Chats with Champions

This popular program brings outstanding members of the literary world, arts, and sciences to Skidompha to present programs that are free and open to the public. While the series’ emphasis is on top-notch authors, programs often appeal to a much wider audience.  

The widely diverse roster of exceptional programs has included bestselling, prize-winning authors, chefs, mystery writers, scientists, wildlife experts, artists, historians, criminologists, musicians and much more!

Brought to you by generous contributions from 

Missed a Chat? Check out our YouTube Page for recorded and archived programs!

Check this page and our calendar for the schedule of presentations and for more information about each speaker. Unless noted otherwise, all programs begin at 10 am.


  • July 9, 2019 (Tuesday) – James R. Nelon – Pursuing a Dream: A Wandering Executive’s Journey into the Philippines 

    Can you imagine how humanity could live without smartphones? Without technology? Beyond electricity? An inquiring James Nelon wanted to know. During a lull in his executive work life, he took a year off from the corporate world to chase the fantasies and daydreams of his childhood. Venturing into the remotest regions of the Philippines, the author traveled solo into the jungles and mountains of isolated islands and inaccessible villages to visit, stay with, write about and photograph peoples only envisaged. His vivid word descriptions paint a vision of life as it is today in the rain forests and jungles of the Philippines. His dramatic writings are only succeeded by the superb, rich images he captured as a talented photographer, images taken by him while on these adventures.

    Nelon will share his experiences and stories of his fascinating journey. In his quest for a different world, he found captivating, charismatic peoples and societies.

  • July 9, 2019 at 7 p.m. at the Lincoln Theater – Richard Blanco: How to Love a Country.

RICHARD BLANCO Tickets are $20 and available at the Lincoln Theater, Skidompha Library, Sherman’s Book Shop, and online at

Noted poet and author Richard Blanco will appear at Lincoln Theater to read from and talk about his newest book of poems, How to Love a Country on Tuesday, July 9 at 7 p.m. This special Chats with Champions event is a fundraiser for Skidompha Library.

How to Love a Country both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals. About this collection, poet Carolyn Forché reflects, “In this timely collection, Richard Blanco masterfully embraces his role as a civic poet, confronting our nation’s riddled history in the light of conscience. At once personal and political, these lyric narratives decry injustice and proclaim our hopes.”

Richard Blanco’s mother was seven months pregnant with him when his family arrived as exiles from Cuba to Madrid, where he was born. Forty-five days later, the family immigrated once more to New York City and eventually settled in Miami. By the time he was a few weeks old, Blanco already belonged to three countries, foreshadowing the negotiations of cultural identity, community, and belonging that would shape his life and continue to inform his work.

In 2013, Blanco was selected by President Obama as the fifth inaugural poet in U.S. history, joining the ranks of such luminary poets as Robert Frost and Maya Angelou. He is the youngest and the first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. His inaugural poem, “One Today” was published as a children’s book, in collaboration with renowned illustrator Dav Pilkey

A committed proponent of the civic role that poetry can fulfill in the public realm, Blanco’s work addresses sociopolitical matters that affect us collectively. He has authored three collections of poetry: City of a Hundred Fires, which received the Agnes Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press; Directions to The Beach of the Dead, recipient of the Beyond Margins Award from the PEN American Center; and Looking for The Gulf Motel, recipient of the Paterson Poetry Prize and the Thom Gunn Award. He has also written the memoirs For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey and The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood, winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler, challenges the physical and psychological dividing lines that shadow the United States.

Blanco has written occasional poems for major events, including the re-opening of the U.S. Embassy in Cuba, “Freedom to Marry,” the Tech Awards of Silicon Valley, and the Boston Strong benefit concert following the Boston Marathon bombings. He is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow and has received numerous honorary doctorates. He has taught at Georgetown University, American University, and Wesleyan University. He serves as the first Education Ambassador for The Academy of American Poets.

  • July 11, 2019 (Thursday) – Arlie Russell Hochschild: Strangers in Their Own Land
  • July 18, 2019 (Thursday) – Mark Peterson: Health Care in America
  • July 23, 2019 (Tuesday) – Lynne Olson – Madame Fourcade’s Secret War: The Daring Young Woman Who Led France’s Largest Spy Network Against Hitler
  • August 14, 2019 (WEDNESDAY at 12 p.m.) – Richard Clarke and Robert Knake – The Fifth Domain: Cyber-Security
  • August 20, 2019 (Tuesday) – Susanne Dunlap – Listen to the Wind: Orphans of Tolosa, Book 1
  • September 5, 2019 (Thursday) – Bob Hills: Iceland
  • October 22, 2019 (Tuesday) – Earle Shettleworth: Maine State Historian