Two islanders, Lauri Hennessey and Robert Horton, have been selected as part of Humanities Washington’s distinguished Speakers Bureau program.
The Speakers Bureau brings hundreds of public humanities talks to communities around the state each year, both virtually, now, and in person. The 2021-23 speakers’ roster includes more than 30 professors, artists, activists, historians, performers, journalists, and more – all of whom were chosen for their ability to inspire thoughtful discussion with people of many different ages and backgrounds.
Here’s more about the erudite islanders selected for this honor, and their talks.
Film critic Robert Horton, who moved to Vashon in 2020, is presenting a talk called “This is the End: How Movies Prepared Us for the Apocalypse.”
In the lecture, illustrated with film clips, Horton shares the eerie imagery of apocalyptic movies, and how these films foreshadowed the COVID-19 pandemic: the extremes of divisiveness and community-building, the loneliness of isolation, and the tantalizing possibility of starting over again.
“I’ve always loved end-of-the-world movies,” Horton said, in a brief interview with The Beachcomber, ticking off a list of terrifying titles including “Contagion,” “The Day After Tomorrow,” “I am Legend,” and “2012.”
Horton recalled how he felt, after COVID emptied the streets of Seattle and other major metropolitan areas in 2020, that he was seeing something familiar.
“I had déjà vu, because I’d seen it in movies,” he said.
Horton moved to Vashon in 2020, following his wife, Evy Horton, when she became manager of the Vashon Villages program for Vashon Senior Center.
Now, one way he is settling into island life is by hosting his own radio show, on Voice of Vashon.
Robert’s show, “The Music and the Movies,” examines the alchemy that happens when sound meets image. Past episodes have included a “Jim Jarmusch Jukebox,” and an examination of the music associated with the films of Sidney Portier and Harry Belafonte, two actors with a deep, decades-long friendship.
Robert is a member of the National Society of Film Critics and was the longtime film reviewer for the Seattle Weekly, Everett Herald, and KUOW. He has also traveled the world to serve on film festival juries. His books include a critical study of “Frankenstein,” and he has been a Fulbright specialist, a Smithsonian Journeys speaker, and an instructor at Seattle University and the Architectural Association in London.
Listen to “The Music and the Movies” at voiceofvashon.org/the-music-and-the-movies, and visit Robert’s website, The Crop Duster, at roberthorton.wordpress.com.
Islander Lauri Hennessey has lived on Vashon since 2001 and is well-known on Vashon for many reasons. For many years, she authored a regular column in The Beachcomber about her family and community life; she still contributes occasional commentaries and articles to the newspaper. She is also a talented singer and performer who has appeared in many local stage productions.
All the while, she has also pursued an accomplished professional life that now totals more than 30 years of experience in communications, politics, and nonprofits. Currently, she is the CEO of the League of Education Voters and a board member for the state chapter of the National Women’s Political Caucus.
But Hennessey’s Speaker’s Bureau talk details another early chapter of her life, one she has told few people about until now — her experience as a victim of sexual harassment at the beginning of her career when she worked for Senator Bob Packwood in the nation’s capital.
Her talk, “What I learned from My #MeToo Journey,” recounts that painful and confusing time, providing perspective about an issue that is still all too common, perhaps particularly so in politics.
“I didn’t speak much about my own story for nearly 25 years, because our culture has long been one of shame and victim-blaming,” said Hennessey. “I have finally found peace in telling my story. I look forward to having the chance to talk about what has changed in our workplaces, and what we still need to change. Clearly, we still have much to do.”
Hennessey said that recent headlines about New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo are a reminder that the abuse of power is a non-partisan issue.
“Democrats and Republicans alike have long abused their female staff,” she said. “And all too frequently, those who speak out are attacked, which has once again happened with Gov. Cuomo’s staff attacking women for telling the truth.”
Find out more about Humanities Washington’s Speakers Bureau roster and their talks at humanities.org/program/speakers-bureau.