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Speaker Series

Congressman John Lewis

U.S. Congressman John Lewis has served as U.S. Representative of Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since 1986. He is widely recognized as an icon of the Civil Rights Movement—having pivotal roles as Chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), as a speaker at the historic 1963 March on Washington and during the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer. His efforts to fight for voting rights in Selma, Alabama, hastened the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Hari Kondabolu at Asheville School

Hari Kondabolu is a Brooklyn-based comedian, actor, filmmaker and podcast host. He has performed on the Late Show with David Letterman, Conan, Jimmy Kimmel Live, John Oliver’s New York Standup Show, and more. 


Reverend Joseph Watkins is a GOP strategist who worked as an aide for President George H. W. Bush. He is a former host of CNN's "Crossfire" and currently serves as Pastor of Christ Evangelical Lutheran Church in North Philadelphia.

Sally Kohn and Tara Setmayer

Political Commentators Sally Kohn and Tara Setmayer have both been featured in multiple news outlets and publications. Kohn is a columnist for the Daily Beast known for her progressive views. She is ranked by Mediaite as one of the 100 most influential pundits on television and by the Advocate as the 35th most influential LGBT person in the media. Kohn has worked as a contributor to Fox News and has been published in the New York Times, Washington Post, New York Magazine, USA Today and other outlets. Setmayer, also a columnist for the Daily Beast, is a noted conservative. She is a former communications director on Capitol Hill and has appeared on outlets that include Fox News, HBO, CNN, C-SPAN, The Wall Street Journal and NPR.

Amity Shlaes

Bestselling Author Amity Shlaes has written four New York Times bestsellers: “The Forgotten Man: A New History of the Great Depression,” “The Forgotten Man: Graphic,” a full length illustrated version of the same book drawn by Paul Rivoche, “Coolidge,” a full-length biography of the 30th president and “The Greedy Hand: How Taxes Drive Americans Crazy.”

Dr. Christine Darden

NASA Pioneer Dr. Christine Darden, who is featured in Margot Lee Shetterly's best-seller "Hidden Figures," was hired at NASA in 1967 as a Computer/Data Analyst, and over the course of her career became the first African-American woman promoted into the Senior Executive Service at the NASA Langley Research Center. Darden earned two NASA Medals--one for her work and leadership of the Sonic Boom Program, and the other for her active involvement in working with and encouraging students to pursue careers in math and science.

Daniel Mendelsohn

International best-selling author and award-winning critic and essayist Daniel Mendelsohn  has penned seven books, and his essays and reviews have appeared in numerous national publications, most frequently the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and The New York Times.

Kimberly Drew

Activist, curator, and tastemaker Kimberly Drew manages the Tumblr blog "Black Contemporary Art" and is known as @MuseumMammy on Instagram. She works to celebrate black creative work and has been featured in the New York Times, NPR, Elle, Essence, Vogue and Teen Vogue, among others.

Dr. Karambu Ringera

Dr. Karambu Ringera is the founder and president of International Peace Initiatives, an organization that works to support sustainable initiatives that improve livelihoods and enhance quality of life.

Richard Blanco

Richard Blanco was selected by President Barack Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, and he is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Blanco was born in Spain to Cuban exiled parents and raised in Miami, Florida. His work grapples with themes of cultural identity, community and belonging.

Mark Meadows

U.S. Congressman Mark Meadows has served as a U.S. Representative of North Carolina's 11th Congressional District since 2013. Meadows is the chair of the House Freedom Caucus.

Margaret Edson

Pulitzer Prize Winner Magaret Edson, winner of the 1999 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for her play "Wit," and called "the Harper Lee of playwrights," by the New York Times, is a playwright and long-time public school teacher and administrator.

Ambassador Hormel

Ambassador James Hormel (Asheville School Class of 1950) was appointed as Ambassador to Luxembourg in 1999. He was the first openly gay U.S. Ambassador. The contentious confirmation battle that preceded the recess appointment by President Clinton put gay rights in the national spotlight and solidified Hormel's position as a champion of that cause, which he had been supporting for many years. He also served on two separate delegations to the United Nations and was a two-time delegate to the Democratic National Convention. Hormel is the recipient of numerous awards honoring his leadership and philanthropy, including the National Society of Fundraising Executives' 1996 Outstanding Philanthropist award and the 2001 Human Rights Campaign Lifetime Achievement Award. 

Dr. Frances Jensen

Dr. Frances Jensen is an internationally known expert in neurology and the teenage brain. Jensen co-authored “The Teenage Brain,” which offers a neuroscientist’s approach to raising adolescents and young adults, and she is the chair of neurology at the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. Jensen has spoken at TEDMED, the Boston Science Museum and The Franklin Institute. She has been interviewed on CBS' “60 Minutes,” NBC's “Today Show,” and NPR's “All Things Considered,” and “Fresh Air.”

Karma Sherpa

Karma Sherpa, executive director and co-founder of The Small World, a nonprofit organization that supports community development and girls' education in rural Nepal. The Small World works with Asheville School's service learning partner, Students Shoulder to Shoulder.