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RappU - Classes Guaranteed to Stimulate Your Mind!

History and Government

How a Sufi Mystic Can Make a Difference in Today’s World: Why the U.S. Army Cares


with John Kiser

Calendar Mar 24, 2018 at 9 am, runs for 3 weeks

This class will tell the story of one of the great heroic figures of the 19th century, Emir Abdelkader; discuss the basis of his wide influence across religious, social and political boundries; note how his example is being deployed in the struggle with militant Islamism and stereotypes at home; consider Algeria’s  importance today as an indicator of how to defeat ISIS ideology. Participants will acquire a rudimentary knowledge of Islam—e.g. the five pillars of Islam.

Readings will be assigned for each session.

Note: This class will meet three times: March 24, March 31, and April 28.

John Kiser has advanced degrees in European History and Business Administration, is the author of two books on spiritual and worldly combat in Algeria: The Monks of Tibhirine and Commander of the Faithful: The Life and Times of Emir Abd el-Kader.  Additionally, Mr. Kiser is founder of a technology search company (Kiser Research, Inc., 1980-94), member of the Board of Directors of the International Center for Religion and Diplomacy, Honorary Doctor of Political Science, Russian Academy of Sciences, and Chairman of the William and Mary Greve Foundation.  Mr. Kiser has been an instructor at Marine Corps University and is a contributor to a variety of publications, including The Marine Corps Gazette and Cistercian Studies Quarterly.

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Railroads, Real and Model


with Phil Irwin

Calendar Mar 25, 2018 at 2 pm, runs for 1 week

Railroads built America.  Many thousand miles of twin steel rails replaced stagecoaches, wagons, and barges connecting settlements and opening the West.  Fires turned water into steam to turn the wheels of progress.  Rappahannock County is surrounded by railroads, but topography and low population-density prevented construction of several proposals.  Finally, in 1967, tiny rails were laid at Caledonia Farm in Flint Hill, the classroom for a course for 3-4 folks.

Your conductor will introduce you to all aspects of railroading from the first flanged wheel to today's high-speed trains.  Scale models, books, videos, and field trips will introduce you to history's greatest employment opportunity and now the world's greatest hobby.

Note: At the first class, the group will identify dates for additional class meetings and field trips

Presenter Phil Irwin is descended from a family of railroaders,  has fired steam locomotives, operated electric trains into Grand Central Terminal, ridden many rails world-wide, and, upon retiring from the Voice of America in 1985, volunteers today in train service at the Walkersville Southern Railroad.

Welcome to the history of railroading!

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Rappahannock County and the Civil War


with John Tole

Calendar Apr 25, 2018 at 6 pm, runs for 5 weeks

This class covers Rappahannock County and it residents before, during, and after the Civil War   Where possible, the local history is discussed in the context of national events.  Among the topics covered:

* The many economic, social, and political factors from early colonization through the 1800s that eventually led to the Civil War

* Slavery and other aspects of the County economy prior to the war

* The County’s role in secession

*The experiences of the over 1100 county men who served in the Southern Armies and the several dozen who fought for the North.

* The occupation of the County by the Union Army of Virginia in the summer of 1862 including detailed discussion of the many varied personalities that formed this short-lived army

* The Confederate advance and retreat to the Battle of Gettysburg much of which passed through Rappahannock County

* Local African-Americans and Mosby Rangers

* Effect of Reconstruction on the County

At appropriate points, musical samples illustrating abolition, politics, patriotism, homesickness, post-war, and other sentiments will be presented.     

Field trips to some local sites may be arranged, depending on interest.     

Dr. John Tole is an engineer, historian, musician, and tree farmer who has resided in Rappahannock County for 34 years.   He is a native of Washington, D.C. with Civil War roots in both New York and the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia:  one great-great-grandfather was a Union naval officer; another was a member of the Stonewall Brigade in Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia.   He taught and conducted research in engineering at M.I.T. (where he received his doctorate) and elsewhere and has spent many years in technical endeavors.

John is president of the Rappahannock Historical Society (where his wife, Judy, is the Executive Director).  He has co-authored several books on local history, lectured on various Civil War topics, and is the program manager for the County’s Civil War Trails project that erected 33 local roadside markers about Rappahannock’s role in the War. He is also the managing partner of the musical duo Evergreen Shade whose repertoire includes American period music from colonial days to the present including a large repertoire of Civil War era tunes.

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The Saudis: Their History, Culture, Future Issues, and Future Challenges


with Tim Nolan

Calendar Apr 19, 2018 at 2 pm, runs for 5 weeks

While Saudi Arabia is an important ally of the United States and a major oil producer, it remains one of the world’s most secret countries.  This is especially the case when it comes to understanding the people of Saudi Arabia, including their society, culture, religion, economy, politics, and tribalism. In this class, the instructor will explore these points in the context of ancient and early Islamic history of Arabia, the creation of the Saudi state and the House of Saud, Saudi Arabian history, the Saudis place in the region and world today, and where the Saudis and their country may be headed in the future.  Some of the topics included in the class are:   Saudi tradition vs. modernization efforts, the role of Islam, economic diversification and reforms, the role of the Saudi government, extremism and radical Islam, the changing role of women in Saudi society, the Shi’a minority, the struggle with Iran over regional influence, the Royal family and succession, and, importantly, the role of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Saudi Arabia’s future.  The class will be primarily based on the instructor's experience living and working in Saudi Arabia and throughout the Middle East, and recent research on Saudi Arabia and the region.  The instructor will use multi-media aids such as maps/graphics, photos, social media and film, and various news articles.  And, of course, participants' questions, comments, and ideas will be welcomed and will add to the content and experience of the class. 

Tim Nolan was a CIA intelligence officer until his retirement.  Prior to that, he worked for the Saudi Arabian Government and for the UN as a development economist.  He has provided intelligence and analysis throughout the Middle East including Iraq, Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Yemen, and Egypt.  He also lived and worked in Saudi Arabia for 17 years where he became familiar with Islam, studied Saudi society, and learned conversational Arabic.  He also traveled throughout the region as part of his job and also as a tourist.  He has taught many classes at Portland State University, the University of Maryland University College (European Division), and Strayer University.

Two Political Perspectives on Four National Issues


with Brooks/ Regnery

Calendar Apr 6, 2018 at 10:30 am, runs for 4 weeks

Two politically knowlegable gentlemen, the liberal Stephen Brooks and the conservative Al Regnery, will have an intelligent, rational--and friendly--discussion of four modern American political topics: the Presidential election process, foreign wars, free trade agreements and jobs, and impeachments, then and now. A final and fifth free-for-all session may be scheduled depending on the interests of the attendees.

Stephen Brooks is a retired attorney who lives full-time in Rappahannock County with his wife. He practiced law in New York from 1971 to 2011, at different times, in public interest, private and governmental settings. He served as staff director for the Minority (Democrats) in the New York State Senate and was president of a Reform Democratic Club on Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Currently, he is a member of the executive committee of the New York State Bar Association’s Task Force on Family Court and a board member of Rappahannock’s Foothills Forum. Stephen is a graduate of Georgetown University Law School and George Washington University.

Al Regnery has been in the Republican political fray for more than 40 years.  He is a lawyer, was counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee during the late 1970s, served in the Reagan Justice Department, was president and publisher of a book publishing company that published many political books, later publisher of a political magazine.  He has written one book on U.S. politics and hundreds of op-eds and articles, given many lectures and interviews, and still believes the system works.

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