Monday, August 6, 2012

Canandaigua speaker series announces season lineup

A prolific TV writer, the founder of the Zogby poll and a woman whose food program averted mass starvation in Africa make up the second season of speakers in the George M. Ewing Canandaigua Forum.

Events take place on Sunday afternoons over the next year in the newly completed auditorium at Finger Lakes Community College.

Michael Winship/Photo by Robin Holland

The series begins with Canandaigua native and television writer Michael Winship on Sunday, Oct. 21. Winner of a 2009 Emmy for writing, Winship has worked for The Discovery and Learning channels, major PBS stations, CBS and National Geographic, among others.

John Zogby

Pollster John Zogby, who predicted the outcomes of the 1996, 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, will speak on Sunday, Feb. 10, 2013. He will draw on years of detailed research to offer a picture of where America is headed – politically, culturally, and spiritually.

Catherine Bertini with Kofi Annan

The final speaker on Sunday, May 5, 2013, is Catherine Bertini, a Syracuse University professor who ran the United Nations World Food Program for 10 years. She was recognized in 2003 as the World Food Prize Laureate for her work to end famine and prevent starvation in North Korea, Afghanistan, Bosnia and other areas.

Canandaigua Mayor Ellen Polimeni was among those who attended the first season, which featured foreign policy expert Michael O’Hanlon, editor John Harris and TV and stage actor Michael Park.

"The range and knowledge of the first three speakers were impressive. I really enjoyed the forums, and people I talked to were just as impressed,” Polimeni said. “The second season looks just as promising, and the added attraction of holding the events in the new college auditorium is a wonderful bonus."

Season tickets are $79 to $99 for all three events, depending on seating. Patron season tickets, which include entry to a reception with each speaker, are $175. Single event tickets are $29 to $39.

Tickets are on sale online at, by phone at (585) 785-1386 or email at

The speaker series is named for the late George M. Ewing Sr., who passed away in September 2009 at the age of 87. He was the long-time editor and publisher of the Daily Messenger, later to become Messenger Post Media.
He and his late wife, M.M. Ewing, were philanthropic leaders in Canandaigua for many years. The tradition has continued through his son, George M. Ewing Jr., and his family, who provided funding to launch the series in 2011.

A community committee plans the series. The speakers will be joined by moderators who pose questions in the style of a TV talk show. Audience members will have an opportunity to submit questions as well.

“We had great feedback on our first season,” said Meg Ewing, an organizer of the speaker series. “This is another chance to hear people who have uncommon insight on the world today.”

Retired teacher Judi Cermak, president of the Ontario County Arts Council, attended all three events last season and is looking forward to the upcoming lineup of speakers.

“It’s such an essential portion of the arts to hear speakers talk about their ideas and experiences as a way to learn about the world,” Cermak said. “I was so impressed by the knowledge shared the first season, and this type of forum really deserves the same kind of support enjoyed by music and fine arts and other cultural events. These are things we need that enhance our lives.”

All the speakers have roots in upstate New York. Winship is from Canandaigua, John Zogby is a Utica native, and Catherine Bertini grew up in Cortland.

TV writer Michael Winship has been nominated for the Writers Guild Award for Excellence in Writing nine times, receiving it in 2004 and 2009 for commentaries written with Bill Moyers. Since 2002, Winship has written a weekly column for GateHouse News Service that also appears on websites worldwide, including Salon, Truthout, Common Dreams, Alternet and the Bill Moyers Journal blog.

John Zogby, founder of the Zogby poll, crunches numbers that have been consistently among the most accurate opinion research data available. As author of the New York Times bestseller “The Way We'll Be: The Zogby Report on the Transformation of the American Dream,” he continues to put his finger on the pulse of America, creating a portrait of the trends that drive society today and in the future.

During her tenure as head of the United Nations World Food Program, Catherine Bertini was the U.N. secretary general’s envoy twice: for drought in the Horn of Africa and for humanitarian needs in Gaza and the West Bank. Bertini has also led efforts to increase the number of girls in developing countries who attend school.

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