A Few Minutes With the Library’s Speakers Series

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This past Sunday, along with about 13 million other viewers, I watched Andy Rooney’s 1,097th and final commentary on “60 Minutes,” and I have to admit that a tear came to my eye as I listened to the 92-year-old talk about his 70-year career as a writer, 47 of those years spent with CBS News, 33 of them at his iconic “60 Minutes” desk.

Now that’s tenacity.

Considering what it takes to simply write my weekly column sometimes, I have deep respect for that amount of content generation. Whether you liked his work or not, Andy Rooney spoke his mind plainly and with conviction, something hard to find among the talking heads of today’s news programs.

I’m going to miss those few minutes each Sunday.

Some of you may remember when Rooney visited Newport Beach in 1999 as part of the Newport Beach Public Library’s Martin W. Witte Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series.

Andy Rooney greets attendees at the Newport Beach Public Library’s Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series.

At the time, he was promoting his book “More Than a Few Minutes.” Tracy Keys, executive director of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, tells me that Rooney was pretty much the same in person as we saw him on TV, both friendly and curmudgeonly at the same time, and that to date he was one of the most popular speakers in the series.

“Mr. Rooney was scheduled to speak at the library at a time before we had the ability to sell tickets online,” said Keys said. “You should have seen the line of people waiting to buy those tickets, it snaked all the way around the library and through the administration offices. It was crazy.”

“We were incredibly lucky to have Andy Rooney as part of our speaker series – it was a big deal,” she added. “He’s a real character, there’s really no one quite like him.”

Indeed.

This year marks the 14th anniversary of the Witte Distinguished Speakers Lecture Series which is sponsored by the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation.

Since its inception, the series has featured many world-renowned authors and celebrities like Andy Rooney. It’s an experience I highly recommend, and it just so happens there are still a few tickets available for the last two lectures of this year. The good news is that you don’t have to wait in line for tickets anymore, they can be purchased conveniently online. (What did we ever do without the Internet?)

On Thursday, Oct. 20, CNN senior analyst, The New Yorker staff writer, and best-selling author Jeffrey Toobin will visit the library to talk about his career as one of today’s most esteemed experts on politics, media and the law. He’ll also give highlights of his coverage of some of the most provocative and important events of our time, including the O.J. Simpson trial, the Kenneth Starr investigation and impeachment of President Bill Clinton, and the Martha Stewart trial.

Then, switching venues from the library to the Oasis Senior Center, on Saturday, Nov. 12, the series will present Greg Mortenson, co-author of New York Times bestseller “Three Cups of Tea,” and his latest “Stones Into Schools: Promoting Peace with Books Not Bombs, In Afghanistan and Pakistan,” which debuted at No. 2 on the New York Times bestseller list.

Mortenson will discuss his experiences in helping to establish more than 178 schools and another five dozen temporary refugee schools in rural and often volatile regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan, serving more than 68,000 children, including 54,000 girls, where few education opportunities existed before.

You can view an excellent video showcasing the lecture series which was just released by the Library Foundation at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i7NOzS6WPWQ (or by searching Newport Beach Public Library Foundation on YouTube)

To purchase tickets for the last two lectures of the year, visit nbplfoundation.org or call 949-717-3890.

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