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PEACenter Speakers Bureau

The Speakers listed below are willing to speak to local groups on the topics noted. Please contact the Peace Center at if you are interested in having one of these speakers address your group. ​

Andrea Blanch, Ph.D.

Topics: Interfaith peace building in Israel/Palestine; the role of women in building conditions of sustainable peace; trauma healing and peacemaking; women's empowerment and peacemaking in the Middle East. 


Brief Biography: President and Director of the Center for Religious Tolerance, a non-profit organization promoting the ideals of peace and religious tolerance. Founding member of the Abrahamic Reunion, a group of  Jewish, Christian, Muslim and Druze religious and lay leaders in Israel/Palestine who work for peace. Former state mental health commissioner who published numerous professional articles, book chapters and edited volumes on trauma, conflict management and systems change, and women's mental health.  Founding director of the Collaborative for Conflict Management in Mental Health at USF and the National Trauma Consortium.  Currently working locally and internationally to promote women in leadership and to help groups and organizations resolve conflict, heal embedded social and historical trauma, and create conditions for sustainable peace.  A 2009 Women Living Religion Fellow in the Yale program on Women, Religion, and Globalization.Organization Affiliations: President and Director, Center for Religious Tolerance.  


Audience: Adult; Adult/College.   


Area of travel: Anywhere within reason, or anywhere if travel is reimbursed.   ​


Honorarium: Donations accepted. All money collected is donated to peacemakers on the ground in Israel/ Palestine.

Florida Veterans for Common Sense 

This organization has a number of veterans that can speak on various issues.

Mike Burns: Mike can talk about his Vietnam service. He was shot down over North Vietnam and was a POW for 56 months. Mike has presented Memorial Day talks as a Representative of FLVCS.
Kevin Connelly: Kevin can provide several types of presentations. He can play the role of Tom Paine in a performance with another member, or a more expansive one (with singing and storytelling) with Bill Schustik, a FLVCS Friend.
Kevin can also speak about his Vietnam War experiences as a Special Forces advisor and the history of the Vietnam War.
John Darovec: John is FLVCS Co-Chair of the FLVCS Environmental Working Group and author of the FLVCS Report, The National Security Implications of Climate Change. He is well qualified to speak on this subject and what individuals can do to combat climate change.
Skip Hannon: Skip is a Korean War vet who can talk about his experiences.Anthony Hardie: Anthony is the FLVCS expert on Gulf War illness. He can talk about the ongoing research related to Gulf War Illness, other toxic wounds, and Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD). Anthony is particularly informed about the issues veterans may have with the Veterans Administration such as long delays and denial of claims.
Gene Jones: Gene has moderated a FLVCS panel on Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and has presented Memorial Day talks as a representative of FLVCS. He can also present on the cost of war, and United States involvement in the Middle East. 
Coty Keller: Coty is FLVCS Co-Chair of the FLVCS Environmental Working Group and author of the FLVCS Report, The National Security Implications of Climate Change, and is well qualified to speak on this subject and, in addition, what individuals can do to combat climate change.
Geoff Morris: Geoff was a medic in the Vietnam War and can talk about his experiences. In addition, Geoff can provide the latest information on the FLVCS goal to have Veterans Diversion Courts statewide and how such courts helps veterans and can save the state money.
Nadine Noky: Nadine is an Iraq War II veteran who can talk about her experiences and the particular impact of deployment on female veterans. Nadine is also the organizer of the First Statewide Women Veterans Conference

Note: All of the speakers are informed about the history of FLVCS and can explain the mission, goals, and projects of FLVCS.

Audience (Adults; Adult/College; HS/MS): All.   
Area of travel: Outside Florida, expenses would have to be reimbursed.   
Honorarium:  Donations accepted.

Mercedes Frace

​Topics: Nonviolent Communication (NVC), also called Compassionate Communication or conscious languaging - the work of Marshall Rosenberg; empathy skills; racism and diversity as it relates to NVC principles; conflict resolution/mediation using the NVC process. 

Brief Biography: With over 5 years and numerous hours of certified training with Nonviolent Communication developer Marshall Rosenberg and other trainers, she is a registered trainer candidate with the Center for Nonviolent Communication and is currently in the Life09 program with master trainer Robert Gonzales. She resides in Venice where she co-parents her 10-year-old daughter and is working on her first NVC publication.
Organization Affiliations: Board member of Peace Education and Action Center; member, Florida NVC Network (was Suncoast Network for Compassionate Communication); supporter, Center for Nonviolent Communication. 


Audience: Age 12 to adult.   
Area of travel: Nationally.   
Honorarium: Possibly.

Samar Jarrah

Topics: History of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict; US policy toward Israel/Palestine; Israeli and Palestinian peace movements; the wall; the right of return; media coverage; Arab perceptions of the conflict and the US role; the book Arab Voices Speak to American Hearts.

Brief Biography:  Samar Dahmash-Jarrah is a Kuwait-born Palestinian-American speaker, journalist, and educator. She has traveled extensively throughout North America, Europe, and the Middle East and has lived in Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and America.  Her professional accomplishments include being a contributor to CNN World Report; news editor and reporter for Jordan Television; editor and reporter for Jordan Weekly; and a Political Science instructor at the University of South Florida in Tampa, Florida. These experiences have allowed her to see the Middle East conflicts from many different viewpoints.  Dahmash-Jarrah holds a Master of Arts degree in Political Science, a Bachelor of Arts in Middle East Studies, a Certificate of Merit and many Service Awards from the American University in Cairo.

Organization Affiliations: Arab Voices Speak to American Hearts.  

Audience (Adults; Adult/College; HS/MS): All.   
Area of Travel: US, Canada, Europe, Arab world.   
Honorarium: travel expenses for self and assistant.

Michael D. Knox, Ph.D.

Topics:  "A Cultural Shift toward Peace: The Need for a National Symbol"; "Honoring the Peacemakers"; and "Peace is Socially Acceptable."

Brief Biography: Distinguished Professor at the University of South Florida; Chair of the US Peace Memorial Foundation; Editor of the US Peace Registry; licensed Clinical Psychologist; has actively opposed US war and aggression since 1965; awarded the 2007 Prize for the Psychology of Peace and Social Justice at the 115th Annual Meeting of the American Psychological Association recognizing him for "more than four decades of outstanding contributions to peace and humanitarian assistance;" and his biography is included in the latest editions of Who's Who in the World and Who's Who in America.

Organization Affiliations: Chair and CEO, US Peace Memorial Foundation, Inc.  

Audience (Adults; Adult/College; HS/MS): All.   
Area of travel: Nationwide.   
Honorarium: Travel expenses are requested (or equivalent in donations to the Foundation) if the location of the presentation is more than 60 miles from Tampa or the audience is expected to be less than 25 people.

Fran Palmeri

Topics: (Photographs of Florida habitats, plants and animals are the basis of any talk.) Making Peace with Mother Earth; Bartram’s Ghost; Connectivity. For children: Reading the Landscape; Mother Nature’s Calendar; The Underdogs.

Brief Biography: Florida nature writer/photographer. Getting to know this wondrous peninsula over a span of forty years has been a kind of green pilgrimage. About five years ago I started photographing intensively and sending essays and photos about our habitats and native species to the Florida press and elsewhere. As I’ve come to understand that our relationship with the planet is a peace issue, I see myself as primarily as educator and advocate. My hope is that if people see what I have seen they will be moved to act in the interest of the land.

Organization Affiliations: Sarasota Monthly Meeting (Quakers); Sarasota Tree Advisory Council; Florida Native Plant Society; Sierra Club; Manasota 88.

Audience: Elementary school children; adults.   

Area of travel: Sarasota County.  

Honorarium: None.

Deri Joy Ronis, Ph.D.

Topics: Creating a culture of peace; the gift of conflict; what is healthy anger?; the use of mediation in family, schools, and business; creating a more just world.  

Brief Biography: Private practice specializing in psycho-spiritual issues, anger management, behavioral therapy, family issues, and addictionology. Current member of the Rotary Club of Sarasota Bay, Florida; completed Rotary Leadership Institute training levels 1 and 2. Florida State Certified Family/County Mediator, Corporate Mediation, since 1987. Facilitator of DUI groups in Sarasota, FL. Consultant to the School Board of Sarasota's Safe School Department and trainer in study circles in healing racism at Sarasota High School. Redress mediator for US Postal Service. Adjunct professor at The Union Institute, Miami, Florida. Consultant to the Conflict Resolution Clinic, the Bahamian Bar Association, the Bahamian Ministry of Education, and the Ministry of Social Workers, Nassau, Bahamas. Consultant to the Palm Beach County Board of Education and the Palm Beach County Community Foundation's Healing Racism Project. Trainer and educator in anger management, multi-cultural diversity, human resource management, industrial/organizational psychology, personal growth, conflict prevention and intervention. Current spiritual leader at Unity in Brandon, Florida. 2007 award recipient of the Rotary University Professor and Goodwill Ambassador at Galen University, San Ignacio, Belize. 2008 award recipient of community grant from Florida Academy of Professional Mediators.

Organization Affiliations: Association for Conflict Resolution; Florida Academy of Professional Mediators;

International Association of Counselors and Therapists; Rotary International Alumni.

Audience (Adults; Adult/College; HS/MS): All.   
​Area of travel: Willing to travel if paid for mileage or air fare.   
Honorarium: Yes; minimum of $150 for one hour presentation.

Laurel Schiller

Topics: Programs and seminars on Florida native plants and natural Florida landscaping.


Brief Biography: Nursery co-owner with degrees in wildlife biology and systematics and ecology. Taught biology at Roosevelt University in Chicago. Worked as a mammalogist at the New York Zoological Society (at the Bronx Zoo) and at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. Former National Landscape Design Critic (Florida Garden Club) and Florida Master Gardener. Currently completing the Florida Master Naturalist program.  Since she moved to Venice, Florida, 16 years ago, her interests have been channeled into preserving the natural environment.  She is a past president of the Friends of Oscar Scherer Park, served as a board member of the Rails to Trails Legacy Park, and recently completed six years as a Sarasota County Planning Commissioner.  She designs native plantings for natural areas for homeowners and homeowner associations. She specializes in native plant restoration and mitigation work and enjoys creating wildlife habitat. She has worked on native plant designs for numerous school sites and for state, county, and city lands. With her partner, Dan Walton, she has written Natural Florida Landscaping published by Pineapple Press in April 2007.


Organization Affiliations: Marie Selby Botanical Gardens Speakers’ Bureau; Education Chair for the Florida Native Nursery Association; member of the Sarasota Tree Advisory Council, Chair of the Environmental Task Force of the City of Venice, and member of the Environmental Policy Task Force for Sarasota County.


Audience (Adults; Adult/College; HS/MS): Groups and societies.   

Area of travel: Southwest Florida.   

Honorarium: None.

Susan Slack

Topics: (1) Create a peaceful culture in the classroom through the arts of singing, circle dancing and drumming; learn teamwork and social adjustment, reduce stress and learn about other cultures.  (2)  Dances of Universal Peace are an actual experience of peace.  Rather than a lecture format, the Dances offer an opportunity to touch upon different religions through repetition of sacred phrases from Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism and native traditions while gently moving in a circle.  They are presented in a casual, focused manner, taking into consideration the comfort zone of participants.  The outcome is a joyful bonding for your organization or conference and an indescribable inner peace.


Brief Biography: Senior Mentor for the Dances of Universal Peace and a teaching and performing artist.  Through the "Reading Rhythm" program, she has worked with teachers and students, teaching how to incorporate peaceful activities into the classroom as illustrated in her book, Come Join the Circle.  A strong believer in the arts as a vehicle to peace and understanding, she has been a Teaching Artist for the Sarasota County Arts Council, Chautauqua County Arts Council, Arts Council of Western New York and Young Audiences of Western New York.  She has offered workshops on the west coast of Florida, Chautauqua Institution and Omega Institute. She was a founding partner of "Dramatic Solutions" an interactive business theater company with corporate clients, including a one year contact with Walt Disney World's Diversity Department.


Organization Affiliations: Founder, Reading Rhythm; Mentor Teachers Guild of the Dances of Universal Peace.


Audience: Pre-K through Middle School classroom teachers; adults.   

Area of travel: One hour drive from Sarasota. 


Billy Wetherington

Topics: Crime, Punishment & Redemption: Downsizing the American Gulag  (A talk about the criminal justice system and the prison industrial complex in America and what you can do to achieve social justice in America)


A Bright Shining City on a Hill: The American Myth (The reality of America vs. the myth.)

A People’s History of the Cold War (What they didn’t tell you on Fox news and in high school history and civics class.)

The Necessary Terrorist (How terrorism has taken the place of Communism as a means of sustaining the military industrial complex and increasing governmental controls over our daily lives.)


Brief Biography:  Billy Wetherington is an accountant, auditor and business, financial and tax advisor in Sarasota, FL. He attended the University of Florida from 1969 to 1973 and the University of South Florida from 1974 to 1978 where he received two B.A. degrees, one from the College of Business Administration with an accounting major and the other from the College of Arts & Letters with a philosophy major. He passed the CPA exam in 1978 and has practiced accounting with both local and international accounting firms and has had his own practice since 1989.  His hobbies include reading, history, bird watching, blues & folk music and occasionally aggravating public officials with letters and radio programs.


Audience: Adults   

Area of Travel: Up to 2 hours from Sarasota. Would want travel reimbursement.  

Honorarium: Donations for the Peace Center accepted.

Carol Hartz

Topics: Gun Safety and Policy


Biography: Carol Hartz, PhD, League of Women Voters Sarasota County Gun Safety Chair, has been a full-time resident of Sarasota since 2005. Her most recent business position was as president of Carol Hartz and Associates, Inc., a software consulting firm. Carol has taught as an adjunct professor at Eckerd College, Georgia State University, and Oglethorpe University. Carol earned a PhD in Decision Sciences, a BS in Mathematics, Project Management Professional (PMP) certification, and was awarded Star Teacher Certification. Her past professional associations include serving as president, Atlanta Microsoft Project User’s Group and columnist, Microsoft Project User Group newsletter. Past volunteer associations include Big Brothers/Big Sisters, PALS, volunteer tutor Booker Middle School, Board Member National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI), Finance Chair, 100 Central Condominiums, Board Member, United Way, and Board Member, American Association of Individual Investors. 


Affiliations: League of Women Voters


Audience: Adult


Area of travel: tbd


Honorarium: tbd

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