Presenter Profile: Richard Whiteford
TCP Presenter Richard Whiteford is one of The Climate Project's most committed volunteers. Richard has given the slide show more than 100 times in venues ranging from high school auditoriums to the UN General Assembly. He is also an inspired activist, working to organize and support events in his home state of Pennsylvania and beyond that shine a light on the issues most important to him.
1. Why did you decide to become a TCP Presenter?
I have been deeply concerned about global climate change since about 1998. When I saw Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth and heard about The Climate Project, I just had to take the training. As luck would have it, my employer at the time, Defenders of Wildlife, enrolled me and their other outreach representatives. I was thrilled to take the training and become a certified Presenter.
2. What has been your most memorable experience with TCP?
Actually, there are a few:
One was a presentation I did in a movie theater in 2009 to an audience of a couple hundred people. About two-thirds of the way through my presentation, about 20 Tea Party activists burst into the theater and marched down the aisles shouting me down. They were loud and threatening so most of the audience left. When I tried to leave the theater, they were waiting for me in the mezzanine. The theater owner had the police escort me to my car.
Another was when I gave a presentation in a very conservative town, York, Pennsylvania, and was warned that the event was a turkey shoot and I was the turkey. This was my 112th presentation so I was well seasoned. The audience was comprised of retired or laid off union workers and 6 were pointed out as possibly people I didn’t want to run into in the parking lot. This was a presentation where knowing the denier arguments and the responses to them came in very handy. I dwelt on the science slides and then I focused on the fact that York is a rustbelt town and that many of their jobs went overseas and that their best salvation was to attract green jobs to York so they can get back to work. In the end, I think I truly converted some deniers and I got out without a scratch.
Very few of my presentations were as contentious as the ones above. My favorites were presenting at the United Nations in 2008, as an opening in an Off Broadway Play called Swimming with the Polar Bears at the Bleecker Street Theater in New York City, and again in Copenhagen at the Klimaforum for the COP-15 Climate Summit.
3. Who are you outside of TCP?
I’m happily married with four children (two from my first marriage and two from this one) and I love hiking, birding, organizing large events, organizing activist rallies, lobbying legislators, and I love music and doodling around on my guitar.
4. What personal or professional achievement are you most proud of?
When I was in my early twenties, I wanted to be a folksinger. I managed to get good enough to open for stars like Gordon Lightfoot, John Denver, Jackson Browne and many others. I went on to become an agent at International Creative Management in New York, representing such stars as Linda Ronstadt, Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, and James Taylor. I also did freelance work for Bruce Springsteen very early in his career.
5. Who or what inspires you?
My inspiration comes from people like Al Gore, Jim Hansen, Bill McKibben, and others who are brave enough to lead the way into uncharted and unpopular territory to tell an inconvenient truth. My favorite saying comes from Horace Mann in 1859: “Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.”
6. Are you currently working on a project or activity that you’d like to mention?
I just promoted a major event at West Chester University in West Chester, PA in which we held a sustainable energy expo and I invited Michael Brune, the Executive Director of the Sierra Club, to be the keynote speaker. The event was a huge success with a standing-room-only turnout. I am now working with Valley Forge National Park on an event in September and am working on getting Ken Burns as the speaker. These are the kinds of things I do to keep myself busy and also maintain my sanity as I approach my 31st month of unemployment.
7. What music do you sing in the shower?
Take it Easy by the Eagles.
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