Food Tour Provides Sweet Preview of New Speakers Bureau Roster

Executive Director Julie Ziegler talks about Humanities Washington’s recent tour of the sweet treats available in Seattle’s International District. The afternoon adventure offered a nice taste of our exciting new Speakers Bureau roster.

Julie Ziegler

Julie Ziegler, Humanities Washington executive director

Did you know that Tsue Chong Company, a small family-owned business in Seattle’s International District, supplies most of the fortune cookies served in Chinese restaurants throughout the Northwest?

This was one of many delightful discoveries my colleagues and I made when we recently toured the International District with one of Humanities Washington’s newest Speakers Bureau presenters, Julia Harrison. A cultural anthropologist, artist and sweets enthusiast, Harrison showcases various cultures by introducing audiences to the sweet treats enjoyed by these communities. She delves into these foods’ ingredients and origins – and also the history, traditions and migration patterns of the communities that treasure them.

Sweets Tour Mochi

Japanese mochi at the Panama Hotel Tea & Coffee House in Seattle’s International District.

After Harrison’s recent Speakers Bureau audition – done without treats, much to our chagrin! – we couldn’t wait to get out and about with her. She did not disappoint, introducing us to Hong-Kong-style “egg puff” waffles and revealing the best local places to buy mochi, a Japanese treat made from pounded rice. She also shared stories from many of the cultures that thrive here in our great state.

Harrison is one of 28 presenters who make up the 2012-14 Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau roster. Formerly known as Inquiring Minds, Speakers Bureau is one of our oldest and most popular programs. It has served the state since 1984, providing community organizations with low-cost, high-quality programs to offer to local audiences. In 2011 alone, Humanities Washington’s speakers staged 142 events in libraries, schools, community centers and on public radio, reaching more than 141,000 people.

As part of our biannual selection process, more than 100 people applied to become presenters. We selected 54 speakers from all across the state to preview during five days of auditions held in Seattle and Spokane. (We were delighted to see many partners in the audience at these sessions, and thank them for their valuable feedback!)

Egg Puffs

Hong Kong-style egg puff waffles at Sub Sand.

From a deep pool of diverse perspectives and talent, 28 presenters emerged as one of our best Speakers Bureau rosters to date. All of those selected are thought-provoking and guaranteed to kick start conversation, critical thinking and audience engagement in ways that only the humanities make possible. (Check out this list of presentations sorted by topic and theme.)

The work of crafting the new Speakers Bureau roster did not end with its selection. The presenters went on to attend a training workshop and filmed a series of preview videos (check out the videos online).

All told, it’s been a rigorous and time-intensive process. But we are committed to providing our partners with the highest possible quality and the plug-and-play ease they expect when booking our speakers for presentations. And we believe that doing such vigorous vetting on the front end allows us to enable experiences like this:

“The speaker we hosted captured the attention of an audience ranging in age from teenagers to people in their 90s. Many said this was the best program we have ever presented. People didn’t want it to end! We would not have been able to contract such a knowledgeable and interesting speaker without this Humanities Washington program.”

– Jim Harnish, President, Points Northeast Historical Society, Tacoma

The 2012-14 Humanities Washington Speakers Bureau is now open for business and eager to book engagements with qualified community organizations across the state. So, please, invite us over! We might even bring dessert.

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