Former First Lady to speak Jan. 25 in DeFuniak Springs


President Carter (with Mrs. Carter behind him at left) at the podium in Plains, Ga.

Special to The Sun
Published: Tuesday, January 22, 2013 at 11:48 AM.

Former First Lady Rosalynn Carter is the featured Keynote Speaker at the 2013 Florida Chautauqua Assembly in DeFuniak Springs on Friday, Jan. 25. She will address an audience of 800 from a special, handmade lectern crafted by several students of the Walton Career Development Center. The lectern is a replica of the one used by Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter in Plains, Ga., during their campaign for the White House and the one they used when they learned they won their bid for the White House in 1976.

The lectern is commissioned by Christopher Mitchell, president of the Florida Chautauqua Center, as a gift to the Center for use by all of the famous people expected to stand at it for decades to come. The former First Lady will be the first featured Keynote Speaker to use it.

“I’m so proud of all of the students who participated in making what will become a very historic piece,” said Mitchell. “Not only did the students of Thomas Martin’s Construction Technology class have to learn about the special cuts and stains to make the lectern, but they engaged in a special learning process rarely afforded for such a classroom experience. They communicated with Steve Theus of the National Park Service at the Jimmy Carter National Historic Site in Plains to get the exact dimensions of the piece now on display in a museum in Plains, and they also took a trip to the small, historic community last September to see the lectern they were reproducing. Meeting the former First Lady just down the hall from their museum tour was an added privilege for the class.”

“Meeting Mrs. Carter and being a part of this project is a real honor,” said Tristan Merchant, one of the students overseeing the project. “We really learned so much about building this piece, with a history lesson thrown in mix. One of the most difficult things about doing this project to start with was building the piece from photos, but this was all worth it. I learned a lot.”

The Former First Lady will address an audience of 800 comprised of Assembly registrants, Chautauqua leaders from throughout North America, special guests and select students, faculty, administrators of Walton High School and the Walton County School District.

The official Florida Chautauqua Assembly is a 4-day, educational program for the entire family comprised of famous keynote speakers, breakout sessions, performance teas, evening dinner performances and exhibits relating to an annual theme. The 2013 Florida Chautauqua theme is “A Journey into the American Chautauqua Movement,” and Mrs. Carter will speak on the significance of Chautauquas in Rural America during the great Chautauqua Movement, which began in the late 1800s and lasted until the early 1930s. She will also discuss her community’s efforts to revive the Chautauqua assembly, which existed in her hometown of Plains in the early 1900s.

“We cannot be more delighted to welcome Mrs. Carter as our featured keynote speaker,” said Christopher Mitchell, president of the Florida Chautauqua Center, the organization which orchestrates the official Assembly. “She understands the significant role the Chautauquas played in rural communities across the country and believes in the work we are doing in DeFuniak Springs in reviving our own Chautauqua in collaboration with the Walton County School District and many civic organizations and volunteers.”

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