The Gathering 2017 – “Finding the Better Angels of Our Nature”


“Finding the Better Angels of Our Nature”

In 2017 we explored ways to find common ground among bitter rivals. Ideological differences in religion, politics, ethics, race, and the arts and sciences have deeply divided Americans, and have come to characterize our culture. Our aim was to find ways to restore respect and acceptance among us and to reconnect ours with the best ideals of our country.


Mara Liasson, National Political Correspondent for National Public Radio, reports on the White House and Congress.  She also is a contributor to Fox News. She is well-known for first-rate reporting that gives audiences a balanced view of news events centered in Washington.  She covered the White House for all eight years of William Jefferson Clinton’s presidency. Her reports can be heard on NPR’s news magazines All Things Considered and Morning Edition.


Jennifer Michael Hecht is a poet, historian, essayist, and commentator. She is the author of Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. She has also written The End of the Soul: Scientific Modernity, Aetheism, and Anthropology. Her best-known volume of poetry is Funny. She also has written several journals, including A History of Ideas.


“Fun with the Interfaithless: Poetry, Meaning, and Community Across What Used To Be Religious Divisions”

Steve McIntosh is an American author and president of the Institute for Cultural Evolution think tank (‘ICE’). ICE focuses on the cultural foundations of America’s political dysfunction, working to expand the scope of what people can value. Steve has written three influential books on the integral philosophy that animates ICE’s perspective: Integral Consciousness and the Future of Evolution (2007), Evolution’s Purpose (2012), and his most recent: The Presence of the Infinite (2015). His work explores the intersection of social development, spirituality, and politics.

For more on his work visit ICE’s website:  or his author website:

Sylvie Simmons has written about music since the late 1970s and is one of the rare women included among the rock writing elite. She is the author of fiction and non-fiction books; the most recent is I’m Your Man: The Life of Leonard Cohen (2012). The New York Times called it “the definitive Cohen portrait, fearless and smart. Mesmerizing.” Sylvie is also a singer-songwriter and recording artist. She’ll be bringing her ukulele and will sing some Cohen songs.


“I heard there was a secret chord”  A memorial tribute to Leonard Cohen

Ellen Carroll, like Barack Obama, began her career with “Baskin Robbins 31 Flavors,” went on to work as a copywriter, an appearance agent for children’s authors and illustrators, and an events coordinator for Paul Newman’s “The Hole in The Wall Gang Camps.”  She received her MA in literature from University College London and currently does stand up comedy and live talk shows.  She is also a wife, mother, quilter, and professional grudge holder.

How Awfully Forgiving of Me

Daryl ThetfordDaryl Thetford works in photography-based digital media and collage. His work has appeared in solo exhibits in galleries around the country, including the Gallery at Penn College, Williamsport, PA; the Lubeznik Center for the Arts in Michigan City, Indiana; the Coffman Gallery at the University of Minnesota at Minneapolis, the Contemporary and Modern Art Fair, San Francisco, CA; and many group shows, including the Annenberg Space in Los Angeles. His work hangs in many corporate collections, including commissioned works for a luxury hotel (Hotel at The University of Maryland in College Park); works for ESA Architectural headquarters in Nashville; and individual pieces in other corporate offices, including Sony Music Headquarters in Nashville.

Bill Carter blends his work as a jazz composer and his calling as a
Presbyterian pastor. Walking the dotted line between the sacred and the
secular, he preaches sermons each week at First Presbyterian Church of
Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania, and makes music with jazz musicians throughout
the northeast. A graduate of Binghamton University (SUNY) and Princeton
Theological Seminary, he has taught jazz piano at Marywood University in
Scranton, Pennsylvania, for the past fifteen years. Over the course of his
career, he has made music with Phil Woods, Dave Brubeck, Bobby McFerrin,
and David Liebman, among many others. He is the author of eight books, and
travels widely as a speaker, teacher, workshop leader, and jazz pianist.


The Jazz of Justice: Dave Brubeck and Our Hidden Wound

Racism is America’s “hidden wound,” according to poet Wendell Berry. The scars of African slavery and the subsequent subjugation of an entire race have continued to tear the fabric of American life. Yet many creative artists have courageously uncovered and touched this wound in an attempt to heal it. In this presentation, we will trace the work of jazz legend Dave Brubeck, who bridged racial divisions by singing to the American soul.

Anna Weiss began her training at the age of six with Kristin Degnan-Boonin at Ballet Northeast. In high school she performed lead roles in The Nutcracker, including Klara, the Snow Queen, the Mouse Queen, and the Russian variation, and in Coppélia she performed lead Spinner and lead Mazurka. Anna attended summer courses at the Rock School for Dance Education, The Bossov Ballet Theatre, and Ballet Chicago. She has  trained with Barbara Weisberger, Karla Kovatch, Daniel Duell, Patricia Blair, Bo and Stephanie Spassoff, Sheila Rozann, and Andrei Bossov. She also was accepted into summer programs and full year programs at Joffrey New York, Kaatsbaan International Dance Center, and Nutmeg Conservatory. Currently, Anna is majoring in Political Science and International Studies at Loyola University, Chicago. This year she has been exploring modern dance for the first time, particularly Humphrey Technique, and taking class with Deborah Goodman.

A public lands manager, a farmer, a corporate executive, a scientist and an educator talk about where to look for areas of agreement on the world’s most pressing issue. Or is it just natural cycles of weather — no big deal? Is there common ground?

Bernie McGurl
is a fourth generation native of the Lackawanna Valley.  He studied Public Administration at the University of Scranton, Geology and Earth Science at Keystone College and Cabinet Making at Johnson College. Between 1970 and 1990 he served in various occupations in the railroad and construction industries. He was a co –founder of the Lackawanna River Conservation Association (LRCA) in 1987 and has served as Executive Director of the LRCA since 1991. He also serves as a member of the boards of directors of several regional conservation, community development and human services agencies.

John F. Pullo, is Vice President, Corporate Development at Gentex Corporation.  In this role, Mr. Pullo is responsible for providing leadership in high-level Business Development efforts and the evaluation of strategic opportunities, with particular focus on international growth and technology acquisition.

A proud 1969 alumnus of Keystone, Mr. Pullo also holds a BA in Economics from Wilkes University and an MBA with a concentration in Operations Management from the University of Scranton.  He is also a graduate of the Executive Master of Science in Technology Management (EMTM) program at the University of Pennsylvania, an advanced degree program in strategic technology management conferred jointly by the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Wharton School.

Liska Chan is Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture at the University of Oregon.  She teaches a broad spectrum of landscape related courses including design studios, drawing, and critical art practice for designers. Her own creative practice involves mapping to examine and show the ways places, such as New York City’s Chinatown evolve over time. The work seeks to communicate the multiplicities of cultural and biophysical factors that constrain and direct landscape change.

Brian Manning is a fourth generation farmer working on his family’s vertically integrated dairy farm. He grew up in North Abington Township, PA, and graduated from Cornell University with a degree in Crop Science. Brian is the farm manager at Manning Farm Dairy working for a sustainable future in farming for a fifth generation of Manning farmers.

Dr. Dale Holen is an Associate Professor of Biology at the Penn State University Worthington Scranton campus where he’s taught for 23 years. He is originally from Wisconsin, receiving his B.S from UW-Stevens Point and his M.S. and PhD. From UW-Milwaukee. He is an aquatic ecologist and studies mixotrophic algae in lakes. Courses that Dr. Holen has taught includes Evolution, Microbiology, Lake and Stream Ecology, Cell Biology and The Ecology of Infectious Disease.  He has been actively involved with a grass roots group in the chemical monitoring of streams within a local watershed and is a researcher at the Lacawac Sanctuary, a wildlife refuge, environmental education center and biological field station located in the Poconos.

Donna J. Fetzko, MS, RYT, offers yoga classes for all levels. She is co-owner of Heart to Heart Wellness, LLC, a studio in Tunkhannock, PA.  She is certified through Yoga Alliance and trained in the Yogafit style. As a yoga instructor and health educator, Donna takes a holistic approach to wellness. She has shared the benefits of yoga in the community for 10 years.

Morning Yoga

Begin the day focused and energized with the ancient practice of yoga.  Yoga is an ideal exercise to promote overall health, strength, flexibility, and cardiovascular conditioning. Classes are suitable for all levels and presented in the user-friendly, demystified, safe, and effective Yogafit style.  Come prepared with comfortable clothes, a mat, towel or blanket, water, and be prepared to enjoy the enlightening experience of yoga.


Political Evolution

Steve McIntosh

Saturday Workshop: Participating in Political Evolution

Building on the themes in his keynote presentation, Steve’s workshop will explore how participants can effectively contribute to political progress by evolving their own thinking about America’s current political situation. The workshop will examine the emergence of “developmental politics” and its new method for building political will and reaching consensus. We will also consider how a deeper understanding of values and virtues can lead to more effective forms of activism.


Jennifer Michael Hecht

Friday: A Poetry Workshop with Jennifer Michael Hecht

There are poems that are too strange to be true, but that ring stunningly true in the world of feeling. How does wild imagination bring us to reverberating gongs of truth? We will read two poems that do this magic, James Tate’s “It Happens Like This,” and Brigit Pegeen Kelly’s “Song.” Yes, they both feature goats, and we’ll talk about that. (Also perhaps take a look at my poem “Anti-Gravity Time Machine” in Plume, online.) We’ll also talk about how such poems let imagination lead us into the emotionally real, and play with how we can bring these insights into our own writing.


Sylvie Simmons

Friday Workshop: The Rock Chick

An interactive workshop on interviewing a rock star, literary celebrity, or anyone you want to write about. Participants are given limited information about their subject and they adapt questions accordingly to elicit the information they need.

Writing for Children

Gail Carson Levine

Saturday Workshop: Writing for Children: a Hands-On Workshop


Dana Shavin

Friday Workshop: The Trouble With Brains: Writing In Spite of it All

In this workshop, which takes its title from the Tom Tomorrow cartoon of the same name, we will talk about writing thorough adversity: specifically, through negative self-talk, roadblocks, writers block, rejection, distraction, envy, uncertainty. Writing can be a fragile craft, and even the most seasoned writers can find themselves at odds with themselves. Healing the split between the writer and that which stops the writer from writing will be our focus in this supportive, engaging, and thought-provoking workshop.

Dream Work

Kevin Creegan, Ph.D.

Saturday Workshop: Dream Work

Virtually all human beings struggle with inner conflicts about their emotions and their relationships with others. These conflicts are frequently symbolically represented in dreams. In this workshop, participants will learn methods for recording and interpreting their dreams. The purpose of the latter will be to help participants gain greater understanding of their own conflicts and ways that they can resolve them.

Writing for Racial Healing

Constance Garcia-Barrio and Linda C. Wisniewski

Friday Workshop: Writing for racial healing

This workshop encourages participants to identify an activity or project that they can undertake to help heal racism, and then commit to taking that action within a short time.  Since people have led different lives and have varying levels of comfort with persons of other races or ethnicities, the commitments they make will vary.