Listen to writers and experts from all over tell us about their latest work on 2nd Fridays (8:00 pm, monthly September to May) held at the Rappahannock Library or at one of two theaters in the town of Washington.
We need your help to find new 2nd Friday speakers. Many of our best speakers have come from your suggestions. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org with ideas. Speakers need not have a Rappahannock connection, although that is a bonus. All topics of general interest will be eagerly considered.
Upcoming RAAC Library Talks
February, 2020, Jim Reston
Jim Reston talked about his new book, The Impeachment Diary: Eyewitness to the Removal of a President, his first-hand account of the impeachment of Richard Nixon. Reston discussed the Nixon impeachment and the Trump impeachment, and what lessons we can draw from those two sagas.
Richard Nixon was perhaps “the most fascinating politician of the twentieth century,” in Reston’s judgment, and he watched his career in close-up. His account of the Nixon impeachment is “impossible to put down,” in the words of the constitutional scholar Laurence Tribe, and the Christian Science Monitor called Reston’s book “an edge-of-your-seat account.”
Reston, who has deep local roots, is one of America’s most versatile and most acclaimed writers. He is a novelist, a historian, and a playwright; his Galileo’s Torch and Sherman The Peacemaker were both performed in Rappahannock with a cast that included several Rappahannock notables.
January, 2020, Michael Shea
Michael Shea, a therapist in Washington, DC, talked about Art, Consciousness, Ethics, and Social Media
Shea described art as a vehicle of self-expression. Mental health uses art as a tool to understand symbols, dreams, express feelings, and increase awareness. Technology and the expansion of art in digital platforms and social media has re-surfaced a need to discuss boundaries, consciousness, and ethics of self-expression with civility. Michael’s remarks offered thoughts for consideration and discussion based on his experience as an Integrative Psychotherapist, a performing artist, and as a “seeker” of knowledge and wisdom.
December, 2020, Randy Rieland
Journalist Randy Rieland told us about what he has learned in his close-up examinations of Rappahannock County. He called his talk “Simple Beauty, Complex Place.”
For the past three years, Rieland has written about some of the bigger challenges facing the county — from spotty cell and broadband service to the aging volunteer fire and rescue squads to limited health care options. Through the many interviews for those stories in the Rappahannock News, he has come to better appreciate how, for all its seeming simplicity, this is one complicated community.
Rieland has been a newspaper and magazine editor and writer for more than 25 years. He has written for the Washingtonian, Johns Hopkins Magazine, and Smithsonian. He also worked in digital media for 17 years, including as the head of digital media for the Discovery Channel. He and his wife Carol Ryder live in DC and in Rappahannock.
November 2019, Dana Hand Evans
November’s 2nd Friday Talk featured Dana Hand Evans, the Executive Director/Chief Executive Officer of the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley in Winchester, VA. The MSV is on a 450-acre site, which is complete with three historic houses, twelve buildings, seven acres of public gardens, 200 acres of working farm and a 50,000 square-foot Museum gallery and administration building.
The museum’s website can be found here:
October 2019, Al Regnery
Al Regnery talked about his new book Unlikely Pilgrim: A Journey Into History and Faith. Over the course of twenty years and eleven trips, Regnery and a close friend hiked, biked, and hitchhiked their way to sites that played an important role in the history of Christianity and Islam. They visited monasteries and churches in Greece, Turkey, and Syria, among other sites, focusing on the role of religion and faith in the lives of those they met, and in their own lives as well.
September 2019, John Bourgeois
For many years Colonel John Bourgeois was director of “The President’s Own” United States Marine Band. He called his talk, which looked back at his long and celebrated career, “Sins of My Youth.” Bourgeois’s career spanned nine presidential administrations, from Eisenhower to Clinton. Along the way he collected too many honors to list and rose to become, in the words of the Secretary of the Navy, “a national treasure.” We have a video of his talk (made by Ray Boc) here.
May 2019, Brian Noyes
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
JAl 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
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 a 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, Warnings: Finding 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.
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
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.