33rd Annual 2010 FFRF Convention Speakers

33rd Annual National Freedom From Religion Foundation Convention

Concourse Hotel
One Dayton Street
Madison, Wisconsin
Weekend of Oct. 29-31, 2010


Ayaan Hirsi Ali, whose moving and eloquent bestseller, Infidel, chronicles her Muslim girlhood in Somali, and the break she made from an arranged marriage which catapulted her into Dutch politics, feminism and atheism. Ayaan will be presented the 2010 Emperor Has No Clothes Award from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and deliver the keynote address at this year's convention. Ayaan's script was turned into a film, "Submission," by Theo Van Gogh in 2004. Van Gogh was brutally slain on the streets of Amsterdam by a Muslim terrorist who pinned a death threat to Ayaan on his body. Ayaan's newest book is Nomad

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Cenk Uygur is a former practicing lawyer, television writer and television host. He will receive an Emperor Has No Clothes Award for openly stating his lack of belief as an agnostic. He is currently a regular guest host and commentator on MSNBC, as well as one of the Huffington Post’s most viewed bloggers, with additional blogs on Politico, Daily Kos and The Young Turks website. The Young Turks airs live online from 6-9pm ET Monday-Friday, and on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio from 8-9pm ET. Cenk Uygur is host and founder of The Young Turks, the first ever live, daily web-TV show. Recognized by the Los Angeles Times as “pioneers of Internet programming,” it was launched in 2002 as Sirius Satellite Radio’s first original program before extending its reach online. The program currently has a partnership deal with YouTube.com, where it is among the website’s most viewed channels with an average of 13 million views per month, and approximately 300 million total views. In addition to its Internet presence on its home site, YouTube and UStream, The Young Turks broadcasts daily on XM/Sirius Satellite Radio and podcast as a talk show that brings together news, politics and entertainment in a multi-media format. Recent guests on the program include such power-makers as Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, Alan Greenspan, President Jimmy Carter, Mel Brooks, NBC’s Brian Williams, Reverend Jesse Jackson, Senator John Kerry, and Pat Buchanan. In the words of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, The Young Turks is changing the face of radio.”

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Congressman Pete Stark accepted The Emperor Has No Clothes Award. Congressman Stark is a graduate of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) with a degree in engineering and the University of California, Berkeley with a Master's degree in Business Administration (MBA). Before being elected to Congress in 1972, Stark was a successful businessman and banker. Congressman Stark is the only openly atheist member of Congress.

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Lt. Gov. Barbara Lawton has served as Wisconsin's Lieutenant Governor since 2003 and recently completed her tenure as the Chair of the National Lieutenant Governors Association. She has earned international recognition for her groundbreaking economic development initiative, Wisconsin Women = Prosperity, improving the economic status of Wisconsin women. Called "Wisconsin's green leader" by the Capital Times, Lawton has tirelessly promoted her Green Economy Agenda, leading efforts to offer incentives and ideas for energy efficiency in businesses, schools and local governments. She serves as the chair of the Wisconsin Arts Board, the honorary chair of Wisconsin United for Mental Health and led a Task Force on Women and Depression, whose recommendations are improving access to mental health care. She leads a multi-agency project to expand access to opportunity in Wisconsin for disadvantaged, minority and women-owned businesses. She is Wisconsin's first woman elected lieutenant governor. Lt. Gov. Lawton will record a welcome video to air at the convention's Friday night.

 

Watch her video greeting


Linda Greenhouse is the Knight Distinguished Journalist in Residence and Joseph M. Goldstein Lecturer in Law at Yale Law School. She covered the Supreme Court for The New York Times between 1978 and 2008 and writes a biweekly column on law. Ms. Greenhouse received several major journalism awards during her 40-year career at the Times, including the Pulitzer Prize (1998) and the Goldsmith Career Award for Excellence in Journalism from Harvard University’s Kennedy School (2004). Her biography of Justice Harry A. Blackmun, Becoming Justice Blackmun, was published in 2005. Her latest book, Before Roe v. Wade: Voices That Shaped the Abortion Debate Before the Supreme Court's Ruling (with Reva B. Siegel), was published in 2010. 

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Julia Sweeney, comedian and author of the hilarious but profound play, "Letting Go of God," about her journey from Roman Catholic schoolgirl to atheist. Julia was on "Saturday Night Live" for four hit seasons in the early 1990s, and is known for introducing the character, "Androgynous Pat." Her other movies include "It's Pat," the Grammy-nominated "God Said, Ha!" (a filmed version of her one-woman show), appearances in many TV and movie comedies and "Pulp Fiction."

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James F. Crow, pioneering geneticist, is Professor Emeritus of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Crow, a past president of the Genetics Society of America and the American Society of Human Genetics, chaired the Wisconsin Department of Medical Genetics for 5 years and the Laboratory of Genetics for 8 years. He served as Acting Dean of the UW Medical School for 2 years. Crow received the prestigious UC San Diego/Merck Life Sciences Lifetime Achievement Award of $25,000 in "recognition of his research achievements, his dedication in furthering his field and his efforts to broaden the public's understanding of the implications of new discoveries in genetics." In 2009, UW-Madison named its new evolution institute the J.F. Crow Institute for the Study of Evolution.

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Steve Benson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist for the Arizona Republic, is a former Mormon missionary who broke with the church in 1994. Steve is the grandson of former Mormon president Ezra Taft Benson. His cartoons have won many awards — and many other reactions. As his editor says, "A good cartoon is worth a thousand phone calls." Steve has teamed up periodically with FFRF's Dan Barker to "put on a show," combining his cartoons and Dan's music into an irreverent revue called "Tunes 'n Toons." (Photo by Timothy Hughes.)


Dan Barker, Foundation co-president, is an in-demand piano-player around town in Madison, Wis., who has written more than 200 recorded children's songs and was published by the Christian music industry before leaving religion. His many freethought songs are included in FFRF's two music CDs, "Friendly Neighborhood Atheist" and "Beware of Dogma." Dan's books include Losing Faith in Faith: From Preacher to Atheist (1992) and Godless (2008). (Photo: Brent Nicastro)


Mike Konopacki, of Madison, Wis., has been drawing editorial cartoons for the labor movement since 1978. In 1983 Mike and his colleague Gary Huck, cartoonist for the United Electrical Radio and Machine Workers (UE), created Huck/Konopacki Labor Cartoons. Since that time Mike and Gary have published six collections of labor cartoons: "Bye! American," "THEM," "MAD in USA," "Working Class Hero," "Two Headed Space Alien Shrinks Labor Movement" and the latest "American Dread." Mike has also drawn comic books and comics on the World Bank, welfare reform and union organizing. Mike is co-author and illustrator of Howard Zinn's graphic history A People's History of American Empire. In May of 2010 Mike earned his master of fine Arts in art at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (see self-portrait). He will deliver an ironic visual presentation, "One Nation Under God — A Bible History."

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Kirk Mefford is a bilingual science teacher at West High School, Madison, Wis. Mefford and Aaron Blom will present on being the faculty advisors of "The Most Hated U.S. Public High School Chapter," the West High School FFRF Chapter. Mefford has a master of arts in teaching science education from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill and a master of science in curriculum and instruction from the University of Wisconsin Madison. He has been teaching for 11 years, including teaching Spanish for a time in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Mefford was born into a Catholic family but says of religion, "it didn't stick." He and his wife have three children, including a daughter they recently adopted from Mexico. 

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Aaron Blom teaches English as a Second Language mathematics at West High School, Madison, Wis., and advises (with Kirk Mefford) the West High School FFRF Chapter. He has a B.S. in Mathematics Education with a teachable Spanish minor from Northern Michigan University. Blom grew up in a strict Lutheran home, but says over the past three years he has blossomed from quiet skeptic into a vocal nonbeliever. 


Eric Workman is the recently graduated valedictorian at Greenwood High School, Greenwood, Ind., who sued to halt illegal prayers at his commencement ceremony. He is the 2010 recipient of the Freedom From Religion Foundation's Thomas Jefferson Youth Activist Award. He will be pursuing a B.S. in Biochemistry with Honors and a minor in mathematics, and spent the summer of 2010 in a summer research program for science majors. He plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Biochemistry and an M.D. degree, to venture into research science. He is a seasoned chess player.

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