T. Willard Hunter Speakers’ Corner lives on
Using London’s Hyde Park Corner as his inspiration, Reverend T. Willard Hunter began the Claremont Independence Day Speakers’ Corner in 1977 to showcase the constitutional right of free speech.
As a result, a variety of topics ranging from politics and religion to current events and history have graced the podium for the past 3 decades.
In the 1970s, Rev. Hunter saw Claremont historian the late Judy Wright speak at a local event. Although the 2 had never met, he was so impressed by her public speaking he reportedly passed her a note after her address and—in the direct, yet jovial, manner he was well known for—asked simply, “I’d like you to speak at my funeral.” Their friendship continued for decades and, in 2009, Ms. Wright delivered his eulogy.
“Claremont didn’t just establish a speakers’ corner, we acquired an orator. And we inherited an orator in costume,”?Ms. Wright said. “Mr. Hunter, unlike some of the rest of us, didn’t just show up at Memorial Park in shorts and a shirt. Wherever he was speaking, he arrived in period dress. When I think of Mr. Hunter, I think of him as Lincolnesque.”
Perhaps best known was Rev. Hunter’s 34-hour speech at Independence Hall in 1982—a speech he again delivered in London in 1984. Ms. Wright noted, “He often recited from memory—The Gettysburg Address, [the children’s book] Casey at the Bat, Martin Luther King’s ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, and The Declaration of Independence.”
Former mayor Karen Rosenthal continues the tradition by coordinating the Speakers’ Corner each year. Ms. Rosenthal paid tribute to Rev. Hunter at Claremont’s 2009 Fourth of July celebration.
“Willard was our social conscience, our mentor and our friend,” Ms. Rosenthal said. “We were very proud to have had him with us for so many Independence Days. He was truly a Claremont treasure.”
After graduating from Harvard Law School, Rev. Hunter spent his early career involved with Moral Re-Armament, a political movement that encouraged deference to honesty, unselfishness and love. He and his wife Mary Louise Hunter came to Claremont in 1959 after Rev. Hunter became the coordinator of development at the then Claremont Graduate School.
Mr. Hunter, who lived his final years at Pilgrim Place, died on June 29, 2009. He was 93.
10:50 a.m. Opening/Welcome: Karen M. Rosenthal
11 a.m. Mayor Opanyi Nasiali:
“It Takes a Village…Challenges of Realignment.”
11:10 a.m. Miles Bennett: “Teddy Roosevelt at Pomona College in 1903.”
11:20 a.m. Colin Tudor: “The Declaration of Independence.”
11:30 a.m. Peter Weinberger: “The Search for Accurate, Reliable News Reporting.”
11:40 a.m. Butch Henderson: “A Pilgrim’s Process.”
11:50 a.m. Susan Allen: “Save Your Money & You Save Your Country—From Ames’ Almanack for 1768.”
12 noon Chuck Doskow: “What Has the Court Done to Us Now?”
12:10 p.m. Joe Lyons: “The Implied Right and Responsibility of Local Municipalities to Petition on Behalf of Residents.”
12:20 p.m. Carolyn Gonzalez: topic unknown.
12:30 p.m. Merrill Ring: “When Corporations Rule.”
12:40 p.m. Sam Pedroza: “Model Governance.”
12:50 p.m. Kris Meyer: “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death. Where is Patrick Henry When You Need Him?”
1 p.m. Karl Hilgert: “Peace & Justice.”
1:10 p.m. Larry Schroeder: “Fortunate to Live in Claremont.”
1:20 p.m. Parker G. Emerson: “Excerpts from the Bill of Rights.”
1:30 p.m. [Open]
1:40 p.m. Michael Keenan: “Defending the Fourth on the 4th of July.”
1:50 p.m. Joe Molamphy: “Volunteering—Who Has Time?”
2 p.m. Terry Grill & Lissa Petersen: “Safeguarding Our Wildlands.”
2:10 p.m. David Nemer: “Public School Teaching—Who is Calling the Shots?”
2:20 p.m. Charles Gale: “ A Kid’s View of the Fourth of July.”
2:30 p.m. Michael Fay: “Celebrating the American Century.”
2:40 p.m. [Open]
2:50 p.m. Catherine Henley-Erickson: “Fourth of July Poems.”
3 p.m. Closing