10:00 AM – 11:00 AM Courses
FAMOUS TRIALS THROUGH HISTORY: A JUDGE’S PERSPECTIVE
(Sessions 5 – 10) Starts April 11 Truth is an absolute. Truth-finding is difficult. Some trials do not end simply with their verdict. They have a power that echoes throughout history. They have shaped and transformed the social, political and legal landscape. These trials deserve the description “great” because they serve as enduring lessons for us all on such issues as social justice, race, abuse of power and injustice. We will examine six of the greatest trials that have occurred across the globe in a search for truth. In doing so, we will show how our legal system has dramatically evolved.
The True Story behind the Lincoln Assassination: Myth versus Reality
Washington, D.C. April 14, 1865. There are many myths about the murder of Abraham Lincoln, perhaps our greatest president. Although assassin John Wilkes Booth fired the gun that killed the president, there were many fingers on that trigger.
The Confederate Secret Service, a foreign bank account, multiple assassins and an orchestrated underground plot conspired to decapitate the Union government, a plan set in motion months before the evening of April 14, 1865. This fascinating story examines the truth versus the myth.
Booth acted alone and was mad. MYTH.
Dr. Samuel Mudd, who set Booth’s broken leg six hours after the assassination, was an innocent country doctor who acted merely in fulfilling his Hippocratic oath. MYTH.
Mary Surratt, a middle-aged innkeeper, was close to the heart of the conspiracy. TRUTH.
The Confederate government had nothing to do with the assassination. MYTH.
This compelling narrative, both detailed and riveting, has been determined by modern scholars.
The Trial of Galileo: When Worlds Collide
Rome, Italy 1633. Two worlds clash in cosmic conflict. Galileo Galilei’s world of science and humanism collides with the absolutist power and authority of the Catholic Church. Galileo’s trial for heresy marks both the end of his liberty and the Italian Renaissance.
The Trial of Lizzie Borden: Forty Whacks?
Fall River, Massachusetts 1892. One of America’s most notorious murder mysteries that has endured for more than 100 years, this trial continues to confound. Did she, or didn’t she? When her parents were brutally hacked to death, the arrest of the couple’s daughter Lizzie turned the case into international news. Her eventual acquittal did nothing to stop speculation about her guilt or innocence. Was she a cold-blooded murderess or unjustly persecuted?
The Lindbergh Baby Kidnapping Trial: The Crime that Shocked the World
Flemington, New Jersey 1935. The trial of Richard Hauptmann, the accused kidnapper of the baby of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was called "the greatest story since the Resurrection." While that description is undoubtedly an exaggeration, measured by the public interest it generated, the Hauptmann trial is among the most famous trials of the 20th century. The trial featured America's greatest hero, a good mystery involving ransom notes and voices in dark cemeteries, a crime that is every parent's worst nightmare, and a German-born defendant who fought against U. S. forces in World War I.
Blood Feud: The Demoulas Supermarket Trials
Cambridge, Massachusetts 1990-2000. Bad family blood and lawsuits are a toxic mix. One of America’s oldest family businesses spent decades embroiled in the longest running, most expensive litigation ever in Massachusetts. The case was a legal odyssey, but what stunned lawyers across the nation was the losing defendants concocting a charade to induce the judge’s clerk to disclose the inner-workings of the judge’s chambers. The result: the judge’s resignation in disgrace (on other charges), and the disbarment of two attorneys.
The Trial of Kyle Rittenhouse: A Commentary on the American Judicial System
Kenosha, Wisconsin November 2021. This deeply divisive case ignited a national debate over vigilantism, violence, the definition of self-defense and the question of media ethics.
Teacher: The Honorable Dennis J. Curran, former MA Superior Court Trial Justice (Ret.), has presided over 450 civil and criminal trials. He currently teaches at Brown and Tufts Universities and the Roger Williams School of Law. He is a fellow of the MA Historical Society and member of the Board of Advisors of The Lincoln Forum.
LECTURERS ON DIVERSE TOPICS
Sessions 1 – 4. Starts March 14. WWLL is fortunate to have access to distinguished people who volunteer their time and expertise to give lectures on an eclectic array of subjects.
March 14 :
The Philosophy of Kindness by Audrey Ledbetter
It’s commonplace to talk about the power of kindness and that we should all strive to be kinder, but what does that look like? How do we know what it means to be kinder? This talk will take a philosophical approach to answer these questions, breaking down kindness to help us understand it so that we actually can be more kind.
Speaker: Audrey Ledbetter studies philosophy at Tufts and plans to graduate in 2023 with BA and MA degrees. She has researched moral theory and the intersection of feminist ethics and Chinese philosophy. This work led to critical thinking about the philosophy of kindness. She taught a course on the subject for the Tufts Experimental College and will give a talk on it in March on the TEDxTufts stage.
The Apollo Astronaut Experience by Andrew Chaikin
Only 24 humans have been to the moon. While researching his landmark book, A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts space historian Andrew Chaikin spent more than 150 hours interviewing 23 of the 24 Apollo lunar astronauts about every aspect of their incredible journeys. He will share some of the stories he heard during those conversations, about what they saw, thought, and felt during their historic explorations—including the elation and awe of setting foot on an ancient, alien wilderness, the demands of being lunar field geologists under the merciless pressure of the timeline, and the beauty of the Moon itself and the distant Earth suspended in a sky of utter blackness.
Speaker: Space historian Andrew Chaikin is best known as the author of A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts, which tells the stories of the Apollo missions through the eyes of the astronauts. The book was the main basis for Tom Hanks’ 12-part Emmy-winning miniseries for HBO, “From the Earth to the Moon.” A graduate in geology from Brown University, Chaikin has brought his knowledge of planetary science to his writing and teaching. As a visiting instructor at NASA he has taught the history of human and robotic space missions, as well as the human behavior aspects of success and failure in spaceflight projects.
Postage Stamps Depicting Medical Themes by Henry Lukas
Postage stamps, although small, can include much information about famous individuals, historic events, current topics and a wide range of other subjects. For example, over the years, thousands of stamps have been issued worldwide celebrating all aspects of the study of medicine. A number of these stamps and their connections to medicine will be presented. A highlight will be recent COVID-19-themed stamps and a discussion of how other devastating worldwide diseases have been depicted. Also included are stamps honoring famous doctors and nurses, those issued to raise funds for medical research, recognition of famous hospitals, and stamps from the United Nations that explain the work of the WHO.
Speaker: Henry Lukas is a retired social studies teacher and public school principal. He also has an extensive background in numerous education and community activities, including 17 years as the Educational Director at the Spellman Museum of Stamps and Postal History located on the Regis College campus in Weston, MA.
Clearing in the West: Navigating the Journey Through Loss, Grief and Healing by Susan Chase Edgecomb
The author shares what she has learned about loss and grief. It is not a "how-to" story but rather a highly personalized sharing of her path to become more resilient and constructive in her approach to life. In a 17-year period she sequentially lost a brother in Viet Nam, her father, and her husband to a heart attack, leaving her with a 3-year-old daughter. The traditional "don't mention it" approach to grief didn't work. She needed to find her own way. This is the story of how she did it and the understanding she gained.
Speaker: Susan Chase Edgecomb taught third grade in the Wellesley schools for 35 years. An essay she wrote about finding her brother's name on The Wall in D.C. was published in the Boston Globe Sunday Magazine in November, 2018. This book is her first. It is available on Amazon.
POETRY FOR THE PEOPLE, PART XVII: POETS OF THE MIDDLE EAST
Sessions 4 – 10. Starts April 4. Poetry for the People XVII will present poems written by poets from the Middle East. Arabic poetry dates from the 6th Century and has remained a popular form of expression since then. Myriad cultural issues, time-honored customs as well as conflicts, are addressed in the poems that we will read. Class members are strongly encouraged to contribute to the discussions and share their views of these poems.
Teacher: Chuck Kamar received his bachelor’s from Boston State and his master’s from Boston University. He taught English at all secondary grade levels and spent the last 20 years of his career at Newton North High School. In 1998 he won the Paul E. Elicker Award for Excellence in Teaching
WOLLEN SIE DEUTSCH SPRECHEN?
An hour of conversation for students of German and for German speakers. Basic knowledge of the German language is necessary. We read stories, newspaper/magazine articles and poems. Participants write short essays, which we correct in class and use as a basis to review or teach grammar points. Talents represented in the group make for a lively class.
Teacher: Renate Olsen, B.A., M.A. New York State University at Albany, has taught English and German in high school. She had a Fulbright scholarship in Germany.
11:30 AM – 12:30 PM Courses
BRIGHT MOMENTS OF JAZZ AND ROCK
This course celebrates the great bands and stars of pop, rock and jazz. We will listen to recordings, watch videos and talk about a wide variety of musicians and bands. Social, historical and musical context will be provided. Examples of the artists included are Aretha Franklin, Michael McDonald, Elvis, James Brown, Fats Domino, the Temptations, Stan Getz, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and B.B. King. You will expand your jazz and rock music appreciation and have fun doing it. Come and share your bright moments.
Teacher: Tom Doran is a bassist/vocalist who plays soul, funk, blues, jazz and rock. In retirement he loves to play music and make abstract art. He loves to talk about music, so if you do too, please join!
DID THEY GET IT RIGHT? AMERICAN HISTORY THROUGH A CINEMATIC LENS
Starting with the rise of corporate trusts and the Progressive movement, Our Plan-1992, we will take a look at some memorable cinematic portrayals of significant themes and events in 20th century American History. Movies will include, among others, Matewan-1987, The Grapes of Wrath-1940, and Do the Right Thing-1989. Links to the films will be provided. Join us for some outstanding cinema followed by open ended, stimulating discussion.
Teacher: David Moore received his master’s degree in American Studies from Boston College in 1966. He taught in the History Department at Newton North High School receiving the Charles Dana Meserve outstanding teacher award in 1993. His particular historical interests include classical Greece, American Studies, fin de siècle Europe, and the Holocaust.
POPULATING THE AMERICAS: A SCIENTIFIC DETECTIVE STORY
Sessions 1 – 5. Starts March 14 When Europeans “discovered” America in the 15th century, they failed to realize that there already existed a thriving and diverse culture that included agricultural innovations crucial to feeding the world’s population today, and large cities that rivaled in size and culture anything Europe had to offer. The story of how the earliest indigenous settlers populated this world is a scientific detective story with many unanswered questions. The story continues to unfold as uncovered by a range of scientific disciplines from geology to astronomy, from chemistry to climatology. Join us for an adventure in science, mystery and discovery as we explore this remarkable tale together.
Teacher: Frank Villa taught physics and ran his own company that designed laboratories. He has lectured on a range of scientific topics for many years.
STORIES OF CONFLICT AS SEEN THROUGH A NARRATOR’S LENS, PART XV
We will discuss how narrators’ perspectives affect our appreciation of works including selected sonnets by Shakespeare. Our emphasis will be on The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood and The Lincoln Highway by Amor Towles.
Teacher: Helen Smith has taught at the Winsor School, Newton North and in Armenia, Hungary, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Georgia, Romania and Zambia. A Smith College graduate, she edits texts about writing and journalism. She is the president of the New England Scholastic Press Association.
WESTERN GUNSLINGERS: THE TRUTH BEHIND THE WESTERNS
This course consists of lectures on the life and times of gunslingers who lived in the American West in the late 19th century and are well known in American popular culture. The lectures consist of two series: five on the “Good Guys” and five on the “Bad Guys.” The Good Guys are Wild Bill Hickok, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson, Buffalo Bill Cody and Annie Oakley. The Bad Guys are Jesse James, Billy the Kid, Belle Starr, Black Bart and Butch Cassidy
The American West has been portrayed extensively in movies and other media and subjected, on the one hand, to broad exaggeration, and, on the other, to a more recent tendency to uninformed debunking. The intent is to present the unvarnished truth, as far as it can be ascertained from historical records.
Teacher: Daniel Seligman is a retired engineer, having worked for high technology firms in the Massachusetts Route 128 complex for three-and-a-half decades. His real love is the history of the American West, about which he has indulged in extensive readings and travels as well as publication of magazine articles on western historical figures.
WRITING YOUR STORY (Memoir, NOT autobiography)
Maximum Enrollment: 20 If you enjoy writing and sharing stories of your life with a community of writers who will give you constructive feedback, this class may be for you. If you are writing a memoir or simply want to share your stories with your children and grandchildren, most writers find being part of the group inspires them to write more regularly. The best way to learn about memoir writing is to listen to other writers’ stories. Everything shared is confidential. Writing is done at home and shared in class. For those who can stay, the class extends to 1 p.m.
Leader: Sue Edgecomb, retired from teaching for 35 years in the Wellesley schools, has participated in Amherst Writers and Artists workshops for 12 years. Her memoir, Clearing in the West: Navigating the Journey Through Loss, Grief and Healing, was published in July.