JOIN US at the 75th Anniversary Conference of the American Humanist Association, May 26-29, 2016 in Chicago, IL! We’ll be honoring the following individuals who’ve contributed to the humanist community.
Jared Diamond, 2016 Humanist of the Year
Jared Diamond is a Pulitzer-prize-winning author of five best-selling books, translated into 38 languages, about human societies and human evolution: Guns, Germs, and Steel, Collapse, Why Is Sex Fun?, The Third Chimpanzee, and The World until Yesterday. As a professor of geography at UCLA (University of California at Los Angeles), he is known for his breadth of interests, which involves conducting research and teaching in three other fields: the biology of New Guinea birds, digestive physiology, and conservation biology. His prizes and honors include the U.S. National Medal of Science, the Pulitzer Prize for Non-fiction, the Tyler Prize for Environmental Science, and election to the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. He is a director of World Wildlife Fund/U.S. and of Conservation International. As a biological explorer, his most widely publicized finding was his rediscovery, at the top of New Guinea’s remote Foja Mountains, of the long-lost Golden-fronted Bowerbird, previously known only from four specimens found in a Paris feather shop in 1895.
Medea Benjamin, 2016 Humanist Heroine
Medea Benjamin is the author of eight books. Her latest book is Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control, and she has been campaigning to stop the use of killer drones. Her direct questioning of President Obama during his 2013 foreign policy address, as well as her recent trips to Pakistan and Yemen, helped shine a light on the innocent people killed by US drone strikes.
Benjamin has been an advocate for social justice for more than 30 years. Described as “one of America’s most committed — and most effective — fighters for human rights” by New York Newsday, and “one of the high profile leaders of the peace movement” by the Los Angeles Times, she was one of 1,000 exemplary women from 140 countries nominated to receive the Nobel Peace Prize on behalf of the millions of women who do the essential work of peace worldwide. In 2010 she received the Martin Luther King, Jr. Peace Prize from the Fellowship of Reconciliation and the 2012 Peace Prize by the US Peace Memorial. She is a former economist and nutritionist with the United Nations and World Health Organization.
Since the September 11, 2001 tragedy, Medea has been working to promote a U.S. foreign policy that would respect human rights and gain us allies instead of contributing to violence and undermining our international reputation. In 2000, she was a Green Party candidate for the California Senate. During the 1990s, Medea focused her efforts on tackling the problem of unfair trade as promoted by the World Trade Organization. Widely credited as the woman who brought Nike to its knees and helped place the issue of sweatshops on the national agenda, Medea was a keyplayer in the campaign that won a $20 million settlement from 27 US clothing retailers for the use of sweatshop labor in Saipan. She also pushed Starbucks and other companies to start carrying fair trade coffee.
Her work for justice in Israel/Palestine includes taking numerous delegations to Gaza after the 2008 Israeli invasion, organizing the Gaza Freedom March in 2010, participating in the Freedom Flotillas and opposing the policies of the Israel lobby group AIPAC. In 2011 she was in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian uprising and In 2012 she was part of a human rights delegation to Bahrain in support of democracy activists; she was tear-gassed, arrested and deported by the Bahraini government.
Medea has also been on the forefront of the anti-drone movement. She recently published Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. She also organized the first-ever international drone summit and lead delegations to Pakistan and Yemen to meet with drone strike victims and family members of Guantanamo Bay Prisoners.
Sen. Ernie Chambers, Lifetime Achievement Award
Ernie Chambers of Omaha hasn’t mellowed. The longest-serving state senator in the history of Nebraska continues to argue, rant, cajole, incite, provoke, outwit, and at times, persuade. He can charm, too, though that’s not the Ernie most people see. In debate, he can go for the jugular. Out in the middle of the country, far from the seas, he continually makes waves.
Born in 1937—by coincidence, the year that Nebraska instituted its unique one-house Legislature—he grew up in north Omaha feeling the sting of racism. He earned a law degree from Creighton University but never took the bar exam. Instead of practicing law, he has helped make laws. For years he cut hair at the Spencer Street Barber Shop, but lists his occupation as “defender of the downtrodden.” First elected to the Legislature in 1970, he served nearly four decades until Nebraskans imposed term limits—to get rid of him, he says. In 2012, he again was elected.
A Political Independent
Chambers, who refers to partisans as Repelicans and Demagogues, has used his skill with legislative rules to block bills or force compromise. The liberal publication Mother Jones described him as “left of San Francisco” and credited him, among other things, with legislation that abolished corporal punishment in schools, gave women equal status in the state pension systems and created district elections in some local governments.
Often the only African-American in the 49-member legislature, he said a few years ago on National Public Radio: “If Ali Baba can handle 40 thieves, certainly I should be able to handle 48 white people in the legislature.”
- Excerpt from Uniquely Omaha: 101 Things to Know About the Big O by the Omaha World-Herald (author, Michael Kelly)
John de Lancie, Humanist Arts Award
John de Lancie’s film credits include, “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle”, “The Fisher King”, “Bad Influence”, The Onion Field”, “Taking Care of Business”, “Fearless”, “Multiplicity”, “Women on Top”, “Nicholas”, “Good Advise”, “Patient 14”, “The Big Time”, “Reign on Me”, “Pathology”, “Games”, “Teenius”, “Crank2 and “The Marriage Counselor”.”
Mr. de Lancie has appeared in numerous television shows including; “Torchwood”, “Breaking Bad”, “CSI”, “The Unit”, “West Wing”, “Sports Night”, “Judging Amy”, “The Closer”; “Star Trek”, “Legend”, “LA Law”, “Picket Fences”, “Civil Wars”, “The Practice”, and “Touched by an Angel”.
He has been a member of The American Shakespeare Company, The Seattle Repertory Company, The South Coast Repertory, The Mark Taper Forum and the Old Globe where he performed Arthur Miller’s “Resurrection Blues”. His favorite performances include: “Man and Superman”, “The Common Pursuit”, “Childe Byron”, “Art”, and the world premieres of Richard Greenburg’s “The Naked Lady on the Appian Way”, Alan Alda’s ‘Radiance’ and Rajiv Joseph’s “Mr. Wolf.
In the world of music, Mr. de Lancie has performed with: Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis and the New York Philharmonic; Vladimir Ashkenazy and the Cleveland Orchestra and National Orchestra; Esa Pekka Salonen and the Los Angeles Philharmonic; Charles Dutoit and the Philadelphia Orchestra and The Montreal Symphony. His repertoire includes: “Peer Gynt”, “King David”, “The Bourgeois Gentleman”, “The Lincoln Portrait”, “St. Joan”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream”, “Oedipus Rex”, “Young People’s Guide to the Orchestra”, “The Nightingale”, “Egmont” and, of course, “Peter and the Wolf.” Recently, he narrated the world premier of Dr. Seuss’, “The Sneetches.”
Mr. de Lancie was the host of the L.A. Philharmonic “Symphonies for Youth” for four years. In addition, he’s written and directed ten Symphonic Plays: these ninety-minute programs are fully staged productions with orchestra; titles include “Romeo and Juliet”, “Midsummer Night’s Dream (Korngold score), “Bourgeois Gentleman”, “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, and a vaudeville — “Carnival of the Animals”. They were produced with the Milwaukee, St. Paul Chamber, Ravinia, LA, and Pasadena Orchestras.
Mr. de Lancie was also the writer/director/host of “First Nights”, an adult concert series at Disney Hall with the LA Philharmonic that explored the life and music of Stravinsky, Beethoven, Mahler, Schumann, and Prokofiev. These were fully integrated, fully staged productions with orchestra.
For Star Trek fans Mr. de Lancie and Robert Picardo have created a Trek Concert Experience that has been performed with the Dallas, Toronto, Cincinnati, Denver and Calgary orchestras.
Mr. de Lancie has performed or directed numerous plays for L.A. Theater Works, the producing arm of National Public Radio where the series “The Plays the Thing” originates. He recently returned from a national tour of the “Scopes Monkey Trial” with Ed Asner where he played Clarence Darrow, as well as wrote and directed an adaption of “The Lost World” which toured the country.
Mr. de Lancie was co-owner, with Leonard Nimoy, of Alien Voices; a production company devoted to the dramatization of classic science fiction. Mr. de Lancie produced, co-wrote and directed dramatizations of: “The Time Machine”, “Journey to the Center of the Earth”, “The Lost World”, “The Invisible Man”, and “First Men in the Moon”; as well as three television specials for the Sci-Fi Channel.
Mr. de Lancie has directed “Tosca” and “Cold Sassy Tree” in Atlanta and “Madame Butterfly” in San Antonio, “Cinderella” in Sacramento and “The Adduction” in Minneapolis.
He has just finished producing a documentary on the wonderful phenomenon of Bronies.
Mr. de Lancie is a graduate of Kent State University and The Juilliard School. When time permits, is an avid sailor. He recently completed a voyage of the South Pacific in this own boat.
Victoria Gettman, President’s Award
Victoria Gettman and husband Jed of 19 years have 5 children. She served in the Army for 20 years and earned her Master’s degree in healthcare management. It was in her twenties when Victoria first discovered her atheism; a realization she came to while her first daughter was completing her first communion in the Catholic Church. Victoria became the director of the San Antonio branch of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (MRFF) after firsthand witnessing religious influence in her own military training. Shortly after, Victoria began working with Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers (MAAF) executive director Jason Torpy, and later became MAAF’s Joint Base San Antonio point of contact. In 2013, Victoria created the Atheist/Humanist meeting on Lackland and, alongside her teenage daughters, founded Atheists and Humanists Helping the Homeless in San Antonio. Victoria is also the co-founder and Executive Director of South Texas Atheists for Reason (STAR), providing low cost or free community gatherings for non-religious families.
Elizabeth Loftus, Isaac Asimov Science Award
Elizabeth Loftus is Distinguished Professor at the University of California, Irvine. She holds positions in the Departments of Psychology & Social Behavior, and Criminology, Law & Society, and is Professor of Law.
Loftus received her undergraduate degree in Mathematics and Psychology from UCLA, and her Ph.D. in Psychology from Stanford University. Since then, she has published 23 books and over 500 scientific articles. Her books have been translated into Dutch, French, German, Japanese, Chinese and other foreign languages.
Loftus’s research has focused on human memory, eyewitness testimony and also on courtroom procedure. Her work has been funded by the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation. She was elected president of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the Western Psychological Association (twice), the American Psychology-Law Society, and the Experimental Psychology division of the American Psychological Association (APA).
Loftus has received seven honorary doctorates for her research, from universities in the United States, but also The Netherlands, Great Britain, Israel and Norway. Her other honors and awards are numerous. She has won both of the top awards from APS: the James McKeen Cattell Fellow in 1997 and the Williams James Fellow Award in 2001.
In 2003, the same year that she received the APA Distinguished Scientific Award for Applications of Psychology, she was also elected to membership of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences. In 2004 she was elected to the National Academy of Sciences. In 2005, she won the Grawemeyer Prize in Psychology (to honor ideas of “great significance and impact.”) Also in 2005 she was elected to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, which is Scotland’s national academy of sciences and letters, established in 1783. In 2006, she was elected to the American Philosophical Society, which is the oldest learned society in the United States, Est. 1745 by Benjamin Franklin. In 2009 she received the Distinguished Contributions to Psychology and Law Award from the American Psychology-Law Society. In 2010, she received the Warren Medal from the Society of Experimental Psychologists (for “significant contributions to the understanding of the phenomenology of human memory, especially its fragility and vulnerability to distortion”). She also received the 2010 Scientific Freedom and Responsibility Award from the American Association for the Advancement of Science (for “the profound impact that her pioneering research on human memory has had on the administration of justice in the United States and abroad.”). In 2012, she received the University of California, Irvine Medal (for “exceptional contributions to the vision, mission, and spirit of UC Irvine”), the highest honor the university bestows. In 2013, she received the Gold Medal Award for Lifetime Achievement in Science from the American Psychological Foundation (for ”extraordinary contributions to our understanding of memory during the past 40 years that are remarkable for their creativity and impact”).
Loftus has been an expert witness or consultant in hundreds of cases, including the McMartin PreSchool Molestation case, the Hillside Strangler, the Abscam cases, the trial of Oliver North, the trial of the officers accused in the Rodney King beating, the Menendez brothers, the Bosnian War trials in the Hague, the Oklahoma Bombing case, and litigation involving Michael Jackson, Martha Stewart, Scooter Libby, and the Duke University Lacrosse players.
John Shelby Spong, Religious Liberty Award
John Shelby Spong was the Episcopal Bishop of Newark before his retirement in 2000. As a visiting lecturer at Harvard and at universities and churches throughout North America and the English-speaking world, he is one of the leading spokespersons for liberal Christianity.
His books include The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World; Eternal Life: A New Vision; Jesus for the Non-Religious; Sins of Scripture; A New Christianity for a New World; Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism; Resurrection: Myth or Reality?; Why Christianity Must Change or Die; and his autobiography, Here I Stand.
He has initiated landmark discussions of controversies within the church and has become an outspoken advocate for change. Bishop Spong’s newest book, Biblical Literalism: A Gentile Heresy will be published by HarperOne, and imprint of HarperCollins, in March
Visit the author online at www.JohnShelbySpong.com.