Assessing the First Year of an Unconditional Presidency, moderated by Felicia Knight, President, The Knight Canney Group.

Knight Canney Group President Felicia Knight moderates the 2017 Cohen Lecture. Ambassador Marc Grossman, Secretary Andrew Card, and Secretary William Cohen gave insightful, cogent, and focused assessments of world events through the lens of this "unconventional presidency."

Volunteers of America Northern New England Breaks Ground on 4.2 Million “Cabin in the Woods” Housing Project for Homeless Maine Veterans

Volunteers of America Northern New England, Cabin in the Woods, Homeless Maine Veterans

Cabin in the Woods to provide permanent housing for homeless Maine veterans and their families

MAY 19, 2017 | AUGUSTA, ME – Twenty-one Maine veterans and their families will have brand new, energy-efficient, ADA-accessible cabins to call home once construction is completed on the “Cabin in the Woods” development being created by the Volunteers of America Northern New England.

The Brunswick-based non-profit broke ground today on the $4.2 million project located on the grounds of the Togus VA Medical Center in Augusta.

“Some of our military veterans need a quiet place to help them transition into a daily routine. Cabin in the Woods, along with other support services will help them achieve that,” said June Koegel, President and CEO of Volunteers of America Northern New England. “Permanent housing with easy proximity to the services available at Togus is invaluable to someone struggling to re-establish their place in society.”

When completed the Cabin in the Woods development will have 16 one-bedroom and five two-bedroom cabins spread over 11 acres, each with its own wooded, private setting, available to homeless Maine veterans—both men and women.

The project is funded primarily through Maine Housing with additional donations from The Home Depot and TD Bank Charitable Foundations, as well as funding from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

The land for the Cabin in the Woods development was acquired through the Department of Veterans Affairs Enhanced Use Lease Program, where the VA leases underutilized real estate to the private sector for the purpose of developing housing for homeless veterans.

Today’s event also was attended by:

  • Ann LePage, First Lady of Maine
  • Mark Weisendanger, Director of Development, Maine Housing
  • Mike Michaud, Former Asst. Sec. of Labor
  • Bill Burney, Field Officer, U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development
  • Ryan Lilly, Center Director, Veterans Administration Health Care Systems, Togus

Maine Academy of Country Music award winner Debbie Myers sang the national anthem.

Volunteers of America Northern New England already operates two successful veterans programs in the Saco-Biddeford area; The Arthur B. Huot House, which provides co-ed transitional housing for homeless veterans, and The Veterans Career House, which serves homeless male veterans.

Media Contact: Jill Valley-Orlando jill@knightcanney.com 808.271.3624

Real Pirates: An Exhibition from National Geographic

Portland Science Center, Real Pirates, Real Pirates: A National Geographic exhibition, Pirate ship Whydah, Captain Sam Bellamy

This is a story of the making of America—a true story more powerful than fiction.

– Jeffrey Bolster, UNH professor of early American and Caribbean history

May 25, 2017 | PORTLAND, ME – The classical age of piracy comes to life in Maine when the Portland Science Center welcomes Real Pirates: An Exhibition from National Geographic. The 7,000-square-foot interactive exhibition showcases more than 150 artifacts, including everyday objects, personal items, and treasures, from the first fully authenticated pirate ship ever to be discovered in U.S. waters.

Real Pirates is organized by National Geographic and Exhibitions International, a leading producer of touring exhibitions.

Real Pirates tells the true story of the Whydah, a pirate ship that sank off the coast of Cape Cod 300 years ago. The exhibition features treasure chests of coins and jewelry, as well as technically advanced weaponry of the time; 18th-century cannon, pistols, and swords. These artifacts were painstakingly recovered from the ocean floor over the last 30 years and form the core of this exhibition. “This isn’t fantasy. It is the real pirates’ treasure that bears witness to this ship’s fate,” said underwater explorer Barry Clifford, who discovered the Whydah wreck.

Pieces of eight touch 4

Visitors are provided with an unprecedented glimpse into the unique economic, political, and social circumstances of the early 18th-century Caribbean. Highlighted throughout the exhibition are compelling true stories of the diverse people whose lives converged on the Whydah before its demise. Multimedia galleries showcase this period of history, including the slave trade, based in West Africa and the economic prosperity in the Caribbean. Visitors can get a sense of everyday life aboard the Whydah pirate ship, and meet Captain Sam Bellamy, one of the boldest and most successful pirates of his day. Visitors continue on the journey with Bellamy as he sails, looting dozens of ships before a violent storm sank the vessel off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts on April 26, 1717.

“This unique and extraordinary exhibit defines the best of exploration,” said John Norman, of Exhibitions International. “From an archaeological perspective, we have the discovery of the shipwreck, its excavation, and the process by which it was authenticated. From a cultural perspective, we explore the rich history of the Caribbean trade routes during the 18th century and the inextricable link between the slave trade and piracy. This is the first time that this amazing story, with all of its interconnected layers and characters, will be presented in such an illustrative and educational format.”

Cannon 1

Visitors can enter the ship as the pirates did, by ducking through a large wooden door and going “below decks” of the Whydah in a life-size replica of the ship’s stern.

Real Pirates personally relates to visitors by sharing the stories of four members of the Whydah crew, people who ended up on the same pirate ship for very different reasons, such as John King, the youngest-known pirate on board the Whydah, who was believed to be younger than 11 years old at the time of the shipwreck. King’s piracy began when the ship he was traveling on with his mother was captured by Captain Bellamy, and he joined the pirate crew despite his mother’s objections.

Whydah History

The three-masted, 300-ton Whydah was built as a slave ship in London in 1715 and embodied the most advanced ocean-going technology of her day. She was easy to maneuver, unusually fast and, heavily armed and ready for battle. She was built to transport human captives from the West Coast of Africa to the Caribbean but only made one such voyage before being captured by pirates in February 1717. Soon after the ship’s slaves were sold in the Caribbean, Bellamy captured the Whydah near the Bahamas. His crew quickly hoisted the Jolly Roger, signaling to others that the slave ship was now a pirate ship.

On April 26, 1717, the Whydah, heavy with stolen goods from more than 50 captured ships, sank during a powerful nor’easter storm off the Massachusetts coast. All but two of the 146 people on board died.

“This was a unique period in our history,” said Jeffrey Bolster, professor of early American and Caribbean history at the University of New Hampshire and member of an advisory panel composed of academic and other scholarly experts that assisted exhibition organizers. Bolster added, “Through the cache of artifacts [from the ship] we see a world generally undisclosed, one in which the Caribbean was the economic center and values were very different, an era before civil rights, before individual liberties, and before democracy was institutionalized. Without the slave trade and the wealth of the region, piracy would not have existed. This is a story of the making of America – a true story more powerful than fiction.”

***

About Exhibitions International – Founded by John Norman in 2003, Exhibitions International is the world’s preeminent museum exhibition producer. Under Norman’s direction, the company was entrusted with the most valuable treasures from earth and sea, including objects from the tomb of Tutankhamun, relics from Cleopatra’s Royal Palace, Princess Diana’s Royal Wedding Gown, and the only authenticated pirate treasure in the world. These riches are the heart and soul of breathtaking museum experiences created by Exhibitions International. Each unforgettable experience has mesmerized audiences at the finest art, science and history museums worldwide – totaling more than 30 million visitors.

About Barry Clifford – Barry Clifford is among the world’s best known underwater explorers. Born in 1945 on Cape Cod, Mass., Clifford has been involved in underwater surveys and excavations most of his adult life. Clifford is the author of four books: “The Pirate Prince,” “Expedition Whydah,” “The Lost Fleet” and “Return to Treasure Island.” He is currently working on a book about his search for the Santa Maria and his experiences in Haiti. Clifford’s work has been the subject of numerous television documentaries and features, including “Black Bellamy’s Treasure” (PBS), “Search for Pirate Gold” (Nova), “Sea-Raiders” (Turner Broadcasting), “The Hunt For Amazing Treasures” (NBC), “Lost Treasure of King Charles I” (Discovery Channel), “Sea Tales” (A&E), “Pirates of The Whydah” (National Geographic), “The Lost Fleet” (Discovery Channel/BBC-One), and “Quest For Captain Kidd” and “Quest for Columbus” (Discovery Channel). In December of 2016, it was announced that Casey Sherman, the New York Times bestselling author of The Finest Hours, acquired film rights to Clifford’s story of how he and first mate John F. Kennedy Jr. discovered and salvaged the Whydah Galley.

About National Geographic

About the Portland Science Center

About The Gold Group (Portland Exhibitions, LLC)

Portland Science Center

68 Commercial Street – Maine Wharf – Portland, ME

Press Contact:

Jill Valley-Orlando jill@knightcanney.com

Thought Leadership in the Age of Fake News

thought leadership, fake news, Elon musk, Chris Brogan, Doris Kearns Goodwin,

One of the traditionally best routes to positive brand identity, media exposure, and best of all—public trust, is if the founder, CEO, or public face of an entity you represent is, or has the potential to be, what we call a “thought leader.”

“Thought leader” is a jargon-y term, somewhat overused, but succinctly descriptive. A thought leader is a trusted expert in his/her field, often called upon to discuss innovation, best practices, or even the future of said field.

For example, Elon Musk is a thought leader in electric vehicles and space travel; Chris Brogan is a thought leader in marketing and social media; Douglas Brinkley and Doris Kearns Goodwin are thought leaders on American presidents.

Which brings us to the topic of “fake news.” To be clear, fake news isn’t new. While it is exacerbated by the immediacy—and the anonymity—of the Internet, fake news is not a product of the Internet. From Anecdoa to pasquinades to canards, fake news has been with us pretty much since humans could whisper and wink.

In the past, however, we all recognized the difference between stories about Sasquatch reigning terror across the Yukon and the Taliban reigning terror across Afghanistan. Now, we have honest-to-God fabrications finding their way into the news cycle, as well as people with traditionally venerated bully pulpits claiming any news they don’t like is fake—regardless of who reported it or how un-fake it really is.

Setting aside that entire mess, let’s focus for a moment on what that means for PR professionals. We spend much of our time trying to maintain or promote clients as thought leaders in media outlets that once were trusted sources but now are barraged with charges that they are purveyors of fake news.

Entering into any public conversation these days is not for the faint of heart. The topic could be “The Beauty of Roses” and before you can say “stop and smell them,” someone has posted that “Roses are a faux romantic symbol of the Princess trope foisted on young girls as a means of oppression. Boycott Roses!” And so it goes.

In a recent industry survey, 91% of journalists believe the public trusts them less in 2017 than in years past. With the public so angry and media under relentless attack, will people see our clients as reputable thought leaders or as suspicious co-conspirators with alleged fake news outlets? Should we still try to have our clients featured as thought leaders in media outlets?

Yes.

But let’s not stop there. It’s still a good thing for clients to be quoted in media coverage of a topic that’s germane to their expertise, thereby achieving third party validation of their role as thought leaders. The key is to be selective in where you place them.

  • Look for media outlets that retain the public trust, that maintain “standards and practices,” and that maintain clear lines between reportorial, editorial, and sales.
  • Look for bloggers who are themselves recognized leaders in their area of expertise.
  • Avoid outlets with a known political bent (unless that’s your audience).
  • Avoid outlets that are “pay to play.”

The other key is to be prolific.

  • Create think pieces (beyond blogs) for the company’s website and newsletters.
  • Write articles for the company’s LinkedIn page.
  • Create “white papers” on issues concerning your clients’ industries and professions.

As we’ve seen, anyone can dispute facts they don’t like. That doesn’t make those facts any less real. If your clients have something valuable to say, help them say it and help them find the right audience.

Rage Against the Arts & Humanities…Again.

National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, NEA, NEH, Maine Arts Commission, City of Portland Public Art Committee, Creative Portland, Portland Symphony Orchestra, PORT Opera, Portland Stage Company, The Telling Room, Terra Moto Inc., University of Southern Maine

We are living in an age of rage, perpetrated by both ends of the political spectrum, and during which, we are about to launch another battle over the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities. Entrenched interest have trampled upon and fought over these agencies more than The Ardennes.

It’s hard to believe this nation’s cultural agencies were born from a united, bi-partisan vision; established not to solve a problem, but to help us create, expand, and care for our national patrimony. Every time a fortification of bipartisan support is built to ensure their existence, it is breached by those bent on finding a boogeyman, a fundraising mechanism, a wedge issue, or an Internet meme that can rally the crowd.

It’s easy to demonize federal agencies. They’re just more bureaucracy, filled with listless civil servants indifferent to taxpayer need, right? But what if the clichés are wrong? What if the agencies on the chopping block are actually bare bones, efficiently run, professionally staffed sources of transformative and catalytic funding that enhances communities and changes lives?

Here’s another “what if.” What if we stopped disparaging and dismissing public institutions that deserve celebration and investment instead?

For five years I served as Communications Director for the National Endowment for the Arts. Since leaving the NEA I have served on several NEA grant review panels. I chair an organization that receives NEA support. I have intimate, first-hand knowledge of how it works, and here’s what I know:

The federal employees at the NEA come to work every day dedicated to responsibly distributing funding to regional, state, and local arts agencies—the ones that contribute culturally and economically to our communities.

In the last five years, arts organizations in Maine received more than $5.4 million dollars in NEA funding. Arts organizations in Portland received just under a half million dollars. The Maine Arts Commission received more than $3.6 million—funding that was then re-granted to local arts organizations around the state. The catalytic effect of these dollars is indisputable.

Portland Ovations, a stalwart of Maine’s cultural community, and whose board I chair, received $155,000 in NEA funding during the last five years. In that time, Ovations has contributed $12.5 million to the greater Portland economy. That’s just one non-profit arts organization. Other Portland-area entities funded directly by the NEA include:

  • City of Portland Public Art Committee
  • Creative Portland
  • Portland Symphony Orchestra
  • PORT Opera
  • Portland Stage Company
  • The Telling Room
  • Terra Moto Inc.
  • University of Southern Maine

The NEA’s annual appropriation is only .004 percent of the federal budget. Defunding the NEA is not about the money. It’s about the symbolism.

There remains a segment of our citizenry—and political establishment—that is highly skeptical of any pronouncement that issues from the arts community concerning the necessity of public funding for art. It serves no purpose to debate why this is so, to argue over whether this skepticism is at all justifiable. It’s enough to recognize this distrust is out there, and it’s not uncommon for it to be held by people not necessarily ill disposed to the arts. Indeed, they may well be ardent supporters.

Within this segment are two camps, those who object to federal funding for the arts because they believe the non-profit arts should be left to sink or swim in the marketplace, and those who object because they believe that the NEA (and NEH) symbolize the reign of the elites over “the rest of us” at the taxpayer expense of all of us.

To both camps, defunding the NEA “sends a message.” Indeed, it does.

To the former argument, I offer language that Congress included in its “Declaration of Purpose” that accompanied the legislation authorizing the NEA and NEH: “While no government can call a great artist or scholar into existence, it is necessary and appropriate for the federal government to help create and sustain not only a climate encouraging freedom of thought, imagination, and inquiry, but also the material conditions facilitating the release of this creative talent.” Lifting non-profit arts from the market place is about understanding value versus price.

To the latter argument I offer the millions of children across the country and the thousands here in Maine who benefit from NEA supported arts and arts education programs. When Merrill Auditorium is filled with students clutching their free copy of a new book and enjoying their very first live performance at Portland Ovations or who realize they love music when hearing the Portland Symphony; when refugee children record their thoughts in a book at The Telling Room—in short, when lives are transformed by art, there is nothing elitist about it. Funding the NEA may be the most populist thing the federal government does, by making art accessible to all the people.

It’s disheartening to be fighting this battle again, especially when it’s presented as a false choice: pay for infrastructure and defense or pay for art. I worked at the Arts Endowment when a Republican president found a way to do both and enthusiastically signed into law a $21.1 million dollar increase for both the NEA and the NEH.

Despite the current climate in Washington, it’s my hope that Congress resists erroneous symbolism, and instead embraces the transformative power of art and our government’s rightful role in supporting it.

Felicia K. Knight is President of The Knight Canney Group, served as Communications Director for the NEA from 2003 – 2008 under Chairman Dana Gioia, and is President of the board of directors for Portland Ovations.