An independent K-12 school on a beautiful wooded campus, 3 miles from Washington, DC

Speaker Series

The Distinguished Speakers Series introduces Potomac students to a broad array of viewpoints, subject matter and people, supporting the school's mission to foster each student's intellectual development, love of learning and strength of character. Over the years, a diverse group of very distinguished individuals shared their wisdom, stories, insights, and songs with us.

2014-15 Speakers

Calling All Crows: Music For Good

Musician Chadwick Stokes and his wife and tour manager Sybil Gallagher spoke to Upper School students on Wednesday about about their nonprofit organization, Calling All Crows, which partners with musicians and fans to create change through hands-on service and activism focused on women's rights. Stokes, who is a frontman for the bands Dispatch and State Radio, played a few powerful songs and talked about his inspiration to leverage music as a platform to engage fans on women's rights and social issues. "I get fired up about music and its message" he said.
Currently, Stokes and Calling All Crows are on the road for their Forced to Flee Tour, which is dedicated to raising awareness about refugees worldwide, as well as the humanitarian crisis in Syria. "It's been an education for me to hear the stories and learn from refugees," Stokes told the students. He explained that he enjoys incorporating service into his tour experience, often partnering with fans and other musicians to perform service projects in the cities he visits. To date, Calling All Crows and Stokes' collective activism has raised more than half a million dollars for women's rights causes and generated more than 30,000 hours of service.

Rosetta Lee, Diversity Speaker and Trainer

Nationally known inclusivity trainer and facilitator Rosetta Lee recently spent a day with Potomac students, faculty and staff, and parents, talking about the value of diversity and the importance of healthy identity development. Ms. Lee spoke candidly to students about how creating a positive self-identity is instrumental in combating such challenges as stereotyping, bullying, and gender bias. Later, she talked with faculty and staff about strategies for creating more inclusive classrooms and workspaces.

Jonathan Darman, Prepare For The Unknown

Jonathan Darman ’99, a former Newsweek reporter and author of the new book Landslide: LBJ and Ronald Reagan at the Dawn of a New America, spoke to Upper School students on October 22 about political journalism, the twists and turns of his career, and the unpredictable nature of almost everything. “Even though you can’t predict the future, don’t ever stop preparing and setting goals,” Jonathan advised. “When you work hard and your plans are upended, you’ll have the skill set to find a life of meaning and consequence.”

Unpredictability is the central theme of Landslide. Jonathan described how both Reagan and LBJ rose to political prominence by offering public stability during a time of turmoil and unrest. “As some of you cast your votes for the first time,” he urged students, “don’t trust politicians who talk about the future as a certainty.” Later, Jonathan ate lunch with student writers and discussed his path to a career in journalism.

2013-14 Speakers

Coley Andrews, Global Stewardship

In May, Coley Andrews '98 told IS students the remarkable story of how, as an 18-year-old, he helped finance and build a library and media center for students in a suburb of Johannesburg, South Africa.

After graduating from Potomac, Coley was living with his family in South Africa and tutoring a child who lived in extreme poverty and attended a school with no electricity or heat. At Coley's mother’s urging, he explored ways to help the child and others like him and came up with the idea for the library. Despite his age, Coley launched an ambitious fundraising campaign. "When you push yourself out of your comfort zone, opportunities will arise you might not have otherwise seen," he told the students.

Coley went on to earn a bachelor’s from Dartmouth and an MBA from Stanford. Today, he is a founding partner of Pacific Lake Partners, an investment firm that provides capital for promising entrepreneurs who want to buy and run their own company. "It's OK to try something and fail," he said to students. "It's a badge of honor that will serve you well down the road."

Clara Beyer, Rising Social Media Star

Clara Beyer ’10 spoke with Upper School students about feminism and the creation of her popular Twitter account, Feminist Taylor Swift, in a January talk. She encouraged students to think critically about gender norms. “I'm not telling you to reject gender norms,” Clara said. “It’s more about being comfortable ignoring them and doing what makes you happy.”

In her tweets, Clara, who identifies herself as a feminist and fan of singer Taylor Swift, combines tongue-in-cheek writing with Swift’s lyrics to spark conversation and educate readers about feminism. The account has attracted more than 105,000 followers on Twitter and propelled the Brown University senior into the limelight. Clara told students that she hopes that her tweets will increase dialogue about feminist theory. “No one can tell you what you can or can’t do based on your gender,” she said.

Monique Pean, Jewelry Designer

International jewelry designer Monique Péan ’99 told the story of her business and philanthropic success in an October speech to Upper School students. Monique spoke movingly of how she gave up a Wall Street career and followed her passion to make jewelry following the death of her sister, Vanessa ’07, in a 2005 car crash.
At the time of the accident, Monique was a broker with Goldman Sachs. “It changed everything for me,” she told students. “I decided I had to make a difference and not just move bonds on the marketplace.”

She made jewelry pieces “almost as therapy” and began selling a few to stores. Retailers were soon asking to buy her designs. Nearly eight years later, she has several lines of jewelry that sell throughout the United States and in Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. Oprah Magazine has called her “one to watch.”

Monique is a pioneer in sustainable luxury jewelry. She uses only eco-friendly materials such as 18-carat recycled gold and platinum, repurposed diamond slices, and fossilized wooly mammoth and walrus ivory. To identify local sources of gems and learn from artisans in various cultures, she travels frequently. This year alone, she has visited 11 countries.

Vanessa, before her death, was exploring setting up a nonprofit to support children and families in Haiti. Monique has picked up where Vanessa left off; her company helps to fund wells for clean drinking water in Haiti, Ethiopia, Nepal, and other developing countries. “Buying an engagement ring can pay for 20 people to have clean water for 20 years,” she said.