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Bakersfield College

Distinguished Speaker Series

BCSGA and the Office of Student Life would like to invite you to attend one or all of this year’s Distinguished Speaker Series events.

The Bakersfield College Distinguished Speaker Series brings community leaders from around the world to Bakersfield whose achievements have had national and/or international significance. Each speaker was proposed to BCSGA by either a department or a faculty member. Collaboration between many entities on campus made this year’s speakers series the largest of nine.

The events are free and open to the public. Parking is also free in the solar parking lot on the days of the event. Livecast to the Delano campus is set and listed. ASL interpreters are provided for each speaker event when requested two weeks in advance. Times of speakers are set, location may vary.

For more information, please email

BC is proud to announce and welcome to campus this series of speakers:

Thomas Blackwell

Motivation | Language | Inspire

The Liberty of Our Language Revealed

Monday, September 9, 2019
10 a.m. | Levan Center
10 a.m. | Livecast to Delano, DST 118
7 p.m. | Indoor Theatre

Our state of being dictates our destiny. When we are joyful, we bring more joy in to the world. When we are certain, we create more certainty. When we are intentional, we get from life what we intended. And, if there is a single, indicative guidepost to how we are feeling, what we are thinking, and what we are creating, it is that which we speak. As you read, understand, and begin to implement the framework of language outlined in this book, it will unlock a new potential and a new reality in every area of your life.

Thomas Blackwell website
The Liberty of Our Language Revealed Book cover.

Speaker Biography

Thomas Blackwell travels the world as a keynote speaker and trainer inspiring people to change their language in order to change their results. He has given more than a thousand talks and workshops to corporations, executives, entrepreneurs, sales teams, athletes, religious groups, and students.

While attending Northern Arizona University on a music/voice scholarship, Blackwell competed in tennis and soccer and later coached tennis at the Division I Level. His business experience runs deep as he has owned and operated a successful seven-figure insurance agency with more than one hundred agents in three different locations. While realizing some significant success in business in 2004, he was asked to tell his story in seven minutes to a group of more than ten thousand people. His being requested to speak and inspire as a keynote and facilitator has never stopped since. This inevitably led him to this vocation he didn't even know was an option.

Above it all, Blackwell's greatest blessings from God are being married to his high school sweetheart, and being the father to four precious daughters.

Thomas Blackwell Author Portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Dr. Jennifer Garrett, Professor of Music
Brought to you in collaboration with the BC Performing Arts Department.

Arun Gandhi

Change | Peace | Nonviolence

The Gift of Anger and Other Lessons From My Grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, September 30, 2019
11 a.m. | RFK Auditorium, Delano

The real potential with anger is to best respond by channeling this powerful energy to motivate ourselves toward positive and constructive action. Discover vital and extraordinary life lessons from one of the most important and influential philosophers and peace activists of the twentieth century—Mahatma Gandhi—in this poignant and timely exploration of the true path from anger to peace. The ten vital life lessons strike a universal chord about self-discovery, identity, dealing with anger, depression, loneliness, friendship, and family—perfect for anyone searching for a way to affecting healing change in a fractured world. In the current troubled climate, in our country, and in the world, these lessons are needed more than ever before.

The Gift of Anger book cover.

Speaker Biography

Born in 1934 in Durban, South Africa, Gandhi is the fifth grandson of India’s legendary leader, Mohandas K. “Mahatma” Gandhi. Growing up under the discriminatory apartheid laws of South Africa, he sought eye-for-an-eye justice. However, he learned from his parents and grandparents that justice does not mean revenge, it means transforming the opponent through love and suffering.

Arun Gandhi has rescued over 125 orphan children from the streets, placed them in loving homes around the world, and began a Center for Social Change, which transformed the lives of millions in villages in the western state of Maharashtra. He and his wife, they started projects for the social and economic uplifting of the oppressed using constructive programs, the backbone of Mahatma Gandhi’s philosophy of nonviolence. The programs changed the lives of more than half a million people in over 300 villages and they still continue to grow.

In 1987, Gandhi came to the US, and started the M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence. In the 17 years of the Institute’s life, the Gandhi’s took the message of nonviolence and peace to thousands of high schools and universities around the US, and much of the Western World. Gandhi’s life commitment as a Peace Farmer is to pass on the message, principles and wisdom of one of the world’s greatest men, his grandfather, Mahatma Gandhi.

Arun Gandhi Author Portrait

Staff Coordinator: Abel Guzman, Executive Director of Rural Initiatives
Brought to you in collaboration with BC Early College.

Erin Gruwell

Aspire | Teacher | Intolerance

The Freedom Writers Diary

Wednesday, October 2, 2019
10 a.m. & 1 p.m. & 7 p.m. | Indoor Theatre
1 p.m. | Live cast to Delano

One day Gruwell intercepted a note with an ugly racial caricature, and angrily declared that this was precisely the sort of thing that led to the Jewish Holocaust - only to be met by uncomprehending looks. So she and her students, using the treasured books Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl and Zlata's Diary: A Child's Life in Sarajevo as their guides, undertook a life-changing, eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding. They learned to see the parallels between these books and their own lives, recording their thoughts and feelings in diaries and dubbing themselves the "Freedom Writers" in homage to the civil rights activists "The Freedom Riders". With powerful entries from the students' own diaries and a narrative text by Erin Gruwell, the Freedom Writers Diary is an uplifting, unforgettable example of how hard work, courage, and the spirit of determination changed the lives of a teacher and her students.

Freedom Writers Foundation

The Freedom Writers Diary book cover with Erin and children.

Speaker Biography

Erin Gruwell is a teacher, education activist, and the founder of the Freedom Writers Foundation. She created the Freedom Writer Methods, a progressive teaching philosophy and curricula designed to achieve excellence from all students.

By fostering an educational philosophy that valued and promoted diversity, Gruwell transformed her students' lives. She encouraged them to re-think rigid beliefs about themselves and others, reconsider their own daily decisions, ultimately re-chart their future. Through poignant student entries and her narrative text, the book records their "eye-opening, spirit-raising odyssey against intolerance and misunderstanding." Their inspiring story of success is also chronicled in the documentary, Freedom Writers: Stories from an Undeclared War, which features behind the scenes footage of Gruwell and the Freedom Writers from their freshman year to present day.

Erin Gruwell speaking.

Faculty Coordinator: Kirk Russell, Library Department Chair
Brought to you in collaboration with the BC Library as the 2019 Cerro Author.

Dr. Paula Green

Tranquility | Community | Resolution

Peacebuilding in Divided Communities

Wednesday, October 23, 2019
5:30 p.m. | Levan Center

What makes Karuna Center and this training guide different from a large number of other organizations working in similar areas, and many other training manuals, is that Karuna Center combines the insights and wisdom of psychology, sociology, and politics in a holistic fashion. This approach generates respectful and effective dialogue, reconciliation, and collaborative problem solving between warring parties. Green invites the reader into the philosophy behind peacebuilding efforts, sharing the details of workshop designs, the countries in which Karuna Center has taught them, and useful materials for the tasks of teaching and learning. The tools for peacebuilding need to be disseminated widely, so that skills for transforming conflict can be taught worldwide to current and future generations.

Karuna Center

Peacebuilding in Divided Communities book cover.

Speaker Biography

Dr. Paula Green is the founder, former Executive Director, and now Senior Fellow of Karuna Center for Peacebuilding.

She also serves as Professor of Conflict Transformation at the School for International Training, where she founded and directs CONTACT (Conflict Transformation Across Cultures), an annual peacebuilding institute and graduate certificate program for peacemakers from around the world. She directed, designed, and implemented multi-year programs in peacebuilding, inter-communal dialogue, and reconciliation for diverse stakeholders for the first 15 years of the organization’s existence.

Green has extensive international experience in peacebuilding and conflict transformation as an international consultant, and brings a sense of social responsibility and spiritual awareness to her work as a psychologist, educator and leader in the peacebuilding field.

Paula Green portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Nick Strobel, Professor of Astronomy
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series and the Astronomy program.

Samuel H. Sternberg

Genetics | Scientist | Research

Crack in Creation:
Gene Editing and the Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution

Thursday, October 24, 2019
10 a.m. & 2 p.m. | Levan Center
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118
7 p.m. | Forum 101

Not since the atomic bomb has a technology so alarmed its inventors that they warned the world about its use. That is, until 2015, when biologist Jennifer Doudna called for a worldwide moratorium on the use of the gene-editing tool CRISPR—a revolutionary new technology that she helped create—to make heritable changes in human embryos. The cheapest, simplest, most effective way of manipulating DNA ever known, CRISPR may well give us the cure to HIV, genetic diseases, and some cancers. Yet even the tiniest changes to DNA could have a myriad, of unforeseeable consequences—to say nothing of the ethical and societal repercussions of intentionally mutating embryos to create “better” humans. Writing with fellow researcher Sam Sternberg, Doudna shares the story of the enormous responsibility that comes with the power to rewrite the code of life.

Samuel H. Sternberg website

A Crack in Creation book cover.

Speaker Biography

Sternberg is an Assistant professor at Columbia University in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biophysics, where he runs a research laboratory. Sam is a protein-RNA biochemist and CRISPR expert. He was a featured TEDMED 2015 speaker on the transformative potential of CRISPR—Cas9, and is actively involved in public discussions on the ethical issues surrounding genome editing of human cells.

Sternberg received his B.A. in Biochemistry from Columbia University in 2007, graduating summa cum laude, and his Ph.D. in Chemistry from the University of California, Berkeley in 2014. He received graduate student fellowships from the National Science Foundation and the Department of Defense, and was awarded the Scaringe Award from the RNA Society and the Harold Weintraub Graduate Student Award from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center.

His doctoral research in the laboratory of Howard Hughes Medical Institute Investigator, Dr. Jennifer Doudna, focused on the mechanism of DNA targeting by RNA-guided bacterial immune systems (CRISPR—Cas9) and on the development of these systems for genome engineering applications. His work has been published in the journals Nature, Science, and Cell, and been covered in The New York Times, Science News, The Scientist, and various other news outlets.

Samuel H. Sternberg author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Joe Saldivar, Professor of Biology, PH.D. / Department Chair
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series, the Biology Department, and Mathematics, Engineering, Science Achievement (MESA).

Jason Beardsley

Veteran | Consultant | War

An Apotheosis of America

Thursday, November 7, 2019
10 a.m., 2 p.m., & 7 p.m. | Levan Center
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118

Speaker Biography

Former Master Sergeant Jason Beardsley is a senior consultant and advisor. He has 22 years of experience with the U.S. military, recently leaving the government after 15 years with Army Special Operations and Joint Special Operations. A recipient of two Bronze Stars for his achievements and sound use of judgment during sustained combat operations, he was part of a select group of individuals trusted to accomplish some of the most dangerous and covert tactical missions in support of U.S. military action and the Global War on Terrorism.

An expert in military intelligence, diplomatic security, foreign internal defense, unconventional warfare, and counter-terrorism, Beardsley also has expertise with advanced communications systems and communication theory. Beyond being highly trained, he has the creativity, individuality, and determination that facilitated his escalation to the highest levels within Special Operations. He possesses strong leadership skills and his superiors commended him for having the unique ability to develop approaches that blend both strategies with tactical plans to achieve mission goals. With a keen understanding of the ramifications of every decision, he has the ability to effectively plan and execute complex missions, adapt easily to working in different environments, and overcome any obstacles.

Beardsley has advised at a senior level on activities involving the U.S. Department of Defense and other federal agencies, including the State Department, as well as government entities of Host and Allied Nations. This experience brings a solid and highly successful approach to working with all levels and agencies within U.S. and foreign governments. His involvement with joint intelligence and special operations included developing and executing plans to achieve strategic initiatives, establishing relationships with defense and intelligence groups of both the U.S. and our partner nations, unifying resources from disparate commands, and leading combined forces in accomplishing multifaceted operations. He led task force operations involving planning and execution of special operations missions in hostile environments and in remote locations.

As a measure of his success, Beardsley took on some of the most difficult assignments, using his creativity, charisma, and doggedness to gain buy-off from senior commanders to execute these missions successfully. Despite the extreme challenges, he has proven his ability and passion for the intricacies of determining resource needs, identifying and assembling the best possible teams, and accessing the right assets needed to execute the work anywhere in the world.

Jason Beardsley author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Paul Beckworth, Professor of History
Brought to you in collaboration with Veterans Resource Center.

Patrisse Khan-Cullors

Police Brutality | Community Organizer | Social Justice

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir

Thursday, February 6, 2020
10 a.m. 2 p.m. & 7 p.m. | Indoor Theater
2 p.m. | Live cast to Delano, DST 118

Khan-Cullors’ first book co-written by Asha Bandele, is a poetic memoir and reflection on humanity. A New York Times Best Seller – necessary and timely, Khan-Cullors’ story asks us to remember that protest in the interest of the most vulnerable comes from love. Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement have been called terrorists, a threat to America. But in truth, they are loving women whose life experiences have led them to seek justice for those victimized by the powerful. In this meaningful, empowering account of survival, strength, and resilience, Khan-Cullors and Bandele seek to change the culture that declares innocent black life expendable.

Patrisse Collors website

When they call you a terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir book cover.

Speaker Biography

In 2013, Patrisse Khan-Cullors co-founded the global movement with the viral twitter hashtag #BlackLivesMatter which has since grown to an international organization with dozens of chapters around the world fighting anti-Black racism. She’s received many awards for activism and movement building, including being named by the Los Angeles Times as a Civil Rights Leader for the 21st Century.

Khan-Cullors has always been traveling on the path to freedom. Growing up with several of her loved ones experiencing incarceration and brutality at the hands of the state, she has since worked tirelessly promoting law enforcement accountability across the world while focusing on addressing trauma and building on the resilience and health of the communities most affected. At 16, Khan-Cullors came out as queer and moved out of her home in the Valley. She formed close connections with other young queer woman who were dealing with the challenges of poverty and being Black and Brown in the USA. She has also been on the front-lines of criminal justice reform for the last 20 years and is leading Reform LA jails, a ballot initiative that will be voted on in March 2020.

Faculty Coordinator: Reggie Williams, Professor of Philosophy
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series and the BC African-American Initiative Committee.

Elaine Weiss

Women | Voting | Suffrage

The Woman's Hour: The Great Fight to Win the Vote

Soon to be a major television event, the nail-biting climax of one of the greatest political battles in American history: the ratification of the constitutional amendment that granted women the right to vote. Nashville, August 1920: Thirty-five states have ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, twelve have rejected or refused to vote, and one last state is needed. It all comes down to Tennessee, the moment of truth for the suffragists, after a seven-decade crusade. The opposing forces include politicians with careers at stake, liquor companies, railroad magnates, and a lot of racists who don’t want black women voting. And then there are the “Antis”–women who oppose their own enfranchisement, fearing suffrage will bring about the moral collapse of the nation. They all converge in a boiling hot summer for a vicious face-off replete with dirty tricks, betrayals and bribes, bigotry, Jack Daniel’s, and the Bible.

Elaine Weiss website

The Woman's Hour the Great Fight to Win the Vote by Elaine Weiss book cover.

Speaker Biography

Elaine Weiss is an award-winning journalist and writer. Her magazine feature writing has been recognized with prizes from the Society of Professional Journalists, and her by-line has appeared in The Atlantic, Harper’s, New York Times, Boston Globe, Philadelphia Inquirer, as well as reports and documentaries for National Public Radio and Voice of America. She has been a frequent correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor.

Her long-form writing garnered a Pushcart Prize “Editor’s Choice” award, and she is a proud MacDowell Colony Fellow. Her first book, Fruits of Victory: The Woman’s Land Army in the Great War was excerpted in Smithsonian Magazine online and featured on C-San and public radio stations nationwide.

Weiss holds a graduate degree from the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University. She has worked as a Washington Correspondent, congressional aide and speech writer, magazine editor, and university journalism instructor, speech writer, magazine editor, and university journalism instructor.

Elaine Weiss author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Erin Miller, Professor of History
Brought to you in collaboration with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series & WHAM Foundation.

Dr. Tony B. Iton

Healthy | Living | Initiative

Building Healthy Communities

Zip code or Genetic code: Which is a Better Predictor of Health? Where you live shouldn’t determine how long you live, but it does. In fact, research shows that your health has more to do with place and where you live, than a doctors’ visits. Dr. Iton’s commitment to improving the fundamental conditions of people’s lives was profoundly shaped by when he moved to East Baltimore, Maryland to attend medical school, where he witnessed the inequities in the United States compared to what he grew up with in Montreal Canada. He found it problematic that health-promoting resources such as health care, childcare, and higher education were available to everyone in Canada, whereas he attended a world-renowned medical school that was situated in what he calls “one of the worst slums in America”. Propelled by this experience, Dr. Iton is using data to study how and when zip codes become more important than genetic codes when it comes to people’s health.

Dr. Iton’s primary interest is the health of disadvantaged populations and the contributions of race, class, wealth, education, geography, and employment to health status. He has asserted that in every public health area of endeavor, be it immunizations, chronic disease, HIV/AIDS, STDs, obesity, or even disaster preparedness, public health practitioners must recognize that they are confronted with the enduring consequences of structural poverty, institutional racism and other forms of systemic injustice.

Tony Iton website

Speaker Biography

Anthony Iton, M.D., J.D., MPH is Senior Vice President for Healthy Communities at The California Endowment, a private, statewide health foundation whose mission is to expand access to affordable, quality health care for underserved individuals and communities, and to promote fundamental improvements in the health status of all Californians. Prior to that Dr. Iton served for seven years as the Alameda County Public Health Department Director and Health Officer where he oversaw an agency with a budget of $112 million with a focus on preventing communicable disease outbreaks, reducing the burden of chronic disease and obesity, and managing the county’s preparedness for biological terrorism.

Dr. Iton received his medical degree at Johns Hopkins Medical School and subsequently trained in internal medicine and preventive medicine at New York Hospital, Yale, and Berkeley and is board certified in both specialties. Dr. Iton has also received a law degree and a Master’s of Public Health from the University of California, Berkeley and is a member of the California Bar. His experience practicing both medicine and law independently has enabled him to blend both disciplines in the day-to-day practice of public health and in responding to recent public health emergencies such as SARS and anthrax.

Dr. Tony Iton author portrait.

Faculty Coordinator: Charles Daramola, Professor of Public Health Sciences
Brought to you in collaboration with with the Levan Center for the Humanities’ Speaker Series, and the California Humanities.

Kern Community College District