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Logo: American Democracy Project Distinguished Speakers Series

The American Democracy Project has created a proud tradition of vibrant intellectual exchange through its distinguished speaker series. Each year ADP awards grants to academic departments and campus organizations to support lectures on topics related to its mission of promoting civic engagement. 

Spring 2014 Speakers

"Creating and Sustaining a Positive School Environment"



Speaker: Armando Ramirez
Sponsor: Dr. Kumar
Date: Tuesday April 22nd at 7pm in the Seymour Union Ballroom


Description: Brockport Alum Armando Ramirez struggled with motivation in his scholarly endeavors until he found his passion for learning and teaching. Once a D student he is now an educational leader – the Principal of Monroe County’s James Monroe High School. Mr. Ramirez has been described as a “Latino to Watch” by Raquel Serrano of LaVoz, who wrote of him:

Mr. Ramirez inspires… While his life story is filled with a myriad of disappointments and ironies -- it is the epiphany of believing in oneself, and the dedication of positive role models that helped him overcome statistical disadvantages. Everything he’s learned over the years, he tries to share with his students.


In his lecture Mr. Ramirez will share with the Brockport community his experience and ideas about creating a positive and welcoming school environment in which students from diverse backgrounds can thrive.


Speaker: Dr. Sandra Steingraber
Sponsor: Susan Orr
Date: Tuesday February 11th at 7pm in the New York Room, Cooper Hall


Description: Dr. Sandra Steingraber has been hailed as “a poet with a knife” and proclaimed by the Sierra Club to be “the new Rachel Carson.” Her research explores the ways in which chemicals in the environment effect human health. She is well known for her ability to “translate” scientific studies in ways that make them readily understandable and highly readable for the general public. One of her goals is to educate citizens about problems in the environment and their connection to “human rights.” She does this with a view to motivating us all to come together to resolve the crisis of environmental degradation and in so doing improve our public health. Steingraber’s passion and motivation are perhaps best capture in her own words:

What I often say to my audiences is that it is now time to play the Save the World Symphony. It is a vast orchestral piece, and you are but one musician. You are not required to play a solo, but you are required to know what instrument you hold and play it as well as you can. Because in the end, the environment is not just something else to worry about. It is connected to all the things we already worry about—our children, our health, our homeland—and love with all our hearts.


An enthusiastic and sought-after public speaker, Steingraber has keynoted conferences on human health and the environment throughout the United States and Canada. She is recognized for her ability to serve as a two-way translator between scientists and activists.  She has testified in the European Parliament, before the President’s Cancer Panel, and has participated in briefings to Congress and before United Nations delegates in Geneva, Switzerland.  Interviews with Steingraber have appeared in The Chicago Tribune, USA Today, on National Public Radio, “The Today Show,” and “Good Morning America.” You can see here in an interview with Bill Moyers here.

Fall 2013 Speakers

"The Audacity to Heal: Our Rape Culture"


Speaker: Dr. Salamishah Tillet
Sponsor: Karen Logsden
Date: Wednesday October 2nd at 7 pm in the Seymour College Union Ballroom


Description: Dr. Salamishah Tillet is one of the foremost feminist activists and academics of her generation. Dr. Tillet believes the public has reached a "tipping point" in our response to and prevention of sexual assault. All over the country, activists, legislators, and students are organizing to change how individuals and institutions perpetuate a rape culture and harm sexual assault victims. Using her own story of reclaiming her voice, sexuality, and self-esteem after being sexually assaulted in college as well as her two decade long leadership in the movement to end violence against women, Dr. Tillet will provide a road map for how colleges can organize to end campus rape.

“Covered: Activists, Journalists, and the News in a Shifting Media Landscape.”


Speaker: Dr. Sarah Sobieraj
Sponsor: Dr. Denise Copelton
Date: Thursday October 24th  at 7 pm in the New York Room in Cooper Hall.


Description: There is an elaborate and often invisible carnival that emerges alongside presidential campaigns as innumerable activist groups attempt to press their issues into mainstream political discourse. Dr. Sarah Sobieraj’s fascinating research follows fifty diverse organizations over the course of two campaign cycles and reveals that while most activist groups equate political success with media success and channel their energies accordingly, their efforts fail to generate news coverage and come with deleterious consequences. Sobieraj shows that activists’ impact on public political debates is minimal, and carefully unravels the ways in which their all-consuming media work and unrelenting public relations approach undermine their ability to communicate with pedestrians, comes at the expense of other political activities, and perhaps most perniciously, damages the groups themselves.

Spring 2013 Speakers

“Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equality”

Speaker: Tim Wise
Sponsor: Margery Sounders and Barbara Kasper
Date: Tuesday April 16th at 7 pm in the New York Room, Cooper Hall


Description: Ever since the civil rights movement, liberals have advocated a retreat from color-conscious public policies such as affirmative action, and even from open discussion of racism as a key factor in the perpetuation of racial inequity in the United States. They have argued that the barriers faced by black and brown Americans are largely divorced from racism, and that these stem, instead, from economic factors such as deindustrialization, capital flight from the cities, spiraling healthcare costs and inadequate funding for education, jobs programs, and other programs of social uplift. From this starting point, they contend that "universal" programs intended to help the poor and working class are the best means for narrowing the racial inequalities with which the nation is still plagued.
In discussing the pitfalls of "colorblindness" in the Obama era, Wise argues against colorblindness and for deeper color-consciousness in both public and private practice. We can only begin to move toward authentic social and economic equity through what he calls illuminated individualism—acknowledging the diverse identities that have shaped our perceptions and the role that race continues to play in the maintenance of disparities between whites and people of color in the United States today.

“Candidate Without a Prayer”

Speaker: Herb Silverman
Sponsor: Susan Orr/Sanford Miller
Date: Thursday, April 11th at 2 pm in Seymour Union 119

Description: Herb Silverman is Founder and  President of the Secular Coalition for America, and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Mathematics at the College of Charleston. He ran for governor of South Carolina in the 1990s to challenge a state law that required religious belief to hold public office. After an eight-year battle, Herb won a unanimous decision in the South Carolina Supreme Court, which struck down this religious test requirement. The lecture will be based on Herb’s experiences as a “Candidate Without a Prayer” which are also chronicled in his critically acclaimed auto-biography of the same name.

"On Liberty and Justice in the Twenty-First Century"

Speaker: Glenn Greenwald
Sponsor: The History Forum (President and contact is Nick Lind)
Date: Thursday, March 7th at 7 pm in the New York Room (TBC)

Description: Glenn Greenwald is a columnist on civil liberties and US national security issues for the Guardian. A former constitutional lawyer, he was until 2012 a contributing writer at Salon. He is the author of How Would a Patriot Act? (May 2006), a critique of the Bush administration's use of executive power; A Tragic Legacy (June, 2007), which examines the Bush legacy; and With Liberty and Justice For Some: How the Law Is Used to Destroy Equality and Protect the Powerful.

"Political Movement: Dancing Democracy”

Speaker: Candace Feck, “Of Politics, Performance, and the Seeping Nature of Democratic Values.”
Sponsor: Maura Keefe and Karl Rogers, Department of Dance
Date: Wednesday 27 February 2013 2:30-3:30p Hartwell Dance Theatre

Description: Too often dance is considered solely on its aesthetic merits, as rarefied art or entertainment rather than a site of proposing, participating in, and propelling the action of change. From the physical reality of engagement with the body politic to choreographic activism, democratic impulses— freedom, enfranchisement, and ideas “of the people”— are often central to choreography. Notions of inclusivity, long present in vernacular forms of dance and non-Western dance practices, have fed into concert dance as both theoretical underpinnings and practical applications. This project seeks to investigate the role of dance as civic engagement, with particular attention to US concert dance from the 1930s to today. Lecture by Candace Feck

There will also be a Roundtable Discussion - “The Choreographies of Politics” with David Dorfman, Dr. Candace Feck, professor, the Ohio State University, Dr. Barb LeSavoy, Director of Women and Gender Studies (Brockport), Dr. Andrea Ciliotta-Rubery, professor of political science (Brockport, and Karl Rogers, company member and assistant professor of dance (Brockport), moderated by Maura Keefe, PhD, chair of the Department of Dance (Brockport)
Thursday 28 February 2013 12:30-1:45p Hartwell Dance Theatre

"Plenitude – the Economics of True Wealth"

Speaker: Dr. Juliet Schor
Sponsor: Susan Orr
Date: Wednesday, February 20 at 7 pm in the New York Room

Description: Economist and sociologist Dr. Juliet Schor is author of such acclaimed works as “The Overworked American,” “Born to Buy” and the “Over Consumed American.” In this lecture she will discuss her new book “Plenitude: The Economics of True Wealth” which tackles issues of sustainability.

In Plenitude, Juliet B. Schor offers a groundbreaking intellectual statement about the economics and sociology of ecological decline, suggesting a radical change in how we think about consumer goods, value, and ways to live.

Humans are degrading the planet far faster than they are regenerating it. As we travel along this shutdown path, food, energy, transport and consumer goods are becoming increasingly expensive. The economic downturn that has accompanied the ecological crisis has led to another type of scarcity: incomes, jobs, and credit are also in short supply. Our usual way back to growth — a debt-financed consumer boom — is no longer an option our households, or planet, can afford.

Responding to our current moment, Plenitude puts sustainability at its core, but it is not a paradigm of sacrifice. Instead it’s an argument that through a major shift to new sources of wealth, green technologies, and different ways of living, individuals and the country as a whole can actually be better off and more economically secure. Come along and join in the conversation about how this can be achieved.

Fall 2012 Speakers

"Shelby Knox on Social Justice"

Speaker: Shelby Knox
Sponsor: Karen Logsdon
Date: Tuesday, October 3 at 7 pm in Seymour Union Ballroom

Description: Shelby Knox is a dynamic leader in the social justice movement and began her activism when she was 15 years old. She is nationally recognized for her social justice action projects and her advocacy for GLBTQ communities. Shelby Knox became known nationally as the subject of the Sundance award-winning film, The Education of Shelby Knox, a 2005 documentary chronicling her teenage activism for comprehensive sex education and gay rights in her Southern Baptist community. Shelby is currently the Director of Women’s Rights Organizing at change.org, she lives in New York City and working on a book about the next generation of feminist activism and plotting the revolution via Twitter.

Spring 2012 Speakers

Speaker: Sister Helen Prejean
Sponsor: Frank Kuhn and Kristin Heffernan
Title: "Dead Man Walking – The Journey Continues"
Date: Thursday February  29th at 7:30 pm in Hartwell Hall
Description: Roman Catholic nun and noted anti-death penalty activist Sister Helen Prejean will bring her message to The College at Brockport. Prejean is best known as the author of Dead Man Walking, an autobiographical account of her relationship with inmates on death row—where she frequently ministered to those awaiting capital punishment. The book was on The New York Times best-seller list for 31 weeks and was later turned into a movie that starred Sean Penn and Susan Sarandon. The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including best actress—which Sarandon won for her portrayal of Prejean.

Speakers: Monira Rahman, executive director of the Acid Survivors Foundation, and Ms. Fazilatunnessa, an activist and acid attack survivor.
Sponsor: Rehnuma Karim
Title: Surviving Acid Attack: We Have Lost Our Face But Not Our Voice
Date: Friday March 2nd at 1.15pm in Seymour Union 220
Description: Every year, Bangladesh records hundreds of cases of people being attacked with acid, usually as a form of domestic violence. Most of the victims are women. Acid attacks can be devastating, causing blindness, scarring and irreparable physical and emotional damage. Rahman and Fazilatunnessa will talk more about the dangers of acid attacks and share their personal stories.

Speaker: Danielle Bessett
Sponsor: Eric Kaldor
Title: "Cutting Through Red Tape: Public Funding of Abortion"
Date:  Thursday March 22nd at 7:30 pm in Edwards Hall
Description: Dr. Bessett conducts research on issues of women’s reproductive health, access to healthcare, and health care policies. Her talk, will provide students with a greater understanding about how public policies affect real people’s lives. Abortion is a hot button debate topic often. Dr. Bessett’s approach focuses on real lives, not abstract policy principals. This is perfect topic to help students understand how important civic engagement is for the quality of our lives and communities.

Speaker: John S Lewis
Sponsor: Mark Chadsey
Title: "Mining the Sky: Untold Riches from the Asteroids, Comets, and Planets"
Date: Thursday April 26th at 6 pm in Edwards Hall
Description: While we worry over the depletion of the earth's natural resources, the pollution of our planet, and the challenges presented by the earth's growing population, billions of dollars worth of metals, fuels, and life-sustaining substances await us in nearby space. Noted planetary scientist John S. Lewis explains how we can mine these precious metals from the asteroids, comets, and planets in our own solar system for use in space construction projects. And this is just one of the possibilities. Join John S. Lewis as he contemplates milking the moons of Mars for water and hollowing out asteroids for space-bound homesteaders-all while demonstrating the economic and technical feasibility of plans that were once considered pure fiction.

Fall 2011 Speakers

Speakers: Dr. Ron Bishop and Mr. Greg Souvas
Dr. Ron Bishop, lecturer in chemistry and biochemistry at SUNY Oneonta, and a nationally certified chemical hygiene officer. Dr. Bishop has presented widely on technical aspects of the natural gas extraction industry, and is author of the report: “Chemical and Biological Risk Assessment for Natural Gas Extraction in New York”, available at www.sustainableotsego.org.
Mr. Greg Souvas - Mr. Sovas worked at the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) for 33 years until his retirement in 2001. For the last twenty-two years at the NYSDEC, he was the Director of the Division of Mineral Resources overseeing the management and regulation of the oil and gas industry and the mining industry in NY. He is currently President of his own one-person consulting firm, XRM, LLC; a principal and director of Lake Country FracWater Specialists, LLC; and is the primary consultant to the Twin Tiers Landowners Coalition currently helping landowners leasing land for natural gas development focusing on Steuben County, NY and Tioga County, PA.
Sponsors: Bernie Lobrocco and Susan Orr
Title: Citizens Fracking Forum
Date: Thursday 29th September at 7pm in the Seymour Union Ballroom
Description: At this forum you will learn about hydro-fracking a method of extracting gas from the shale rock under our state that is currently an issue of great public concern and debate. Should the state permit hydro-fracking, permit hydro-fracking subject to regulations and limits, or ban hydro-fracking entirely? While some experts and citizens see this gas drilling technique as a threat to our environment and potential source of water pollution, others feel it is a vital source of energy and way to revitalize our economy. During the forum you will hear from two experts with extensive knowledge and diverse views on the potential impact of hydro-fracking in our state. You will also have an opportunity to ask questions. This is especially important at this time as the New York Department of Environmental Conservation has just released a report about hydro-fracking and is looking for public comments on the matter. You will be provided with information about how to comment at the forum.

Speaker: Ralph Spezio
Sponsor: Dale Hartnett
Title: "Exposing the Invisible and Silent Monster That Is Devouring Our Children"
Date: Thursday, October 6, 2011, 7-8 PM in Seymour Union Ballroom
Description: When Brockport alum Dr. Ralph Spezio became principal of Rochester's School 17 in the early 1990's, he was shocked to learn that more than 40 percent of the students in his school were unable to learn because of lead poisoning. The permanent damage to the children's processing skills, auditory skills and ability to deal with frustration marked these children for life. Dr. Spezio will outline how he discovered the problem, how he and others in the Rochester community have joined forces to lead the battle against lead poisoning, and what we can do to join the fight. This issue touches many majors across the Brockport campus.

Speaker: Kimberly Johnson
Kimberley Johnson is a current Guggenheim Fellow, an Associate Professor of English at Brigham Young University (Ph.D. Berkeley), and author of “Leviathan with a Hook” and “A Metaphorical God” both published by Persea Books, as well as of various essays on Renaissance literature.
Sponsor: Brooke Conti
Title: "Poetry reading and reflection – on the roots of poetry in politics, religion and the environment activism"
Date: Thursday October 20th at 7.30pm in Drake Memorial Library
Description: Kimberley will read some of her poetry and engage the audience in discussion of how they engage politics, religion and the environment. To find out more about Kimberly and her poetry visit her website http://www.kimberly-johnson.com/

Speaker: Dr. Lynn Parsons
Dr. Lynn Parsons was a member of the SUNY Brockport Department of History from 1971 to 2005. He received his Bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College in 1958 and his PhD. from the Johns Hopkins University in 1967. While at Brockport he received the Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching. He has published three books (John Quincy Adams: A Bibliography in 1993, John Quincy Adams in 1998, The Birth of Modern Politics in 2009). His unpublished play, “The Tie More Binding,” based on the letters of John and Abigail Adams, has been performed in the Brockport-Rochester area.
Sponsor: Pam O’Sullivan
Title: "John Adams Unbound: Foundations of Democracy"
Date: Wednesday October 26th 4 PM, main floor of Drake Library.
Description: This will be an informative talk on one of our nation’s founding fathers, John Adams and the influences that shaped his life. The talk is in conjunction with the “John Adams Unbound” tour, a collection of writings by John Adams that will be exhibited in the college library - the college was one of only 20 across the nation selected to host the exhibit.

Speaker: Mr. Tom Gosdeck
Sponsor: Dena Levy
Title: "Debunking Myths about Lobbyists"
Date: Thursday November 10th at 7pm in New York Room (time and place TBC)
Description: Brockport Alum and successful NY State lobbyist Tom Gosdeck will share his experiences of lobbying in Albany. He aims to educate the college community about the day to day process of lobbying and undercut some of the “myths” associated with how money is used in the political process.

Speaker: Mark Brummitt, Professor of Old Testament Studies, Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School
Sponsor: Austin Busch
Title: "Biblical Protest and the Political Self"
Date: November 29th Tuesday, November 29, 7:30 pm, New York Room, Cooper Hall
Description: Prof. Brummitt will give a presentation, which will include significant time for discussion, about how discrete biblical literary commonplaces (e.g., that of the beleaguered prophet) have influenced American political discourse from the Puritan colonists to the recent emergence of the influential Tea-party movement.



Here are details of the speakers and sponsors from previous years – we are pleased to have been able to bring such a diverse group of scholars to campus to enrich our academic community. Please consider submitting a grant for next year’s lecture series, the call for submissions will go out in the spring. Please contact speaker series chair Barbara LeSavoy or ADP chair Susan Orr if you have any questions, comments of concerns.

Spring 2011
Speaker: Anne Erickson President & CEO, Empire Justice Center
Anne Erickson is President and CEO of the Empire Justice Center, a leading statewide organization working to secure social and economic security. Empire Justice combines litigation and legal assistance; policy analysis and advocacy; and training and technical assistance in over 30 areas of law to drive high-end impact on critical programs and services for those who are poor, disabled or disenfranchised in New York State. Anne currently serves on the Chief Judge's Task Force to Expand Access to Civil Legal Services and has been active in securing funding for legal services in the state budget for many years.
Sponsor: Margery Saunders, Department of Social Work
Title: “The New York State Constitution and the Imperative for Social Welfare for All: Article 17, the State Budget & Public Policy”
Date: Thursday, April 21 at 6:30 pm, 100 Edwards Hall with Reception to follow.

Speaker: Dr. Farida Jalalzai  - Political Scientist is a 1996 graduate from SUNY Brockport. She is a leading researcher in women in politics and gender studies in the United States and worldwide and a  scholar of Muslim-American political behavior. Her accomplishments highlight not only the successes of women in political science, but also are testimony to SUNY Brockport.
Sponsor: Steve Jurek, Political Science (sjurek@brockport.edu)
Title: “Women, Presidents, and Prime Ministers: A Global Perspective and Implications for Democracy.”
Date: Thursday March 24 at  7 pm in the New York Room

Speaker: Randall Shea - Randall Shea is a Brockport alum who graduated with a double major in Business and French. After working for Campbell’s Soup for many years he became involved in human rights advocacy coordinating 15 delegations of US citizens to Nicaragua, Southern Mexico and Guatemala and documenting human rights abuses in Nicaragua.  In 1995 he became Program Coordinator of Santa María Tzejá Middle School, a small Guatemalan village located in the northwestern part of the country that in 1982 was brutally attacked by the Guatemalan army forcing members of the community to find refuge in Mexico.
Sponsor: Andrea Parada, Foreign Languages and Literature
Title: Lived Realities of  Mayan Culture: Leveraging Gender Equality and Social Change through Education.
Date: Wednesday March 30, 6 pm in the Hartwell Dance Theater

Fall 2010
Speaker: Sean Thomas Dougherty - For the last fifteen years poet and performer Sean Thomas Dougherty has been quietly completing his project to fuse Modernist avant-garde writing with populist traditions that extend back to the father of American poetry Walt Whitman and beyond.   Imagine a hip hop poem written in a thirteenth century Italian form and you will be in the uncharted territory of Dougherty.   He is a writer who seems to scoff at boundaries and borders.  As he has written, “borders offend my democratic principles.” 
Sponsor: Steve Fellner, English (sfellner@brockport.edu)

Speaker: The Honorable Susan John - After serving in the New York State legislature for over 20 years, Assemblymember John has been at the forefront of creating many significant shifts in public policy. Since she is leaving office this Fall, she is uniquely positioned to reflect on her years of service.  Susan John will address several themes related to civic engagement and participatory citizenship by reviewing the role of government in modern society; these include: the shredding of our social safety net, the anti-tax movement, and the future of public policies that promote the public good. 
Sponsor: Margery Saunders, Social Work (msaunder@brockport.edu)
Title: “The Future of the Commons:  Reflections from 20 years of Public Service”

Spring ’10

Vernon Wall -  One of the founders and facilitators of the Social Justice Training Institute. He is a nationally known speaker in the areas of social justice and leadership styles.
 Title: “One Better World” (sponsored by Community Development and the Student Leadership Program)

Donald Grinde Professor and Chair, Department of American Studies, University at Buffalo
 Title: “The Iroquois/Haudenosaunee and the Development of American Government” (sponsored by Anthropology and History Departments)

Robert Westbrook Professor of History, University of Rochester
 “Creative Democracy - The Task Before Us” (sponsored by Political Science Deparment)

Fall ’09

Dr. Rosemary Ommer, Head of the Center for Earth and Ocean Research at the University of Victoria in British Columbia. 
Title: “Coasts Under Stress – Interdisciplinary Research on Fisheries Sustainability, Communities, and Policy” (sponsored by History Department)

Ruben Carranza, Senior Associate at the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ).  .    Title: "The Past is Prologue: How Transitional Justice Can Help Build Democracy," (sponsored by Criminal Justice Department)

Spring ‘09

Allan Johnson, PhD,  Writer,  public speaker,  and teacher who has published several books including The Gender Knot: Unraveling Our Patriarchal Legacy and Privilege, Power, and Difference.
Title:
(sponsored by the History Department)

Ethel Long Scott, Executive Director of the Women's Economic Agenda Project (WEAP), and a leader in the fight to end poverty among the poor. 
Title: " Women, Poverty, and the Struggle of the Poor: Correcting Social Inequalities” (sponsored by the Department of Social Work)

Fall ‘08

Jason Torreano, Brockport Alum ’06, Reporter /Anchor,  KXMB-TV,  Bismarck, ND
 Title: “Cultural Collision: How South African Street Kids Changed a 20-Something’s View of the World” (sponsored by Department of Communications)

 

Spring ’08

Dr. Elaine Miller, Faculty Emerita, Foreign Languages and Literatures,
Title: “Drawing Conclusions: Political Cartoonists on the 2008 Election"
(sponsored by Women’s Studies Department)

Azim Khamisa of the Tariq Khamisa Foundation
Title: "Engagement in Community and Society: A Journey of Forgiveness, Peace, and Purpose”
(sponsored by Political Science Department)

 

Fall ’07

Bruce Niles, Sierra Club and Fred Palmer, Vice President of Peabody Energy
Title: "Reducing Coal Dependence and Powering America with Clean Energy"

Alan Wolfe, Professor of Political Science and the Director of the Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life at Boston College
"Who's Afraid of American Religion?" (sponsored by Political Science Department)

Spring ’07

Dr. Trevor Parry-Giles, Department of Communication, University of Maryland
Title: “Campaign 2008 and the Political Image: Toward a Political Grammar for 21st Century American Politics” (sponsored by the Department of Communications)

Ms. Raheel Raza, Journalist for the Toronto Star and Author of “Their Jihad Not My Jihad”
Title: "Multicultural Discourse in the American Electoral Process” (sponsored by the Departments of History and Anthropology)

2006
Tim O’Brien – Author of the freshman reading selection “The Things They Carried”

Kim Gandy – President of the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Chair of

 NOW’s Foundation and Political Action Committees

Local Contacts