On behalf of the SPEAK Board of Directors, we are pleased to announce that our organization has hired Johannes Wheeldon as our next Executive Director. Johannes has been involved with SPEAK since its inception and has worked with SPEAK on a variety of projects, including policy and procedures, strategic planning, curriculum review, fundraising, and developing new partnerships. Prior to joining the SPEAK team, Johannes worked with the American Bar Association, World Bank, and Soros Foundation. His work on debate and dialogue, both in the United States and abroad, has been featured in documentaries and published in book form. We are thrilled to have Johannes on board as SPEAK’s Executive Director, and we look forward to continuing to grow and improve SPEAK’s programs with his guidance.
This represents an exciting moment in the history of our organization. What started as a small, locally oriented group of students has become something with the power to create new community advocates and help individuals awaken within them powers that had been silenced. Johannes’ vision for the organization is reflective of the social and political moment that we find ourselves in.
"SPEAK's mission is critical at a time when people seem more disconnected and less able to engage in productive dialogue. Part of this challenge is the lack of good examples. The idea that informed and vigorous debate that leads to self-reflection and pro-social engagement is not new," says Wheeldon. "I am excited to be working alongside those who are committed to promoting powerful voices through public speaking, education, critical thinking, and diplomatic dissent." We are confident that he will succeed in expanding our capacity to promote powerful voices in new areas.
We are also ever grateful to our outgoing Founding Director Jessica Bullock for her service to SPEAK and the tremendous work that she has done promoting powerful voices in Vermont and around the world. At one of our earliest public debates held at the Chittenden Regional Correctional Facility, a guest was moved to speak to the participants following their excellent debate. He said that he did not think that a program like SPEAK could change lives through the practice of debate but subsequently admitted that the speakers had proven him wrong. Jessica’s leadership has changed countless lives and created numerous partnerships that have helped proliferate debate into corners that it traditionally is not able to reach. For these accomplishments and so many others, we thank Jessica for her service. We are excited that she will remain on as the Chairperson of the Board of Directors to continue to steward SPEAK through its next chapter.