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Philadelphia Speakers Series Announces 2016-17 Season


Last night, the Philadelphia Speakers Series presented by Widener University announced the speakers for its 2016-17 season. The series will feature Presidential historian Jon Meacham, former Prime Minister of Israel Ehud Barak, Academy-award winning actress Rita Moreno, Monty Python co-founder John Cleese, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey, and broadcast journalist Ted Koppel. The final event will be a panel discussion on racism in America with former NPR host Michele Norris, Wall Street Journal columnist and author Jason Riley, and Morris Dees, co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Marking its 13th season this fall, the series offers seven evenings of diverse opinions and world perspectives on Monday evenings at 8 p.m. at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts.

“Widener University is proud to present the Philadelphia Speakers Series, an outstanding opportunity for our community to benefit from the perspectives of national and world leaders, authors, journalists, historians, humanitarians and other influential individuals,” said Widener University President Julie Wollman. “We are particularly pleased to be trying something new this year by offering a panel discussion with three noted individuals as our final event for the season. It should be a lively discussion and will include audience participation, similar to the Q & A sessions we offer with each of our speakers.”

Jon Meacham (September 26), a Pulitzer prize-winning presidential historian, has profiled Andrew Jackson, Thomas Jefferson and, most recently, George H.W. Bush. His body of work spans from the founding fathers to the civil rights era. A former editor-in-chief of Newsweek and a contributing editor to Time magazine, he now serves as the executive editor at Random House.

Ehud Barak (October 17) was prime minister of Israel from 1999 to 2001. He entered politics following a 35-year career as a highly decorated officer in the Israel Defense Forces. He served as leader of the Labor Party until 2011, including posts as minister of defense and deputy prime minister in Benjamin Netanyahu’s government from 2009 to 2013.

Rita Moreno (November 21) is one of only 12 actors who have won all four major awards – an Oscar, an Emmy, a Grammy and a Tony. She won the Academy Award for Best Actress in a supporting role for portraying Anita in the film adaptation of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story. Recently, Moreno was presented with the Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award at the Kennedy Center Honors.

John Cleese (January 16, 2017), co-founded Monty Python, the comedy troupe behind the British comedy show, Monty Python’s Flying Circus and four Monty Python films. He created or appeared in a long list of movies but is probably best known for co-writing and starring in the British sitcom, Fawlty Towers, and co-starring with Kevin Kline and Jamie Lee Curtis in A Fish Called Wanda.

President Barack Obama nominated Gen. Martin Dempsey (February 13, 2017) as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 2011, a position he held until his retirement in 2015. He served as chief of staff of the U.S. Army before this appointment. Prior to that, Dempsey had a distinguished military career, with an assortment of commands in Europe, Iraq and the U.S.

Ted Koppel (March 27, 2017) is best known as the first anchor for ABC’s Nightline, serving in that role from the program’s inception in 1980 until his retirement in 2005. After leaving Nightline he served as managing editor for the Discovery Channel. Koppel is currently a senior news analyst for NPR and a contributing analyst to BBC World News, America and NBC News. In 2015 he published Lights Out: A Cyberattack, A Nation Unprepared, Surviving the Aftermath that reveals that a major cyberattack on America’s power grid is not only possible but likely, that it would be devastating, and that the United States is, shockingly, unprepared.

More than 50 years after the passing of the Civil Rights Act, three distinguished panelists will explore racism in America (April 17, 2017) from their divergent perspectives. The panelists are: Michele Norris, a former host of NPR’s All Things Considered; Jason Riley, a member of the Wall Street Journal editorial board and author of Please Stop Helping Us: How Liberals Make It Harder for Blacks to Succeed; and Morris Dees, co-founder and chief trial attorney of the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Presented by Widener, the Philadelphia Speakers Series is sponsored by WHYY with support from The Haverford Trust Company.

The Philadelphia Speakers Series is sold by series subscription only. Subscription prices range from $275 to $515 (Prices are for tickets to all seven events). For subscriptions or information, visit, or call 215-893-1955.

Widener University is a metropolitan university that connects curricula to social issues through civic engagement. Dynamic teaching, active scholarship, personal attention, leadership development and experiential learning are key components of the Widener experience. A comprehensive doctorate-granting university, Widener is comprised of eight schools and colleges that offer liberal arts and sciences, professional and pre-professional curricula leading to associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees. The university’s campuses in Chester, Exton and Harrisburg, Pa., and Wilmington, Del., are proud to be a tobacco-free. Visit the university’s website,