GREENSBURG – Five decades after Sen. Robert Kennedy visited Greensburg, his daughter, Kerry Kennedy, will be making a stop in the Tree City.
The activist will be in Greensburg at 8 a.m. Thursday, Nov. 14, at Greensburg Community High School as part of this year’s fall Chautauqua.
GCHS teacher and Chautauqua organizer John Pratt said Kennedy will be spreading her father’s message.
“No. 1, she has the message of Bobby Kennedy,” Pratt said. “Don’t we need the message of reaching out to your fellow men and women with human kindness? This is what Bobby Kennedy represented as a senator and as a presidential candidate. He saw a vision of a greater United States of America. Then, you get the fact that he shared that message in Greensburg, Indiana, 51 years ago.”
Pratt said he first came across Kennedy’s work years ago when he took a group of students to the World Summit of Nobel Peace Laureates in Chicago. The event was organized by none other than Kerry Kennedy.
Kennedy, who was initially supposed to visit Greensburg earlier this year for the spring Chautauqua, rescheduled because she and her team were working in northern Brazil helping Venezuelan refugees, Pratt said.
“Now, what she does on a daily basis is almost equally phenomenal,” Pratt said. “Yes, she’s an accomplished author, but the other thing is that she runs an international human rights organization.”
According to the Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights Organization, for more than 30 years Kerry Kennedy has devoted herself to the pursuit of equal justice, the promotion and protection of basic rights, and the preservation of the rule of law.
Kennedy has worked on issues such as children’s rights, child labor, disappearances, indigenous land rights, judicial independence, freedom of expression, ethnic violence, impunity and the environment. The organization says Kennedy has concentrated specifically on women’s rights, exposing injustices and educating audiences about women’s issues.
Kennedy is also the author of “Being Catholic Now,” “Speak Truth to Power” and “Robert F. Kennedy; Ripples of Hope.”
The speaker has received high honors from President Lech Walesa of Poland for aiding the Solidarity movement and the Humanitarian Award from the Congress of Nobel Peace Prize Laureates, according to her organization.
“I have so many (guests) on my bucket list; she’s on it,” said the teacher, who is hoping for a good crowd to listen to Kennedy and other presenters. “After it’s over with, it’ll kind of soak in. I hope people will seize the opportunity, because it doesn’t happen every day around here.”
The day will also feature guests Lee Lonzo from Champions Together from 9:31-10:15 a.m.; the last prison guard to leave Alcatraz, Jim Albright, from 10:15-11:13 a.m.; and Iranian hostage survivor Kevin Hermening at 11:55 a.m.
On Friday, Nov. 15, from 9:31 a.m.-10:30 a.m. childhood actress, author and speaker Martha Nix Wade will be speaking. Closing out fall Chautauqua speakers will be Blake-Anthony Johnson of the Louisville Symphony Orchestra from 10:30 a.m.-11:13 a.m.
The public is welcome to attend the daytime Chautauqua events as well as an evening concert featuring Mac Arnold & Plate Full O’ Blues.
The legendary American blues musician closes out the Thursday daytime speakers before he takes the stage for a show at 7 p.m. Nov. 14 at Greensburg Community High School.
His band consists of Austin Brashier on guitar and vocals, Max Hightower on drums and vocals, and Arnold on bass, rhythm gas can guitar, slide gas can guitar and vocals.
The South Carolinian has worked alongside other renowned artists, such as Muddy Waters, B.B. King, James Brown and Jimi Hendrix.
According to many facts provided on Arnold’s website, his first band included James Brown on piano, he produced Soul Train with his friend Don Cornelius, he played bass on the “Sanford and Son” television show when he wasn’t playing bass for Otis Redding and B.B. King.
Pratt spoke about just how big of a deal it’ll be to have Arnold and his band in town.
“It is the highest level and the highest quality of a blues band you’re going to get in the state of Indiana this year,” he said. “The whole Chautauqua premise is why can’t we bring high quality to Greensburg, Indiana? Why should we have to always drive to the big city? The daytime message is: ‘Great things happen in Greensburg, Indiana, and you, too, can do great things.’ That really is my message to students. We want to carry on this tradition of the value of the evening event, and if I can bring this type of quality, I’m hoping folks will embrace it.”
According to Pratt, Arnold’s story goes hand-in-hand with the Chautauqua message.
“He is a master of the gas can guitar, which is an offshoot from when he was a child, his brother made his first guitar for him from an old gas can,” Pratt said. “Also, when he’s not traveling and performing at concert venues and blues festivals, he’s an organic farmer. So, he’s just a fascinating person. I always say you have to be fascinating and unique and you have to embrace the concept of Chautauqua if you’re going to come.
“The message is of course right there in all that he had to overcome to excel at his field at the highest level,” Pratt said, “and that’s what we want the students to see and the community to see.”
At the end of the day, the teacher is simply looking to bring the most fascinating individuals possible to the Tree City, and the money made from the events goes toward funding the next one.
“You have to keep in mind what the objective is,” Pratt said. “I work year-round on this ... I don’t have people to pay off, I don’t have a profit margin, all I want to do is break even, so we can start all over again next year.”
Ticket prices are set at $5 for level three, $10 for level two and $15 for lower level. Tickets are available at the Greensburg Public Library, Greensburg Community High School, or www.gchschautauqua.com. Tickets will be $3 more at the door.
“When does Greensburg have these opportunities? Not too often,” Pratt said.