The English-Speaking Union

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The 2019 English-Speaking Union Annual Conference

The 2019 English-Speaking Union Annual Conference, hosted by the ESU Washington D.C. Branch, brought members from all over the country to the Nation's capital for a weekend of camaraderie and planning for the ESU's next 100 years. The Cosmos Club, venue for most of the November 1-3 weekend, provided an accommodating environs for the sessions and meals. This year's conference focused on renewed Branch involvement and a new branding initiative in conjunction with planning for the 2020 centennial celebrations.


Business sessions included a meeting of the National Board of Directors as well as plenary sessions on the Centennial celebrations and the branding update. Multiple Branch-led breakout sessions on topics including communication, the National Shakespeare Competition, and fundraising followed the official 2019 English-Speaking Union Annual General Meeting on Sunday, November 3, 2019.

On Saturday, November 2,  attendees were invited to the National Churchill Library and Center at George Washington University for two interwoven plenary sessions on the rebranding initiative and plans for the 2020 centennial. Martyn Tipping, from award-winning marketing and graphic design agency Odgis + Co., provided an engaging session on ESU's story and brand in a changing world. You can download their presentation here. Following  the branding presentation, Members from the Centennial Working Group provided outlines of the various initiatives, events and fundraising strategies that would accompany the 100th anniversary of the ESU. Their presentation is also available for download at this link.  

A panel discussion with a light lunch sponsored by the Washington D.C. Branch followed these presentations, with Members and constituents of the Branch providing lively discussion on the value of English language education. Members of the panel included: Dr. Natwar Gandhi, former Chief Financial Officer of the District of Columbia and author of a new book, "Still The Promised Land", an account of his life from a small rural Indian town to the leader of the District's financial rebirth; Tess Peters, originally from Oyo State, Nigeria, a life-long learner and business woman with an enthusiasm for education; and Colin Davies, retired international education consultant as well as actor and disk jockey. 

Dr. E. Quinn Peeper, President of The English-Speaking Union of the United States, and John Raffaeli, Vice Chairman, welcomed the 99th Annual General Meeting on the afternoon of Sunday, November 3 and introduced the reports of the Finance and Nominating Committees as well as Executive Director Karen Karpowich's report. 

Following Duncan Karcher's presentation of the Nominating Committee's Slate of Candidates, the membership unanimously voted to elect Barbara Hughes, Winter Park, FL; Fred London, New York, NY; David Martinelli, New York, NY; Jill Richardson, New York, NY; Noel Sloan, New York, NY; and Ralph Wyndrum, Fair Haven, NJ to the Board of Directors. The membership also voted to re-elect to a second or third term Paul Beresford-Hill, New York, NY; Julia Hansen, Palm Beach, FL; Donna Miller, Winter Park, FL; Darryl McCormick, Stamford, CT; John Raffaeli, New York, NY; and Susan (Robin) Sinclair, Nashville, TN. Additionally, Charles D. Reaves, Memphis, TN was elected to a single year term in order to continue his invaluable work as Audit Committee Chair and identify a successor. 

John Raffaeli, as Chair of the Finance Committee, provided a report on ESU financials in the 2018-2019 fiscal year. His report is available for download by clicking here. Karen Karpowich, Executive Director, provided the overview of the year's activities, the presentation of which can be viewed at this link. 

Following the AGM and a lunch on Sunday, Branch-led breakout sessions provided opportunities for collaboration and idea sharing for Branches across the country. Topics presented at one of the nine sessions included "Local and Regional Shakespeare Competitions: A Conversation for Growth", "Hit the Mark with Communication", "The Public Invited: Ways to Attract ESU Members", "Branch Fundraising", "Branch Connections and Community Partnerships", and "Analyzing ESU's Educational Programming - A Look to the Future." 


The conference weekend offered a series of wonderful social events that brought our members closer together and reinforced the ESU's goal to foster relationships and inspire common bonds – person to person.

Attendees were treated to a number of tours at venerable Washington D.C. sites and museums, including The U.S. Capitol, The Folger Library, The National Museum of African American Culture and History, Tudor Place, and, as an optional day trip, a tour of Mount Vernon. 

The conference officially started, however, with a lovely opening reception and dinner at the Cosmos Club. Chairman Amb. Paul Beresford-Hill and President Dr. E. Quinn Peeper welcomed attendees to the conference and outlined a weekend that promised to be both productive and enjoyable. 

The following day, National Patrons and their guests were invited to a High Tea at the DACOR Bacon House. The historic house provided members an environs worthy of exploring, while the bites, tea and Prosecco accompanied chats between friends both new and old. 

Members where then whisked away to the Embassy of India for a special reception honoring centenarian Dr. Marjorie Williams, a long-standing Washington D.C. Branch Member whose life history exemplifies the international character of the English-Speaking Union. Marjorie was honored with remarks from Embassy of India Minister Consular, Dr. Jaideep Nair; Braxton Moncure; Director General of ESU Dartmouth House Jane Easton; and ESU President Dr. E. Quinn Peeper. 

ESU Board Member Dr. Karen Blair-Brand and Laura Ivey (and for son Robert Williams) spoke on Dr. Marjorie Williams impressive and storied life that spans the history of the ESU of the United States. The Regional Chairs then hosted a special dinner at The Willard Hotel for an evening of camaraderie at that storied institution.

Alan Packwood used his unique vantage point as Director of the Churchill Archives Centre to look at the real events behind two recent movies about Churchill's war leadership in his engaging presentation "Churchill: Hollywood Versus Reality". In addition, he introduced and provided signings for his most recent book How Churchill Wage War – The Most Challenging Decisions of the Second World War.

The conference finished with a cozy closing reception at the Cosmos Club, where Members who wouldn't be attending the next day's trip to Mount Vernon exchanged farewells and best wishes.

Special thanks go to the ESU Washington D.C. Branch for hosting a memorable and panoplied 2019 Annual Conference, particularly ESU Board Member Karen Blair-Brand, ESU Washington D.C. Branch Administrator Heather Bonnie McCabe, Braxton Moncure, Sarah Williams and all the volunteers who helped to make the 2019 National Conference a success.

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