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A holocaust survivor, a world political analyst, a Super Bowl champion and a military pilot will share their stories with Juneau this year at the Pillars of American Freedom series.
Nazi death camp survivor Miriam Greenstein will open the series at noon Wednesday. This is the 10th anniversary of the Juneau Glacier Valley Rotary Club's annual series. This year, the group is featuring four of the most popular speakers from past years.
"We've had about 35 speakers over the past nine years," said Lorene Kappler, who helped organize this year's event. "We did an informal survey in the club and came up with the top 10, and then came to these four."
Pilot Dick Rutan will be the second featured speaker April 25, followed by Vietnam veteran and football running back Rocky Bleier on May 2. Political analyst John Stoessinger will close the series May 10.
Speakers Greenstein and Stoessinger experienced Nazi oppression first hand as children in Eastern Europe. Greenstein spent half her childhood in ghettos and Nazi concentration camps after the Third Reich invaded her native Poland. She was a dying 15-year-old girl when the allies found her in a German death camp in 1945.
Greenstein will speak Wednesday on her experiences and her concerns about racism in America.
Stoessinger opened the Pillars series in 1992 as the first speaker. He was a boy in Vienna when the Nazis invaded Austria. His family fled Europe and spent the war in occupied China. He immigrated to the United States and became a political analyst and a specialist in world affairs. His presentation May 10 will blend his personal experience with insight into current global issues.
Kappler said in the five years she's been involved with Rotary, Stoessinger has been one of her favorite speakers.
"I appreciate his global perspective and his insight into the big picture," Kappler said. "He will talk about how the world is evolving economically, who is likely to move forward in that race, who will be the strong players and how countries will interact in the future."
Kappler said Rocky Bleier tells an inspiring story of how he overcame physical challenges to achieve his personal goal.
"He was wounded in Vietnam, and came back from those wounds to be a Super Bowl champion with the Pittsburgh Steelers," she said.
Bleier had been a college football hero and was launching a career as a professional athlete in 1968 when he was drafted to serve in Vietnam. Crippled by battlefield wounds, he spent two years regaining the use of his legs to become a premier player with the NFL.
Fighter pilot Dick Rutan is the veteran of 324 missions over Vietnam. He went on to serve as an air force test pilot and was at the helm of the Voyager aircraft in 1986 for a nine-day-long flight of 24,986 miles, a world record.
The hour-long presentations will be begin with lunch at 11:30 a.m. A short question and answer session will follow, and the program wraps up about 1:15 a.m. Tickets are $25 for each event, available at Hearthside Books. The lunches will be catered by the Hangar on the Wharf.
Riley Woodford can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.