December Happy Hour: The Dark Secret Behind Charles Dickens' Christmas Tales with Andrew Halls
Wednesday, December 13, 2023 at 5 PM (ET)
The Dark Secret Behind Charles Dickens' Christmas Tales with Andrew Halls
When Charles Dickens died, a child famously asked if this meant Father Christmas would die, too. Such was the power of Dickens' grip on the popular imagination, the Christmas season almost seemed his own creation. Dickens inspired millions with visions of a glowing, holly-strewn celebration, rich in sentiment and good cheer, underpinned by recurrent themes of memory, loss and redemption. These Christmas tales held secrets, dark secrets, personal to their author, too. In this talk, Andrew Halls explores Dickens' Christmas Books and Christmas Stories, showing that some of the most beloved tales of 19th century England and America contain unsettling insights into the mind, motives, and desires of one of the most popular, most known - and yet most hidden - novelists in history. This ESU Happy Hour is sponsored by the Cleveland Branch.
Read Full Story
Chairman's November Newsletter
A Message from Chairman Dr. Quinn Peeper
As the leaves fall and November brings a sense of reflection and gratitude, I am delighted to share with you some exciting news and extend my heartfelt thanks to our incredible ESU community. It is through your unwavering support and enthusiasm that we continue to make a meaningful impact on people's lives through the power of the English language.
The month of October was marked by the 2023 Annual General Conference, themed "Blueprint for Growth: Unity of Purpose," held in Kansas City, Missouri, October 20-22, 2023. Praise goes to our gracious host, the Kansas City Branch, for the success of the event. I especially want to thank Branch President Ben Martin, former ESU National Board Member and former Kansas City Branch President Jeffrey Schnabel, and the volunteers for their hard work to make this conference such a memorable and enriching experience for all of us.
The ESU 2023 Conference participants in front of the
WWI Museum and Memorial, Kansas City, MO
From the engaging workshops to the thought-provoking discussions, it was a weekend filled with enriching experiences that left us all with valuable insights and lasting memories. As we discussed the challenges we face - leadership development, membership growth, and program relevance – we shared ideas about how to grow our membership and impact by forging partnerships with like minded organizations, deploying technology to reach new constituents, and expanding our programs for life-long learners. The conversations revolved around adapting our offerings to address contemporary needs in order to ensure that the ESU remains a vital resource in an ever-changing world.
The Annual General Conference's social program was a dynamic blend of cultural and historical experiences that resonated deeply with the ESU's mission and founding principles. The visit to the WWI museum was a poignant reminder of the historical context in which the English-Speaking Union was founded. The luncheon with Missouri Poet Laureate Maryfrances Wagner was a celebration of the arts and literary expression, which aligns with the ESU's commitment to the English language and culture.
I should also mention that the conference was also a time to celebrate the ESU's most enthusiastic and generous members and supporters. During the welcoming dinner on Friday night, October 20, we recognized a number of individuals for their leadership within their Branches with the 2023 ESU Membership Recognition Awards.
The Patron Reception, already a cherished tradition that highlights the role our National Patrons play in furthering the ESU's mission, featured Timothy Riley, Executive Director and Chief Curator of the National Churchill Museum, who spoke about Sir Winston Churchill's ability to deploy the power of the English language as a political and diplomatic weapon at home and abroad.
Tim Riley addresses the ESU National Patrons at
the ESU 2023 National Patron Reception
For a comprehensive account of the conference, including photos, links to ESU documents and resolutions, session videos, and more, please visit our website page dedicated to the event.
ESU Board member Jon Sichel, EVP of Hallmark, and
Rev. Renee Liabraaten at the Saturday plenary session
At the 2023 Annual General Conference we made two important announcements.
The 2024 ESU Annual General Conference will take place in Cleveland, OH, hosted by our Cleveland Branch from October 18 to 21, 2024. The conference will be of special significance because it will coincide with the 2024 ESU International Council Meeting. We are delighted to have the opportunity to welcome our friends from around the globe to Cleveland next year.
We also unveiled the 2024 National Patron Tour. As you may already know, the ESU National Patron Tours enhance engagement with the ESU community through bespoke experiences thanks to the ESU's long-established international connections. The 2023 voyage this past July took us on a transatlantic crossing aboard Queen Mary 2 and an exclusive tour to special places in and around London.
Aboard Queen Mary 2 in July 2023
The 2024 Patron Tour will take us to the Veneto Region of Italy under the theme of "Shakespeare and the Building Arts." We are collaborating with our Italian host, Count Stefano Aluffi-Pentini, founder and CEO of A Private View of Italy, on an experience that will allow us to discover some of the most exciting inaccessible treasures hidden behind closed doors in the Veneto region.
Again guided by our resident Shakespeare expert Dr. Catherine Loomis, this immersive journey will unveil the profound interplay between the streets, the theaters, the aristocratic villas and the world of Shakespearean drama.
Dear friends, the English-Speaking Union is a family, a community of individuals who share a common passion for the English language and culture, for education and friendship-building. It is through your dedication, passion, and unwavering support that we continue to thrive as an organization. Our mission to promote the use of the English language as a tool for cultural exchange and mutual understanding is made possible by your involvement, support, and commitment.
Throughout the year, we have witnessed countless moments of inspiration and growth within our community. Whether it's the success of our scholarship recipients, the lively discussions at our events, or the tireless work of our volunteers, each of you plays an integral role in advancing our mission. Your contributions have not gone unnoticed, and for that, I want to extend my sincerest thanks.
As we gather with our loved ones to celebrate Thanksgiving, let us not only savor the delectable meals and cherished traditions but also remember the importance of giving thanks and giving back. Our collective effort ensures that the ESU remains a beacon of learning, inclusivity, and cultural exchange. Your support has allowed us to make a real impact in the lives of countless individuals, and we are incredibly grateful for that privilege.
In the weeks ahead, just before Thanksgiving, we will be sharing with you our traditional annual appeal for support, a vital moment for our organization. I sincerely hope that, as you have done so generously in the past, you will once again respond with open hearts to our appeal. Your generous contributions have been vital to our endeavors, and we are truly grateful for your unwavering commitment. Your continued support is the lifeblood of our mission, and together, we can continue to make a lasting difference in making people's lives work better through the power of the English language.
"I can no other answer make but, thanks
And thanks, and ever thanks."
William Shakespeare, "Twelfth Night"
With best regards,
Dr. E. Quinn Peeper
The English-Speaking Union
Read Full Story
Annual Conference 2023
Annual Conference 2023
Blueprint for Growth: Unity of Purpose
Kansas City, Missouri
October 20-22, 2023
The ESU 2023 General Conference, themed "Blueprint for Growth: Unity of Purpose" took place in in Kansas City, MO, from October 20 to 22, 2023.
Our gracious host, the Kansas City Branch, deserves all the credit for the success of the event. Special thanks go to Branch President Ben Martin, former ESU National Board Member and former Kansas City Branch President Jeffrey Schnabel, and the volunteers for their hard work to make this conference such a memorable and enriching experience for all participants.
Read Full Story
ESU 2024 Patron Trip: A Private View of Italy
A Private View of Italy – Our Italian Partner and Host
Founded by art historian Count Stefano Aluffi-Pentini in 1996, A Private View of Italy encourages guests to appreciate the life of historic palaces and villas, and allows them to discover the inaccessible treasures that are hidden behind closed doors. Through the centuries the Italian aristocracy has preserved their residences, which were designed by architects such as Raphael, Palladio, and Bernini.
Thanks to Count Stefano Aluffi-Pentini's trusted interactions and long-time friendships with the families owning these residences, our group will be welcomed in extraordinary places, often by the homeowners themselves.
A Private View of Italy has hosted groups from many illustrious institutions including:
- The Art Institute of Chicago
- The Collectors Circle of the Winterthur Museum
- The Frick Collection
- Morgan Library
- New York Philharmonic
- The Metropolitan Museum of Art
- Philadelphia Museum
- Whitney Museum
- World Monuments Fund
About the ESU National Patron Tours
The ESU National Patron Tours enhance our Patrons' engagement with the ESU community through bespoke experiences of cultural enrichment, educational exploration, and unforgettable adventures.
Read Full Story