Speaker's Corner

Programs Available for Presentation at Your Location:

The Wissahickon Valley Historical Society offers the following programs for presentation at your location.  Most of the programs run 60 minutes including Question and Answers.  The Society does not charge a set fee, but does ask for a contribution to the Society.

The Wissahickon Valley Historical Society.  This program is an introduction to the Society, its service area, its efforts at saving local landmarks, the two buildings that it occupies and its programs and services.

The Declaration of Independence.  What were the purposes of the Declaration of Independence?  What different audiences did it address?  What is unique about its structure?  Why do people all over the world revere its words?  In this program, you will review the entire document and gain a new appreciation of it.

Every Deed Tells a Story.  The Society possesses a collection of old property deeds, many of them being from the 18th and 19th centuries.  These old documents are beautiful to look at, but they also tell us some important stories of life in that period of time.  The program includes a display of several deeds from the Society’s collection.

The Great Debate.  Thomas Paine and Edmund Burke were two of the most influential political thinkers of the 18th century.  Paine is often considered to be the father of modern American progressive ideas and Burke is often considered to be the father of modern American conservative ideas.  Although they only met once, they carried on an extensive “debate” with each other through their writings.  This program analyzes their competing positions.

The Indispensable Adam Smith.  The 18th century Scot Adam Smith was one of the most important figures in developing our ideas about the modern world.  He was a moral philosopher and political economist best known now for The Wealth of Nations.  In his own time, he first gained fame for The Theory of Moral Sentiment.  This program explores both his ideas and the influence that they had on the development of our world today.

Lincoln’s Words: The Emancipation Proclamation, the Gettysburg Address and the Second Inaugural Address.  This program analyzes these three famous documents, looking at what Lincoln was attempting to accomplish, how he went about it and how successful he was.

My Time in Public Service.  Society President Russ Bellavance has served as an elected local official (Wissahickon School Board), appointed state official (Chief Counsel of the Pennsylvania Department of Economic and Community Development) and an appointed federal official (Resolution Trust Corporation SWAT).  In this program, he reflects on these experiences and some of the lessons he learned from his time in public service.

Our Fractured Republic.  This program is based on Yuval Levin’s book, The Fractured Republic.”  It is Levin’s contention that America has changed greatly in the past 60 years or so, and that both of our major political parties are blind to the implications of these changes.  Instead, both parties harken back to an imagined glorious past that can never be restored.  Levin’s analysis also includes a discussion of the kinds of issues that the parties should be focused on and some recommendations for ways we change our current unproductive political dynamics.

The Presidency Under the Constitution?  Have you ever wondered what the powers of a U.S. President are and where those powers come from?  All U.S. Presidents, those you like and those you do not like, derive their powers from the same source and are subject to the same limitations.  This program covers these questions and even provides some answers.

Towards a 21st Century Constitution. Many people have ideas about ways in which we should change the U.S. Constitution.  Some of these are stand-alone, such as proposals to abolish the Electoral College.  But some people have proposed more extensive  and dramatic changes, and have recommended that the states call for a new constitutional convention to develop those changes.  This program will review both certain stand-alone proposals and two opposing proposals for wholesale changes, one from a progressive writer and one from a conservative writer.

The U.S. Constitution, Part I.  This program focuses on the contents of the U.S. Constitution itself, including the competing values behind it and the nature and extent of its grants of powers and imposition of checks and balances.

The U.S. Constitution, Part II.  This program assumes an existing basic knowledge of the contents of the Constitution as originally adopted.  Its focus is on the fight for ratification and on the 27 Amendments.

The U.S. Constitution, Part III.  This program assumes an existing basic knowledge of the contents of the Constitution, including its 27 Amendments.  The focus of the program is on the methods of interpreting the Constitution, including an analysis of some of the most important Supreme Court cases. 

A Walking Tour of The Cotswolds and Cornwall.  In 2018, Russ and Jeannie Bellavance spent a week in the Cotswolds area of England followed by a week in Cornwall.  This program talks about some of the benefits of slow-paced, small group touring of these beautiful areas, as well as some of the surprises that come from exploring foreign lands that are so familiar to us from television shows and movies.

Whither Western Civilization.  Where is our Western Civilization headed?  Is it in decline?  What challenges does it face?  Are our best days behind us?  This program explores these difficult and important questions.