The English-Speaking Union

News and Events

News and Events

Chairman's April Newsletter

Dear friends,

I ended my April letter to you with a wish – I wished that after more than two years of pandemic isolation, we would get to see each other face-to-face. I wished that we would get to delight again in the experiences that drew us to the English-Speaking Union in the first place: the exciting learning opportunities, stimulating cultural exchanges, rewarding social interactions and the sense of personal satisfaction from the impact of our generosity on others.

That's why I am delighted to share with you the great news that the English-Speaking Union is moving steadily to in-person programs and activities.

Thanks to your big-heartedness and no quarantine restriction, the ESU TLab (Teachers Learning Abroad) has gone from sending three teachers in the summer of 2021 to 39 teachers this summer to the UK to attend professional development courses at the University of Oxford, the Shakespeare's Globe and the University of Edinburgh. Scholarships from 11 Branches and personal contributions will enable these teachers to study with leading scholars, writers and public figures and seize unique opportunities to connect with colleagues from a range of nations and professional backgrounds.

Big thanks to the ESU Central Florida, Charlottesville, Denver, Greenwich, Kentucky, Los Angeles, Palm Beach, New Orleans, North Carolina Research Triangle, New York and Richmond Branches for supporting our teachers!

Our other educational and international scholarship programs have also returned to in-person programming this year. The 2021-2022 Luard Morse Scholar, Mr. George Pratt, a junior from Morehouse College in Atlanta, GA, is already deep in study at the University of Manchester, where he continues his education in religion, history, and oratory. While in the UK, George has been actively involved with the ESU of the Commonwealth, judging local debates as well as the ESU Churchill Public Speaking Competition Grand Final in Cambridge and the International Public Speaking Competition.

A total of nine ESU Secondary School Exchange (SSE) students are just finishing up their 2021-22 academic year in the US and UK, with more SSE students planning to cross the Pond for the 2022-23 academic year. And the ESU Middle School Debate Program held its first in-person championship since the pandemic on April 30, 2022 at the Dalton School in New York. 90 students were thrilled to spend a full day together, vigorously debating tough topics such as "Children under 14 should not use smartphones," "The US should implement compulsory voting in general elections," and "Abolish the Olympic Games."

As I announced in my previous letter, at long last, the ESU 2022 Annual General Conference will be held in-person November 11-13, 2022, generously hosted by the ESU Charleston Branch. Under the theme, "Setting the Stage for Growth," the conference program will center on consultant, Reverend Renee LiaBraaten's study on how to expand participation in the ESU. Rev. LiaBraaten will work throughout the summer with a diverse group of Branch leaders, Members, volunteers and others to discern pathways for growth at the Branch and National levels.

We've secured the perfect location for the conference – the historic Mills House Wyndham Grand Hotel in Charleston, South Carolina. Originally built in 1853, the Mills House, otherwise known as "The Pink Hotel," retains most of its exterior design and historic details and combines the charm of 19th-century Charleston with contemporary indulgence. A prime example of historical tenacity and modern renewal, the Mill House will provide a fitting – and symbolic – setting for our Annual General Conference, during which we will chart a path for our century-old organization toward a growing membership and vibrant Branches.

We need this conversation now more than ever before because you – our members and volunteers – are the pillars of the English-Speaking Union. Without you, the ESU would not exist.

Volunteerism has always been at the heart of our organization. A great example is the ESU's English in Action (EiA) program. One of our most admired endeavors, EiA has been welcoming newcomers to the United States since 1976. It pairs volunteer native English speakers with English language learners for weekly one-to-one conversation sessions. Our volunteers offer students the gift of fluency and knowledge about life in the U.S., all the while engaging in a stimulating interaction with people from different countries. The program truly epitomizes the English-Speaking Union's purpose of fostering understanding and bonds between cultures and people through the power of the English language.

Over the past year, we launched a small but promising pilot project to expand EiA beyond its original home base in the New York area. English in Action Across America pairs students from New York with volunteers from Branches across the country for weekly conversations via Zoom. The students are thrilled to meet ESU members outside New York and the volunteers report a deep feeling of satisfaction and intellectual motivation by interacting with English learners from the four corners of the earth.

To recognize our volunteers and encourage others to be as generous with their time and talent, we're dedicating the annual celebration of the ESU Immigrant Services Programs to our volunteer tutors. During the "Volunteerism: Engage, Educate and Empower" event on Thursday, June 23 from 4:30 - 6:00 pm EST, we will celebrate the impact of volunteerism on the lives of both students and volunteers. We will recognize our volunteers' talent and generosity by highlighting examples of their creativity, collaboration and dedication. It will be a hybrid event – both in-person and broadcast on Zoom, so that all of you can participate, even when travel to New York is not practical. I hope you will join us for this special evening. Come and get inspired to bring the spirit of volunteerism back to your Branch!

Dear friends, to quote Leo Tolstoy: "Spring is the time of plans and projects." And I invite you to join us as we make plans for the ESU's future and set them in motion. Take part in the upcoming celebration of Queen Elizabeth's Platinum Jubilee on June 3. Salute our volunteers on June 23. Attend events at your Branch and renew your ESU membership in July. Spare some time to provide input into Rev. LiaBraaten's study and come to the 2022 AGM, November 11-13 in Charleston, SC. You are the English-Speaking Union – there is no path forward without you.

And if there is anything you'd like to share with me – a question or a comment, an idea, criticism or praise – please write to me directly at qpeeper@esuus.org.

I'd love to hear from you.

With best regards,


Chairman
National Board of Directors
The English-Speaking Union of the United States

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Statement about the Buffalo Shooting

The ESU expresses solidarity with the victims and communities affected by the horrific shooting in Buffalo last weekend. We are resolutely opposed to hate, racism and white supremacy in all forms. In the wake of this shocking event, we reaffirm our commitment to global understanding and goodwill. Our education programs educate and empower immigrants, educators and students and promote civil discourse and open dialogue among diverse groups. We will continue to work towards a future in which hate has no place.

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Chairman's April Newsletter

Dear friends,


April is Shakespeare's month at the English-Speaking Union. For the past thirty-nine years, the ESU National Shakespeare Competition has brought together high school students, their families and teachers, and ESU members in Branches across the country for a celebration of the Bard's lasting literary legacy. The Competition has endured for nearly forty years because of its transformative effects on the young participants and the profound feeling of satisfaction and delight it instills in all of us who support it.


This year was no exception. Forty-three Branches sent their best contestants to the virtual semi-finals and I hear from the judges that they were hard-pressed to select the top ten from among so many outstanding performers. The Finals on the afternoon of April 25th were broadcast live and attended by nearly 300 ESU members, teachers and parents. 


Watch the Recorded Competition!


I am delighted to announce that the winner of the 2022 English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition is Sasha Fedderly (ESU New York) with runners-up, Roxanna Beebe-Center (ESU Charlottesville) in second place and Kathuure Miriti (ESU Kentucky) in third place. I am sure you will enjoy the performance videos from all contestants and the announcement of the 2022 ESU National Shakespeare Competition and People's Choice Award winners on the ESU website.

I thank all of you for your support of the ESU National Shakespeare Competition and all other ESU programs and activities. Without your participation as members and volunteers, the ESU would not exist. The ESU's time-tested culture and traditions have wisely relied on you having a strong interest and voice in the future of our Union.


That's why, on behalf of the ESU Board of Directors, I've invited the Reverend Renee LiaBraaten to lead us this summer in a conversation about our aspirations for strong and vibrant Branches. Reverend LiaBraaten has decades of experience working with congregations and other charitable organizations on successfully moving forward in the midst of a rapidly changing cultural and societal context. 


The ESU Board and I believe that such a conversation is timely and much needed. The past three years posed extraordinary challenges to our organization and undermined the progress we had made toward strengthening our Branches and membership. The Covid-imposed isolation has been antithetical to the ESU's spirit, which is grounded in human interaction, in people meeting each other face to face and across borders. With the pandemic receding and members getting together in person again, it is time to look to the future.  


You may remember Renee from a few years back, when we worked with her on our Centennial campaign. Her seminal report informed our decision to bring back into focus the ESU's essence of a membership organization. 


This time, Renee, supported by Executive Director Karen Karpowich and her staff, will work with a diverse group of stakeholders including Branch leaders, members, volunteers, and beneficiaries of our programs to discern pathways to growth at the Branch and national levels. Titled "Setting the Stage for Growth," this work will result in a state-of-the-union report that will outline the process for expanding participation in the ESU. Renee will work with us throughout the summer so that the report is ready for the 2022 ESU Annual General Conference.


And I am thrilled to announce that finally, after three years of Covid, we will meet in person November 11-13 for the 2022 ESU Annual General Conference. It will be hosted most graciously by the ESU Charleston Branch in charming Charleston, South Carolina.


Under the same theme of "Setting the Stage for Growth," the 2022 Annual General Conference will give us an opportunity to review Reverend LiaBraaten's report and use it as a springboard for what I hope will be a productive discussion about the ESU's path forward to a growing membership and dynamic Branches. 


And, in closing, I would like to reassure you that we are in close contact with Buckingham Palace about setting the date for the rescheduled Gala in the presence of Her Royal Highness The Princess Royal. Her Royal Highness' office is working on a date for us between late September 2022 and early January 2023. We will be in touch as soon as the plans firm up.  

In the meantime, while we await The Princess Royal's visit, I invite you to join us on June 3 for a special event that marks Her Majesty's Platinum Jubilee.

The event will feature a recording of my performance of Duke Ellington's The Queen's Suite, an album of six wonderful jazz pieces the Duke dedicated to Her Majesty after meeting her in 1958. During our June 3 Platinum Jubilee celebration, the recording will be offered as a gift (a lagniappe, as we say in Louisiana) to all registered Gala attendees with our gratitude for their support and patience.


Dear friends, better times are up ahead. The pandemic is in retreat, we are getting to see each other's smiles again, and there will be many great occasions to mark. Our Union endured through the Covid pandemic with fortitude and grace, the way it prevailed over innumerable challenges throughout its century-long history. As we celebrate what we have, let's look forward with optimism to the future. 


With best regards,


 

Dr. E. Quinn Peeper Chairman

The English-Speaking Union of the United States

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Announcing the winners of the 39th English-Speaking Union National Shakespeare Competition

New York City: Our 12 finalists were brought together virtually for the 39th annual National Shakespeare Competition, making it the third-ever virtual competition in the program's history. People from across the country came together on Monday, April 25th on Zoom to watch as the 12 finalists performed for 5 judges. The virtual competition utilized various technologies across multiple platforms, including Zoom, Youtube, and text-to-vote, all of which enabled thousands of engagements, and hundreds of viewers from across the globe.


Watch the Recorded Competition Here!



Sasha Fedderly of the ESU New York City Branch won 1st Place with her captivating and thoughtful renditions of Lady MacBeth from MacBeth and Sonnet 35. Sasha has won attendance at the BADA Midsummer Conservatory Program in Oxford, England this summer (Midsummer Conservatory Program – BADA).. Her teacher, Margaret George at Lycee Francais de New York High School will receive the $1000 Teacher Recognition Award.

Roxanna Beebe Center of the ESU Charlottesville Branch took 2nd Place with her captivating interpretations of Hecate from MacBeth and Sonnet 94.  As her prize, Roxanna will be attending the American Shakespeare Center Theatre Camp in Staunton, Virginia (ASC Theatre Camp | American Shakespeare Center). Her teacher, David Becker at Charlottesville High School will receive the $500 Teacher Recognition Award. 


Kathuure Miriti of the ESU Kentucky Branch won 3rd place for her stirring rendition of Cressida from Troilus and Cressida and Sonnet 34. Kathuure will take home a cash prize of $1000. Her teacher, Amie Kisling at SCAPA Lafayette High School will receive the $250 Teacher Recognition Award.

We are proud to continue the People's Choice Award as part of the 2022 National Shakespeare Competition. Instituted three years ago to foster a sense of community during the Covid safe virtual competition format, the People's Choice Award has been a popular outlet for students to support each other. Due to the success of the People's Choice Awards, we have expanded this year's prizes to include not only a first-place winner but also a second and third place winner. 


The recipient of the $1,000 1st place prize, Molly Livesay of the Austin Branch, student of Helen Potter at Great Hearts Monte Vista North High School, received 635 votes. In 2nd place, with 534 votes, Jake Reed of the Memphis Branch took home a $500 prize. Jake is a student of Cynthia Weiland at Arlington High School. In 3rd place, with 452 votes, Riley Prior of the Monmouth New Jersey Branch took home a $250 prize. Riley is a student of Smita Gantra at Glen Ridge High School. Nearly 7,000 people voted from around the world, including Germany, Australia, the Philippines, India, China, and Indonesia, expanding the competition's community despite the pandemic. 


To read more about our winners, finalists, esteemed judges, and this year's competition, please read the full article and download the press release.

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Register for the 2022 ESU National Shakespeare Competition

Calling all Shakespeare Competition Friends and Family- Come Join the Fun for Free!

Watch the competition live via Zoom! Tickets are free, we just ask that you register before Sunday, April 24th. Let's spread the word to family, friends, neighbors, and colleagues.
Monday, April 25th at 2 PM ET via Zoom.
 
 
The 2022 ESU National Shakespeare Competition has some of the finest young Shakespeareans you'll see anywhere! 

Don't forget to vote in the People's Choice Award

WINNER RECEIVES A $1000 CASH PRIZE!
Second place will receive $500!
Third place will receive $250!

An event for the whole ESU Shakespeare community! Like last year, friends, families, teachers, classmates, and communities will be able to vote for their favorite performance.
All videos are eligible and voting is open to everyone, not just ESU members. Get your school community, neighbors, and relatives involved.
This year we're proud to announce the inclusion of second place and third place prizes! Keep the fun going and support all of our branch champions by voting in the People's Choice Award.

Voting ends at midnight on April 22nd!


Support the ESU National Shakespeare Competition

As we continue celebrating our Centennial, the ESU recognizes that our greatest strength is the commitment and dedication of our community. Thank you for your support of the 2021 ESU National Shakespeare Competition.

Support the ESU National Shakespeare Competition

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Happy Birthday to Her Majesty Queen

Your Majesty,


With gratitude and admiration, The English-Speaking Union of the United States sends you warm greetings on the occasion of your 96th birthday.

We thank you for all the years of service you've given to the people of the United Kingdom and the entire world.

 

May God continue to bless you!

With our good wishes and prayers,

Dr. E. Quinn Peeper

Chairman,

The National Board of Directors of The English-Speaking Union of the United States

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ESU Happy Hour Series

Wednesday, April 27 at 5:00 PM (EDT)
African-Americans Play The Bard
Professor Charles Dumas

A discussion of those notable African-Americans who have played the Bard including Ira Aldridge, Paul Robeson, James Earl Jones, Denzel Washington, Morgan Freeman, Frances Foster, Audra McDonald, & Fran Dorn.

Charles Dumas is a professor emeritus from Penn State University.  He is an Emmy Award winning professional actor, director, and writer. He has performed or directed in 10 Shakespeare plays including Othello three times.

 

Read More                              Register Online Here

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ESU Happy Hour Series

Wednesday, April 6th at 5:00 PM (EST)

Dining Out: A Happy Hour Romp through the history of the Restaurant 

Elliot Shore

When did people start to eat out? When did the restaurant as we know it today actually come into being? Join us by whetting your appetite with an April Cocktail – The Lion's Tail -- from the first true restaurant in London, the Café Royal, published in its book of cocktails in 1937. Our hour together will be an illustrated talk with emphasis on the US and England with ample time for discussion. Elliott Shore is an historian, librarian, and chief information officer. He has published books and articles in the history of advertising, the history of publishing, of radicalism, of German-America and of restaurants. He presented a similar evening at the English-Speaking Union in Pinehurst in February.

 

Read More                              Register Online Here

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Chairman's March Newsletter

Dear friends,

Just two weeks ago, as I was thinking about my next letter to you, I was excited about the approaching spring and the magic of new beginnings that it brings. But this feeling of optimism and hope for sunny skies and new experiences has been overshadowed by the disturbing events in Ukraine, a country that hosts one of our sister English-Speaking Unions. 

We deplore the destruction of Ukraine and we stand in solidarity with our colleagues at ESU Ukraine and with the entire nation of Ukraine. We disavow the tactics of war and call for the protection of lives during this conflict. We strongly support the Ukrainian people's fight to protect democracy and are hopeful that a peaceful resolution will be reached before long. 

As an organization created out of the ashes of WWI and committed to fostering peace and global understanding through the use of the English language, the ESU of the United States is providing direct aid to ESU Ukraine and symbolically dedicating our programs this spring to an independent, peaceful and democratic Ukraine.

The ESU National Shakespeare Competition has been underway in ESU Branches across the country to select the semi-finalists who will vie for the top prize on April 25, 2022. Even a global deadly pandemic has been unable to stop the power and influence of the Bard on young adults. The Competition endures despite the challenges, thanks to the ESU Branches, teachers, students, judges, and staff embracing technology to carry the program through in a way that is safe and effective, until we can all meet in person.

I know you'll agree with me that the ESU National Shakespeare Competition is so beloved because it faithfully reflects everything the ESU stands for and aspires to. The Competition educates and inspires, it brings young people together and challenges them to understand and embrace one of the world's greatest bodies of literature – the works of William Shakespeare. And it allows us, the ESU members, to be part of these young people's journeys and to nurture and cheer their progress.

The appeal of the program shows in the rising numbers of Branches coming back after skipping the 2020-2021 season. I'm delighted to announce that this year we are just five ESU Branches shy of our pre-pandemic number of participating Branches. After missing the 2021 Competition, five ESU Branches came back with the encouragement and support of Program Director Betty Trevino-Roth and the rest of the staff who have guided the Branches in mounting their virtual local rounds.

Read the full newsletter on the next page, or download the newsletter here.

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ESU Evelyn Wrench Speaker Program

SIR CHRISTOPHER HUM, KCMG
Former British Ambassador to China
Wednesday, March 16 at 6 PM EDT

We are thrilled to welcome Sir Christopher Hum, KCMG and former British Ambassador to China, to the ESU Headquarters in Midtown Manhattan for this delightful evening. A prolific and widely-admired lecturer, Sir Christopher will share with us his insider's look at China's geopolitical future with his lecture, Will China Rule the World?


On his first visit to China, during the tumult of the Cultural Revolution, Christopher Hum watched Chairman Mao receive the adoration of his Red Guards. He lived there in all for ten years, as a diplomat and as British Ambassador between 2002 and 2005, and had a ringside seat as China turned into the superpower it is today. What role does China aspire to play in the international community? Threat or opportunity? Will China rule the world?

Register Here!

Admission pricing:

$20 for ESU members
$25 for non-ESU members

Note: This will be an in-person event at the English-Speaking Union, located at 144 E 39th Street, New York, NY 10016. The event will be held at 6 pm EDT.

 

Seats are limited for this event. Proof of COVID-19 vaccination is required for entry. Masks will be required at all times during the event.

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