About Us & Activities

The ESU celebrates English as a shared language to foster global understanding and good will by providing educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and members.


President's Message

Our new season is just a few months away and I hope that as a current member you will renew your membership or if not a current member that you will join the Sandhills Branch of The English-Speaking Union. I believe this season will be one of the most interesting and exciting we have offered, with several nationally known presenters.  Our program booklet contains a complete listing of the topics, speakers, and dates for next season. Click here to view a copy. Please share this information with others who may be interested.

While our regularly scheduled programs will be both entertaining and informative, we continue to seek other means to bring our members together. Our special interest groups, focusing on Winston Churchill, the Roosevelts, and International Affairs, have been very successful. Please contact me with any suggestions you may have for additional groups.

Just as important as our programs is our mission. The English-Speaking Union is a non-profit, non-political organization. Your membership helps our local Sandhills Branch provide educational and cultural opportunities for students, educators, and the community. The Middle School Debates, High School Shakespeare Competition, and other activities are reaching more students than ever before and we annually send the Branch winner of our local Shakespeare Competition to the national championship.  Your support, both financial and by participation, is key to making each program a success.  I hope that you will choose to continue or will initiate a membership in ESU this year. If you are undecided or need more information please contact Carol Conover, Membership Chair, by phone (610-337-2726) or e-mail (carolconoveresu@gmail.com).

ESU plays a significant role in our Sandhills community, and we need the help of every member to expand our programs and to keep them healthy.  If you are a current member I hope that you will take as a mission this year to tell others about ESU and to recruit a new member for the year.  By doing this we can continue to offer quality programs to our members and to our community.  Thank you and I hope to see you in the fall.


The proximity to New York and even Washington, D.C., plus very healthy funding by donors and businesses brought truly great personalities from ever possible walk of life. Nothing quite like it was here, or so I thought. 

Then I saw that one of my favorite people, Thomas Jefferson, would be speaking in Pinehurst (in the guise of Bill Barker from Colonial Williamsburg), and off I went to get tickets-except that he was coming to the English-Speaking Union, members only. Who the heck were they? 

I first feared that it would bee folks who thought only English should be spoken in our country, but that is not the case. Nor is it a "dining club for the elite," as some have said, even though they dine together.

No, E-SU has a history, and a deep and abiding set of principles and purposes. 

Sir Evelyn Wrench founding this international education charity in 1918 with the aim of bringing together people from different cultures and languages to find a way to build skills, confidence and communication. The intention was to use a common language, English, to further knowledge, understanding and peace and to provide these skills in a non-political and non-sectarian way. 

In 1957, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II became the royal patron and E-SU received a royal charter. Princess Ann took over from Prince Phillip and serves as the present patron. 

All very nice as far as that does for those of us in "the Colonies," but the real job of our E-SU here in the States and around the world is to foster the learning of English as a tool for those who come from elsewhere, as well as our own students. 

I came for the speakers and have stayed for the real work of E-SU, helping middle school teachers and students thrive in debate training throughout their school years as E-SU has fostered - along with their schools - strong teams in several schools across Moore Country. They enter out annual competition and may go on to further debates nationally. 

We also sponsor and present the annual Shakespeare competition, where high school students study Shakespeare and perform a sonnet and a monologue from his plays. 

These skills give young students insight, skill and the ability to study, listen well and present themselves in a public format. No matter what technology does for us, everyone needs to garner these skills, find like-minded folks and continue our learning path all through our lives. 

At its headquarters in New York City, English in Action puts people together who can assist new learners in both language and cultural understanding, helping them find the assets they need to turn their lives into productive and exciting ones here while learning to speak English. Whether by choice or fleeing war, whether young or old, these people need help learning English and American culture. E-SU in NYC does that becuase we believe that common language is essential. 

Learning skills to become and American with English are not vastly different from the skills children need to leave home and find their way in the world. Language, listening, communicating clearly and being able to define what you believe and who you are are the things I think E-SU does for new arrivals and for our kids right here at home. 

The Luard Morse Scholarships help students from Historically Black Colleges and Universities study at a British university for a semester. The Walter Hines Page Scholarship offers British and Argentine teachers a chance to explore and exchange educational ideas in America. E-SU also offers extra training in the UK for an array of courses to help bolster teachers and their constant need to be refreshed and reinvigorated for the task of teaching. As to the "dinner club" thing, yes, it is true that we gather for dinner or lunch, but the real purpose is for us to learn from a series of speakers we bring to Pinehurst or have on our front door step. In the past, we have hosted some gifted writers like Lynne Olson, who wrote the New York Times best-seller Citizens of London, and Craig Johnson, who writes the wonderful Longmire series of stories of law in the wilds of present day Wyoming. 

We gather for international speakers as well, like Dieter Dettke, an expert on European security and Euro-Russian relations; Hodding Carter, journalist and a former spokesman for the U.S. State Department during our hostage crisis in the 1970s; and Capt. Carl Newman (now retired), National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Deputy Director for Aircraft Operations, who did 14 years of hurricane hunter flights in one of the world's premiere research aircraft. These are a sampling, a very few, of them men and women who come to help us be lifelong learners. 

A charity that focuses on making learning a keystone of life,  keeping English as a gateway to knowledge and communication without destroying other languages or cultures, and above all supporting our teachers and students, that is what the English-Speaking Union turns out to be. 

And now, many months of the year Darling Husband and I hear fine speakers while we support our devotion to learning. The funds raised by our Sandhills branch plant deep roots right here and in the world.


Learn more about E-SU and its programs for students and teachers by emailing sandhills@esuus.org

Joyce Reehling is a frequent contributor and good friend of Pinestraw

See this article in the April issue of Pinestraw here. 


History of the ESU

The English-Speaking Union of the United States was created to fulfill a mission.  It was formally organized in the United States in 1920 and arose from the conviction of its founder, Sir Evelyn Wrench and a group of like-minded American and British friends, that maintenance of the close personal and national ties forged during World War I was necessary for the preservation of peace. He imagined the ESU as an inclusive organization "founded in no narrow attitude of race pride, in no spirit of hostility to any people."  Its educational mission would be carried out by a host of activities allowing for personal contact between peoples at every level.

Our Activities


Middle School Debate

2018-2019 ESU National Shakespeare Competition

TLab: Travel and Learn Abroad

Student of the Month

Churchill Discussion Group

International Affairs Discussion Group

Roosevelt Discussion Group