December 17, 2017
Presented by Joy McConnell, Ethical Culture Leader with statements by members and guests
The theme of this year’s Winter Festival was “Gratitude” for all of the abundance we have and share. Most in attendance brought a token or symbol of something for which he or she feels gratitude to hang on our Winter Festival Tree or to place around it on the table. The festival included music, poetry, inspiring words, our traditional Ethical Culture candle-lighting ceremony and ended with a pot-luck meal.
“The Nature and Nurture of Passion”
November 19, 2017
Presented by Gregg Levoy
Gregg presented thoughts on what inspires passion and what defeats it, how you lose it and how you get it back. It’s not just about finding a passion, but living passionately yourself and with your friends, family, community, and work colleagues. Passion is ultimately about the hunger to learn and thrive, the impulse toward growth and aliveness. Our attachment to life depends on our interest in it. Passionate people operate from a sense of primary motivation — for the charge and challenge, for the sense of meaning and purpose, not just the payoff, not just ambition. Gregg explored several principles from his recent book Vital Signs: The Nature and Nurture of Passion (2014).
Gregg Levoy is an author (Callings: Finding and Following an Authentic Life), columnist, keynote speaker, and former adjunct professor of journalism at the University of New Mexico, a reporter for the Cincinnati Enquirer, and “behavioral specialist” at USA Today. He is a frequent guest of the media, has presented at numerous business, nonprofit, government and university conferences and has written for the New York Times Magazine, Washington Post, Psychology Today and many others. His website is www.gregglevoy.com.
“Latin America: What the Left Got Right and What It Got Wrong”
October 15, 2017
Presented by Dada Maheshvarananda
Socialist parties with a social justice agenda gained political power in the 1990’s and 2000’s so that by 2010, leftists were controlling governments in Nicaragua, Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Bolivia, Ecuador, and Paraguay. However, by 2012, the tide began to turn and today Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay are run by right-wing leaders while Chavez’s successor in Venezuela is barely hanging on. Did living conditions for the common people improve in these countries and, if so, how was that achieved? What mistakes were made that caused many of those governments to fall? What lessons can we learn from their experiences?
Dada Maheshvarananda is an author, activist and yoga monk. For the last 10 years, he has served as the director of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, an independent foundation that has consulted with cooperatives. His first book, “After Capitalism: Prout’s Vision for a New World” (preface by Noam Chomsky), was published in 2003 and has been translated into 10 languages. His second book, “After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action,” was published in 2012. His latest book, “Cooperative Games for a Cooperative World,” was just released in May 2017. He gives seminars and workshops about social activism and cooperatives and has spoken at the UN and with several world leaders about Economic Democracy.
“Conversations on the Middle East”
September 17, 2017
Presented by Said Abdallah and Cindy Osborne
Said and Cindy spoke about their different historical narratives, their peacemaking efforts, how they connected and how they are working to educate and promote dialog rather than perpetuate divisions and demonize the other side. They talked about why criticizing policy, corruption and ineffectiveness is neither anti-Israel nor antithetical to Palestinian freedom.
Said Abdallah left Ramallah when he was 19 and raised his family in the US, but returns to visit extended family in the West Bank. He has a green card and has worked as an electrician and a hydroponics entrepreneur. Cindy Osborne, was born in the US, grew up in Israel, served in the Israeli military, has dual Israeli and US citizenship, raised her family in Israel and the US, and currently works as a massage therapist and freelance editor.
Said and Cindy are part of PAJET (www.pajetnc.org), an Asheville, based group of peacemakers and activists committed to working toward a just settlement of the Middle East conflict resulting in Palestinians and Israelis living in peace with equal human rights & dignity.
“Ethics in Journalism”
August 20, 2017
Presented by Larry Blunt
Larry Blunt discussed the impact of technology, changes in broadcasting, government regulation and the effects of a polarizing political climate on the news broadcasting business. He also discussed the role and actions of individuals in improving ethical accountability.
For more than 30 years, Larry Blunt has reported and anchored the news, the past 12 at WLOS-TV in Asheville. His investigative reporting has led to confrontations with the Church of Scientology, the reputed mafia boss of Kansas City, and a county official misusing taxpayers dollars. His work has been recognized with dozens of awards, including Eight Emmy’s and a lifetime achievement award with induction into the Emmy “SILVER CIRCLE”, southeast chapter. Larry is a graduate of Purdue University at Fort Wayne, a U.S. Navy veteran, and husband of Jan Blunt, former Buncombe County school communications director who spoke to our group a few years ago about school vouchers.
“Health Systems Around the World: Myth and Reality”
July 16, 2017
Presented by Bradley Fuller
Bradley Fuller discussed the myths and realities of the healthcare systems and outcome measures of several developed countries around the world – Germany, Japan, Switzerland, UK, and Taiwan. How do these international healthcare systems compare to the US both as it is today and as repeal and replace is envisioned?
Bradley B. Fuller, M.P.A., M.A. served for twenty-five years as an adjunct professor at St. Joseph’s University in health administration, teaching both undergraduates and graduates. His expertise is in health policy, managed care, aging services, organization design, management theory, and psychology. He also has thirty-six years of experience in executive administration in nonprofit human services, dealing with issues of mental health, retardation, the elderly, and youth.
“Global Ethics: 10 Universal Essentials (Capabilities) to Well Being”
June 18, 2017
Presented by Grace Campbell
Grace Campbell explored the essentials of what is required for people to achieve well-being. Is there a universal measure of global justice and human flourishing that also respects religious and cultural differences? Prof. Campbell presented the 10 capabilities to well-being proposed by Martha Nussbaum in her book “Women and Human Development”. It quickly becomes evident just how dire the conditions are under which so many women around the world try to live, work and love.
Grace G. Campbell teaches in Philosophy, Environmental Studies, and all four courses in UNC-A’s required Humanities core. She helped design and now teaches the required senior capstone course, Cultivating Global Citizenship. She is completing her PhD in Philosophy from University of Tennessee, and holds a Master of Liberal Arts and a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from University of Colorado. Prior to her academic career, she worked in corporate environmental management consulting.
“Pursuing Justice. Improving Lives. Pisgah Legal Services”
May 21, 2017
Presented by Ken Kiser
Ken Kiser, Pisgah Legal Service outreach presenter, gave an overview of the impact Pisgah Legal Services has had in its 40 years of serving the needs of those battling issues of homelessness, domestic violence, child abuse, subsistence income, healthcare and immigration.
Ken, a former teacher, Spanish speaker and song writer enthusiast, left the classroom to join Pisgah Legal Services in 2016 to further his interest in addressing social justice issues. As an ACA navigator, he also talked about the ACA and shared a few consumer stories.
“Connecting Across Divides”
April 16, 2017
Presented by Roberta Wall
Roberta spoke about her experiences conversing and connecting with others across religious, political and cultural divides. She drew from her work in the service of peaceful transformation of our world, most recently through Nonviolent Communication Trainings in the Mideast (West Bank and Israel). In today’s politically charged world, possessing the tools and techniques of deep listening and reflecting each others’ humanity is ever more important for our community, our family and for us as individuals.
Roberta Wall is a certified trainer with the Center for Nonviolent Communication (NVC). She was a civil rights lawyer in NYC, and is a mediator, trainer, facilitator, parent, grandparent, activist, mindfulness practitioner and coach. Before moving to Asheville, she shared her time between the US and the Mideast and travelled the world facilitating workshops and retreats and coaching couples, individuals and organizations in Mindfulness and Nonviolent (Compassionate) Communication (NVC). Her teachers include Dr. Marshall Rosenberg , Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh and Rabbis and Rebbetzins from her root Jewish tradition. Her most recent blog: http://us7.campaign-archive2.com/?u=16bc26dab0e0223a2c489752d&id=9dc2708470&e=[UNIQID]. Her website: www.steps2peace.com
The Hidden, Devious Opportunity in North Carolina’s K-12 Opportunity Scholarships
January 17, 2016
Presented by Jan Blunt
Jan presented a program on how NC’s K-12 school vouchers, so-called “opportunity scholarships,” are, on the surface, about providing low-income parents with more school choices for their students but the details tell a different story. Tax dollars intended for public schools are being sent to private religious schools without accountability or transparency for how the funds are spent, what their students are taught, or by whom. She made the case that lawmakers want to give all students, not just low-income children, the same “opportunity” because the grants to private schools are less per student than the money given to the public schools. The more students that sign up for the “opportunity scholarships”, the less the state will have to pay for education.
Jan Blunt has been a teacher, Marketing Director and is the former Communications Director for Buncombe County Schools. Jan researched and wrote about NC’s “opportunity scholarships” for her Public Policy Analysis course in completing her Masters of Public Affairs program at Western Carolina University. Her career has spanned both the public and private sectors. Jan now has her own firm, Strategic Communications for the Public Sector.
Winter Festival, 2015 – “Heaven’s Here on Earth” was the theme
December 20, 2015
Presented by Joy McConnell and many guest presenters and musicians
Joy McConnell lead a program of poetry reading, beautiful images and a holiday season exploration of gratitude and appreciation. Building on the Tracy Chapman song of the same title, we explored various perspectives on what makes life worth living.
A potluck holiday dinner was served after the meeting.
“Good Without God – Humanism in Western North Carolina”
November 15, 2015
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life which affirms the ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives that aspire to the greater good of humanity. Two panelists from Western NC Humanists and two panelists from the Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville discussed the history and philosophy of each organization – exploring how they are alike and different. Moderated by Tom Heffner, Calvin presented the history of the American Humanist Association (AHA) and Judy Kramer presented the history of the Ethical Culture movement and the American Ethical Union (AEU). Geri Weaver, the president of WNC Humanists discussed the current activities and focus of the organization. Andy Reed, a member of Ethical Humanist Society Asheville (ESHAsheville) and former Board Member, presented the three pillars of our local EHSAsheville activities focusing on the “Head” – our Platform/Presentation Meetings; the “Heart” – our Colloquy Meetings: and the “Soul” – our diverse Ethical Action activities
Discussion also focused on similarities and current and new areas of collaboration.
“Sexuality and Current Events”
October 18, 2015
Presented by Kelley Johnson
Kelley discussed how recent news events in Asheville and around the nation relate to sexuality. She drew from a multi-disciplinary approach to current events and fostered critical thinking about important issues of the day. The discussion helped participants recognize and focus on what we can do to combat sexually inappropriate behavior.
Kelley Johnson has been a health educator since 1989; she has spent 15 years teaching Health and Sexuality and Women’s Health at UNC Asheville. She has a B.S. in Clinical Nutrition and a Master’s degree in Public Health Education, both from UNC Greensboro. In 2009, she received a Ph. D. in Human Sexuality. Dr. Johnson’s practice includes private consultation, public speaking, curriculum development, professional training and education.
“Critical Actions for Global Survival”
September 20, 2015
Presented by Jim Barton
Jim discussed the converging global movements for world peace, the focus on climate change, and improving the human condition. He focused on the 14th International Day of Peace celebrated annually on September 21st, the UN’s soon-to-be ratified Sustainable Development Goals, and Pope Francis’s encyclical on issues of climate, ecology, and human well-being with his upcoming addresses to the UN and the U.S. Congress.
Jim Barton grew up three blocks from the Essex Ethical Culture Society in Maplewood, NJ and attended the then-Ethical Culture sponsored Encampment for Citizenship in 1976. He studied History and German Studies at the University of California in Santa Cruz and attended law school at the University of California in Davis. He has been active in the peace movement for 41 years, in the environmental movement since 1977, and the movement for global democracy since 1989. Barton has lived in Asheville since 2005.
“Ordinary People Making a Real Difference: A Report from the 100th Assembly of the American Ethical Union”
August 16, 2015
Presented by Joy McConnell and Jackie Simms.
Ours is the first generation that can end poverty, and the last that can take steps to avoid the worst impacts of climate change, if humanity has the will to do so. To those ends, the United Nations prepared Sustainable Development Goals as a roadmap to fight against extreme poverty, strive toward more equitable economic growth and environmental sustainability, and reduce the dangers of human-induced climate change. To support those UN Goals, the AEU 100th Assembly gave participants opportunities to hear experts on social, environmental, and economic development speak about the many grass-roots ways we can protect our world for future generations. Jackie and Joy shared what they learned at the Assembly and how they were inspired and energized by their experiences.
Joy McConnell, a certified Ethical Culture Leader since 1989, has served as clergy with the Ethical Society of St. Louis, the Ethical Humanist Society of Chicago, and as consulting Leader with our Society here in Asheville. In the 1990s, Joy served the American Ethical Union as Director of Religious Education and Director of Growth and Development.
Jackie Simms has been affiliated with the Ethical Culture movement since 1978 and, in 2001, was a founding member of the Ethical Humanist Society of Asheville. She is a former director of the Western North Carolina Satellite Program for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing and a retired teacher in the Early Intervention Program for Children who are Deaf or Hard of Hearing.
“Lessons from Jane: The enduring Urban Wisdom of Jane Jacobs”
July 19, 2015
Presented by David A. Johnson, FAICP, Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville.
A half century ago, a feisty New York journalist changed how we think about cities and economies. In her remarkable career, Jane Jacobs challenged established urban planning orthodoxies, defeated the bulldozers of Robert Moses and showed us how to look at and improve our neighborhoods. The lessons she taught us are still germane to cities like Asheville. Prof. Johnson spoke about the continuing relevance of Jane Jacobs to current issues of urban and national development. After Dr. Johnson’s talk, Annie Butzner, Jane Jacobs’ niece, shared memories of her aunt.
David Johnson is Professor Emeritus of Urban and Regional Planning at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. He received Bachelor and Master degrees in architecture and planning from Yale, a PhD in regional planning from Cornell and was a Senior Fulbright scholar at the Moscow Institute of Architecture. He is the author of numerous articles and several books, including Planning the Great Metropolis (2015) that examines how past planning shaped the New York Metropolitan Region. Dr. Johnson is a Past-President of the Fulbright Association of the United States and a Fellow of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He resides in Asheville, NC where he serves on the board of the Asheville Design Center.
Annie Butzner studied sculpture and later became a nurse. She was educated as an Oncology/Psychiatric Clinical Nurse Specialist at University of Delaware, Memorial Sloane Kettering Cancer Center and the Cleveland Clinic. She was Visiting Faculty and speaker at MSKCC. After moving to NC, she worked as Medical Programs Chairperson at a local college, Nursing Supervisor/Wound Care Specialist at Highland Farms, and Director of Nursing. “Health Disparities in Buncombe County. How Do We Close The Gap?”
“Health Disparities in Buncombe County. How Do We Close The Gap?”
June 21, 2015
Presented by Sharon Kelly West, Women Veteran’s Program Manager – Charles George VA Medical Center.
West provided an overview of the history of disparities in Buncombe County and the interventions that have been made to impact community health through community collaborations and programming. The importance of advocacy and community champions was highlighted.
West is a registered nurse with a Master’s degree in Health Science from Western Carolina University. She completed post graduate studies at Wake Forest University in Clinical Ethics. She is a Jim Bernstein Fellow of Community Leadership and appointed by the NC Speaker of the House of Representatives to the Minority Health Advisory Council.