Americans Who Tell the Truth = Models of Courageous Citizenship
Robert Shetterly’s Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits and narratives highlight citizens who courageously address issues of social, environmental, and economic fairness. By combining art and other media, AWTT offers resources to inspire a new generation of engaged Americans who will act for the common good, our communities, and the Earth.
What began in 2002 as artist Robert Shetterly's personal portrait project has become a broad-based, not-for-profit arts and education organization, the mission of which is to foster and inspire “a profound sense of citizenship” by exposing students at all levels to portraits, quotes, biographies and related resources built around these "Models of Courageous Citizenship."
The AWTT project was incorporated as a 501(c)(3) organization in 2004. With the platform provided by the organization, the portraits and Robert Shetterly have participated in hundreds of events, presentations and exhibitions. To date, Shetterly and his portraits have been invited into grammar schools, high schools and colleges in 27 states and Washington, D.C. The Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellows program promotes him as a speaker through the Council of Independent Colleges. In addition, AWTT has collaborated with a number of organizations working to promote engaged citizenship through education and the media.
The portraits and related resources are modular, allowing them to be grouped to enhance existing curricula in a wide variety of subject disciplines, from science to the language arts. The project emphasizes civil rights, human rights, economic and environmental justice, using past and present figures in American history that have inspired, pushed, challenged and warned the country and its citizens to do better.
In 2012 and 2013, The Broad Reach Fund supported AWTT’s efforts to extend our online reach and resources for teachers and citizens.
In May of 2013, AWTT won a grant from the Kay E. Dopp Fund of the Maine Community Foundation to support our current educational focus, which is to train teachers to use the portraits and stories in interdisciplinary ways to promote a better understanding of history and active engagement. This work aims to close what has been called the “Civic Engagement Gap” or “Citizen Participation Gap” in the U.S. Young, poor, minority, and rural Americans under-participate in the civic life of our communities and the nation. Often, most of us aren’t sure what to do to solve the problems we face in our communities and our world.
AWTT's several years of ongoing work in the Louisville public school system, spearheaded by local educator Michele Hemenway, has helped to develop a local and regional program model that can be set up in other cities, counties and states around the country to generate dialogue between students, parents, local leaders, and teachers around addressing important community issues. Much of the Louisville work was financed by SYNAPSE, a local non-profit dedicated to the arts, storytelling and community engagement. What has been noted particularly in the Louisville work is the way that this material empowers young people to take a positive, active role in their communities. SYNAPSE arranged for one fifth grade class to present their “truths” about community problems to the Louisville Mayor´s office and the officials responded by committing to address the community issues the children raised. By making school relevant to the lives of students and by giving them a voice in changing their environment, we find students develop trust in school and the value of it for their future. They want to learn.
Also, in Louisville, AWTT has been a part of the very successful magnet law program of the Brandeis Law School in Central High School coordinated by teachers Joe Gutmann and Laura Rothstein.
- 1st prize awarded to the 2005 book, Americans Who Tell the Truth, by the International Readers Association for intermediate non-fiction.
- In 2009, Robert Shetterly was named a Woodrow Wilson Fellow by the Council of Independent Colleges, which subsidizes extended residencies in colleges around the country.
- 2011 exhibit of AWTT portraits in the US Embassy in Bangladesh.
- Honorary Doctorates awarded to Robert Shetterly by the University of New England and University of Maine at Farmington.
- Citizenship Award given to Robert Shetterly by the University of Southern Maine.
Ongoing collaborations with educational and non-profit organizations include (this list does not include onetime visits, talks or exhibitions):
- Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs
- Zinn Education Project
- Operation Breaking Stereotypes (Orono, Maine)
- Yes! Magazine
- Barefoot Artists
- My Hero Project
- Muhammad Ali Center (Louisville, Kentucky)
- Kentucky Center For African American Heritage (Louisville, Kentucky)
- Veterans for Peace
- Voices Education Project
Marion Dillon Morris was a corporate art consultant in SF and the NY metropolitan area for 20 years before relocating to Brooklin, Maine in 2001. Over the past 30 years she has curated exhibitions, coordinated arts events and served on many boards, focusing particularly on education. Most recently she was a trustee on the George Stevens Academy board during which time she held many leadership positions including Board Chair.
Sherry Streeter is a painter and graphic designer living in Brooklin, Maine. She was the art director of WoodenBoat magazine, has illustrated and designed many books and currently exhibits her paintings in galleries throughout Maine. She is very committed to environmental and social justice issues and is a believer in the power of community working toward the greater good. Her commitment has led to her involvement with local organizations over the years, including WERU-FM community radio, Brooklin Youth Corps, Friends of Acadia, and Equal Rights Maine. The mission of Americans Who Tell the Truth reflects her deepest beliefs.
Betty Burkes is a former Peace Education Consultant to the United Nations with over 30 years of experience in the education field. She began her teaching career in Ethiopia with the Peace Corps, and later taught at schools in England. After nearly a decade in Great Britain, Betty returned to the US to found and direct the Paradise Montessori School on Cape Cod (Massachusetts). Betty is a former President of the US Section of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF) and coordinator of UN peace education projects in Cambodia, Albania, Peru and Niger. Betty has been a critical force at Kids Rethink New Orleans Schools from the beginning, in 2006. In her current position, she oversees all curriculum development. Betty holds a Masters Degree in Education from the University of California at Berkeley.
Barbara Damrosch is an organic farmer and the author of The Garden Primer, a classic manual of horticulture, as well as The Four Season Farm Gardener's Cookbook. For nine years she has written a weekly column in the Washington Post called “A Cook's Garden”. Together with her husband Eliot Coleman she operates Four Season Farm in Harborside, Maine, which produces food year-round and is considered a model of small-scale sustainable agriculture.
Dud´s journey to peace activism began, unlikely enough, at the U.S. Naval Academy where he received his B.S. in engineering in 1963 and took a commission in the U.S. Air Force. After volunteer service in Vietnam, he returned to graduate school at Dartmouth College where he received his MBA in 1969. Soon after Hendrick opted for an unusual career, given his background, becoming the men’s lacrosse coach and women’s soccer coach at Dartmouth. In 1982, he and his wife moved to Deer Isle where he soon began a full-time commitment to peace. He credits the transformation to a return to Vietnam in 1998 and to his involvement with Veterans for Peace. Hendrick has spoken several times at the Vietnam War Memorial in D.C., as well as at rallies, and in high schools and universities around New England. He has stood in solidarity with Agent Orange victims in Vietnam, the Inughuit of Greenland, the Chagossians of Diego Garcia, with Marshall Islanders, and the people of Jeju, Korea and is dedicated to telling their stories as victims of America's far-flung military empire. Hendrick is a former president of the founding chapter of Veterans for Peace.
James Kilbreth is an attorney at Drummond Woodsum where he focuses his practice on complex commercial and regulatory litigation, including antitrust, securities, officer and director liability, class actions, bid award challenges, insurance coverage disputes, environmental and energy matters, and higher education issues. Jamie was the lead lawyer for the State of Maine in its litigation against the tobacco industry, securing a $1.5 billion recovery, the largest in State history. He is currently representing a class of over 28,000 retired state employees and public school teachers in their constitutional challenge to cutbacks to their pension benefits, as well as defendants in a major securities fraud case, a wind farm developer in a number of nuisance suits, and a major energy infrastructure development.
Jamie previously served as Chief Deputy Attorney General of the State of Maine, where he supervised all major civil and criminal actions of the office and personally handled several major cases. Before that he was the Deputy Attorney General in charge of all the state’s civil litigation. Prior to his work at the Attorney General’s office, he worked at Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering in Washington, D.C.
Among his Public Service work, Jamie is a Trustee and Past President of the Maine Audubon Society, a former Director and Past President of the Southern Africa Legal Services and Legal Education Project, and the former Director of the Maine Bar Foundation.
Charlie is the Executive Director of the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy at Harvard´s Kennedy School. Prior to coming to the Carr Center, Clements, a widely respected human rights activist and public health physician, served as president of Unitarian Universalist Service Committee from August 2003 until February 2010. Prior to taking the position at UUSC, he served as executive director of Border WaterWorks, an initiative of the Pew Charitable Trusts and the El Paso Community Foundation, which assisted small U.S. communities along the border without running water or sewers to construct such desperately needed infrastructure.
Throughout the years, Clements has faced several moral dilemmas that shaped his life. As a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Academy who had flown more than 50 missions in the Vietnam War, he decided the war was immoral and refused to fly missions in support of the invasion of Cambodia. Later, as a newly trained physician, he chose to work in the midst of El Salvador's civil war, where the villages he served were bombed, rocketed, or strafed by some of the same aircraft in which he had previously trained.
For two years in the late 1980s, Clements served as director of human rights education at UUSC, leading a number of congressional fact-finding delegations to Central America. In 1997, as president of Physicians for Human Rights, he participated both in the Nobel Peace Prize ceremony and the treaty signing for the International Campaign to Ban Landmines. Clements is author of Witness to War and the subject of an Academy Award-winning documentary of the same title.
Robert Shetterly, the founder of Americans Who Tell the Truth and the painter of the AWTT portraits, was born in 1946 in Cincinnati, Ohio. He graduated in 1969 from Harvard College with a degree in English Literature. Also, during this time, he was active in Civil Rights and in the Anti-Vietnam War movement.
After college and moving to Maine in 1970, he taught himself drawing, printmaking, and painting. For twelve years he did the editorial page drawings for The Maine Times newspaper, illustrated National Audubon's children's newspaper Audubon Adventures, and approximately 30 books.
His painting has tended toward the narrative and the surreal. Since 2002 he has been painting the series of portraits Americans Who Tell the Truth. The exhibit has been traveling around the country since 2003. Venues have included everything from university museums and grade school libraries to sandwich shops, the Cathedral of Saint John the Divine in New York City, and the Superior Court in San Francisco. To date, the exhibits have visited 27 states. In 2005, Dutton published a book of the portraits by the same name. In 2006, the book won the top award of the International Reading Association for Intermediate non-fiction.
Shetterly has received honorary doctorates from the University of New England and the University of Maine at Farmington. In 2005, he was named an Honorary Member of the Maine Chapter of Veterans for Peace. Read his full bio here.
The Institute for Humane Education works to create a more just, peaceful and sustainable world through education. Their mission is closely aligned with AWTT and the two organizations collaborate through speaking engagements, sharing resources, and AWTT and Rob are both part of IHE's graduate and residency curricula. Rob recently painted a portrait of IHE president and co-founder Zoe Weil. Here's a link to Zoe's TEDx talk.
Voices envisions a world in which nations, communities, and individuals move beyond polarization and destruction, and view conflict as an opportunity to create understanding, empathy and positive change. Through education, the arts, and self-expression, Voices aims to transform how we respond to, engage in, and recover from conflict. By working directly with instructors and students they strive to model pedagogical methods and social processes that challenge and enrich arts, humanities and social science curricula.
Thousands of teachers around the world use My Hero in the classroom. AWTT offers an online gallery on My Hero as well as related lesson plans. Students can design exhibits related to themes, research the portraits and related issues, and share their own work and observations on the My Hero website.
AWTT & VFP support each other's goals in terms of peace education and activism, and work together when we can. Each year, Robert Shetterly speaks at Veterans for Peace gatherings and uses AWTT merchandise to support the VFP mission.
Early on in the project, Rob Shetterly painted Lily Yeh, founder of Barefoot Artists. Since that time AWTT has worked on projects with Barefoot Artists relating to the empowerment work that organization does in Rwanda. Rob traveled with Lily to work with children in a Rwandan village to create an artistic vision of their hopes for the future; AWTT educator and board member, Michele Hemenway worked with Lily to create an art “pen pal’ exchange program and exhibit between US and Rwandan students.
YES! publishes the AWTT portraits when the portrait subjects are featured in the magazine. YES! also features AWTT products, the children´s book based on the series and articles by Robert Shetterly. Currently, YES! and AWTT are partnering on an Exemplary Essay project that asks students to write about a portrait and the issues related to it. Essays will then be shared with AWTT, the portrait subject who inspired the student. One essay will be chosen for publication on the YES! and AWTT websites.
Americans Who Tell the Truth, Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project are working together to create a collaboration to emphasize their shared interest in education and social justice. We expect this to be helpful to teachers who use these projects in their classrooms.
As a first step, Americans Who Tell the Truth will work with Rethinking Schools and the Zinn Education Project to identify specific teaching resources that are directly connected to portraits in the Americans Who Tell the Truth series. Links to the materials will be posted on the corresponding portrait/ biography page. This will allow teachers to make use of the Americans Who Tell the Truth website to identify Rethinking Schools and Zinn Education Project activities more readily, in addition to our existing curriculum.
Operation Breaking Stereotypes (OBS) is a non-profit, service-based organization working with schools in Maine, Boston, and New York City to help students address ethnic, socio-economic, gender, and racial stereotypes through writing, reading, music, photography, and personal connections. Since its founding in 2002, OBS has worked with more than 1000 Maine, Boston, and New York City middle and high school students, facilitating exchanges between diverse groups of learners. AWTT and OBS collaborate closely on classroom and curriculum work and teacher trainings in Maine and New England.