. Sands talked about how his ambitious project has taken shape, and what he learned as he explored and interviewed his way through Rappahannock.

March 2018, Richard Chefetz

We heard from Richard Chefetz, an internationally known psychiatrist whose specialty is the treatment of trauma. He is renowned for his talent at describing to laymen what goes on behind therapists’ closed doors. Chefetz works daily with adults who endured childhood abuse or neglect or who survived battlefield or wartime hardships or violent attacks at work or at home. He was president of the International Society for the Study of Trauma and Dissociation and has recently published a book on his therapeutic techniques.

Chefetz worked in Madison County as a family physician for a decade, from 1979 to 1989, and founded the Madison Family Practice Center. He is now based in Washington D.C., though he teaches and gives talks on his work around the world.

February 2018, John Beardsley

In honor of Black History Month, John Beardsley, an acclaimed art historian and Rappahannock resident, discussed Black Folk Art in America, 1930-1980, Then and Now. Beardsley’s talk had a double focus – he looked back at a stunningly successful exhibit he curated with Jane Livingston in 1982, and he discussed at the ongoing impact of that exhibition today.

The Washington Post hailed that 1982 show as “vast and vivid, important and uncanny,” and Time called it “a fiery, marvelous folk show.” Today it continues to stir controversy and inspire new shows, including one that opened at the National Gallery of Art on Jan. 28.

The treasures assembled for the Black Folk Art show stunned onlookers. “How can unknown art so strong exist?” the Post asked. “How did these 20 artists – these laborers and barbers, most old, poor, and untutored, working by themselves in the alleys of this city, in the basements of New Orleans, or in tattered southern shacks – produce objects of such power?”

Beardsley explored such questions and examine the riddles and arguments the show stirred up. His talk was built around slides taken from that dazzling show, which was assembled not by cajoling masterpieces from museums but, in the words of the New York Times, “put together piece by piece on the rumor, hearsay, and hot tip.”

January 2018, Norm Ornstein

Norm Ornstein, perhaps the most-honored political writer in America, spoke at the Little Washington Theatre (not at the library). Ornstein discussed his  latest book, a runaway best-seller called One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet- Deported. A packed house (even the balcony was full) listened to Ornstein make a two-part argument: the Trump presidency was dangerous, but it had roused such opposition that it might lead to “an era of democratic renewal.” He won a standing ovation. Ornstein is a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington. He had delivered a Second Friday talk, once before, exactly four years ago. His talk then revolved around an earlier book, It’s Even Worse Than It Looks: How the American Constitutional System Collided with the New Politics of Extremism. We’ll be posting videos of our talks whenever possible. Here’s the link to Ornstein’s talk.

December 2017, Joyce Abell

Joyce Abell read stories from her new book, Prickly Roses, and discussed her life and offered up behind-the-scenes peeks at her writing life and her jammed-to-bursting life generally. Joyce is Rappahannock’s newest and oldest author – she is 92 and Prickly Roses, a memoir, is her first book. Marion Winick, a celebrated writer (and Joyce’s daughter-in-law),  interviewed Joyce and led a Q and A session. An enthusiastic crowd filled the library to toast Joyce and her work.

November 2017, Ira Chaleff

Ira Chaleff, who is acclaimed for his work on leadership and for highlighting the vital role of followership as well,  spoke about his new book. Chaleff, a Rappahannock resident, has conducted seminars around the world and to such audience as NASA and the US Navy. His talk was titled  “What is Intelligent Disobedience and How Does it Apply to Your Life and Times?”

October 2017, Tom Oliphant

Tom Oliphant, prizewinning journalist and Rappahannock resident, discussed his newest book, The Road to Camelot: Inside JFK’s Five-Year Campaign. 

Oliphant is a Pulitzer Prize winner and was Washington correspondent for the Boston Globe for several decades. He appears often on the PBS NewsHour and other television programs. Oliphant has racked up a long list of journalistic coups – he was the first reporter to write about the Pentagon Papers; he won his Pulitzer as part of a team covering school desegregation in Boston; he has written best-selling books on topics as varied as baseball and presidential politics.

Oliphant has covered ten presidential campaigns. The Road to Camelot presents a new take on the 1960 Kennedy-Nixon race. With its focus on polls and television and broadcast advertising, that campaign transformed politics. Oliphant’s history of the contest, wrote the Christian Science Monitor, is “gripping and dramatic” and “terrific.”

September 2017, Richard Clarke

Richard Clarke, one of the nation’s leading authorities on counter-terrorism kicked off our season.

Clarke served as a high-ranking advisor for four consecutive presidents (Reagan, Bush I, Clinton, and George W Bush). He’s best-known for warning the White House, in a meeting on July 5, 2001, two months before 9/11, that “something really spectacular is going to happen here, and it’s going to happen soon.”

He gave a terrific talk about his new book, WarningsFinding Cassandras to Stop Catastrophes, which centers on whether we could have headed off a series of disasters before they hit. Clarke examines several past crises — 9/11, Hurricane Katrina, Bernie Madoff, the 2008 meltdown, among them — and several future ones — climate change, hacking the electrical grid, genetic engineering. His guiding theme is how we can tell, ahead of time, which warnings we need to heed.

May 2017, Kaleb Newago and Lyt Wood

We closed our season with a presentation devoted to getting the most out of a visit to Shenandoah National Park. We got the inside skinny on the best hikes, the best picnics, and the low-down on bears and snakes and so on.  It was a lively presentation from Kaleb Newago of the Park Service, and Rappahannock’s own Lyt Wood, who knows the park’s every nook and cranny. (Thanks to Rapp At Home, a co-sponsor of this talk.)

April 2017, Mike Mahoney

Rappahannock’s own Mike Mahoney is the director of the RAAC Community Theatre’s new production, Arcadia. He and cast members from the production set for May 5, 6, and 7 introduced the play, discussed the themes and characters, and performed a short scene.

The New York Times called Arcadia “Tom Stoppard’s richest, most ravishing comedy to date, a play of wit, intellect, language, brio, and.emotion.” Both in London and New York, Arcadia was hailed as the season’s best play. The action moves back and forth between 1809 and the present at the elegant estate owned by the Coverly family. The play explores the relationship between past and present, order and disorder, certainty and uncertainty, intellect and romance, truth and time, tempered by the disruptive influence of sex.

March 2017, Joan Vernikos

Joan Vernikos, a prominent NASA scientist for many decades, delivered a talk entitled “How to Age Better and Other Space Stories.” In the course of her work for NASA, Vernikos found that sedentary men and women here on earth suffered many of the same problems as their weightless astronauts in space.  She told us tales of life in space and passed on tips about how we can learn from the astronauts’ experience.

February 2017 Leslie Cockburn

Prize-winning journalist and film-maker Leslie Cockburn gave a talk on “Fake News and False Stories.” The talk had generated so much buzz that we switched venue — Cockburn spoke at the Theater in Little Washington, not the library, and even the balcony was full. For many years a producer for 60 Minutes and PBS’s Frontline, among others, Cockburn has covered stories and unearthed scandals around the world.

Cockburn, who lives in Rappahannock, directed the movie American Casino, about the subprime mortgage crisis. She has spent much of her career overseas, in such spots as Haiti, the Middle East, Cambodia, Pakistan, and Nicaragua. She is the author of Looking for Trouble: One Woman, Six Wars, and a Revolution.

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