Plenary Speakers

Below please find short bios for the Counter-Summit’s plenary speakers.  Please note that this is an incomplete list, and we will be updating this page soon.

Roger Cole was active in the Irish peace movement from 1978 through the Irish Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament where he held a number of positions including that of General Secretary. He was one of the main organisers of the demonstrations in 1984 to protest against the foreign policies of President Ronald Reagan when he visited Ireland.  In 1996 he became Chair and founder of the Peace & Neutrality Alliance, the largest broad based alliance of peace groups, political parties and ngo’s inIreland. As Chair of PANA he was elected Chief Steward of the massive demonstration of well over 100,000 Irish people who protested against theIraq war on February 15, 2003. PANA is continuing to campaign against the EU/US/NATO axis, in particular, the militarisation of the EU, the use ofShannonAirport by US troops and the sanctions onIran.

Sarita Gupta is the Executive Director of Jobs with Justice (JwJ).  JwJ is building a strong, progressive labor movement that works in coalition with community, faith, and student organizations to build a broader global movement for economic and social justice.   Sarita began organizing as a student on campus and was elected President of the U.S. Student Association (1997-1998).  Sarita has 15 years of local, national, and global coalition-building experience through her time at Chicago JwJ and National JwJ. She has a long history of organizing at the intersections of workers’ rights, immigrants’ rights, global justice, racial justice, and women’s rights issues and movements.  In recent years, Sarita has provided leadership to various movement building processes that have attempted to converge movements across different sectors in order to affect transformative change. She serves on the following boards: International Labor Rights Forum, American Rights at Work, the National Planning Committee of the U.S. Social Forum, Grassroots Global Justice Alliance, Inter-Alliance Dialogue/UNITY, the Institute for Policy Studies, Other Worlds is Possible Giving Circle, and The Discount Foundation Board of Trustees.

Tom Hayden has a 50 year career as a peace and justice activist, politician, and author. He has been a leading voice for ending the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan; erasing sweatshops; saving the environment; and reforming politics through a more participatory democracy. As Founder and Director of the Peace and Justice Resource Center in Culver City, CA, he currently writes for The Nation, organizes, travels, and speaks. He recently drafted and lobbied successfully for Los Angeles and San Francisco ordinances to end all taxpayer subsidies for sweatshops. He has taught recently at Scripps and Claremont Colleges, Occidental College, and the Harvard Institute of Politics. He is the author or editor of 19 books and hundreds of articles for publications from the Los Angeles Times to the Boston Globe to the Chronicle of Higher Education.

Kathy Kelly co-coordinates Voices for Creative Nonviolence, a campaign to end U.S. military and economic warfare.  During late June and early July of 2011, Kelly, 58, was a passenger on the “Audacity to Hope” as part of the US Boat to Gaza project. Since May 2010, she has visited Afghanistan four times with delegations to work closely with the Afghan Youth Peace Volunteer. In 2009, Kathy lived in Gaza during the final days of the Operation Cast Lead bombing. Later that year, Voices formed a small delegation to visit Pakistan, aiming to learn more about the consequences of U.S. foreign policy and drone warfare on the civilian population. From 1996 – 2003, 70 Voices delegations defied economic sanctions by bringing medicines to children and families in Iraq, and Kathy lived in Baghdad throughout the 2003 “Shock and Awe” bombing. Kathy was sentenced to one year in federal prison for planting corn on nuclear missile silo sites (1988-89) and spent three months in prison in 2004 for crossing the line at Fort Benning’s military training school. As a war tax refuser, she has refused payment of all forms of federal income tax since 1980.

William McNary is Co-Director for Citizen Action/Illinois, the state’s largest public interest organization with an agenda that includes fighting for workers’ rights, protecting consumers from predatory loan practices, advancing public education funding, promoting tax fairness, environmental safety, and insurance and utility rate reform.  One of the nation’s leading advocates for health care reform, McNary is a Co-Chairmen of the Emergency Network to Save Cook County Health Services, dedicated to reforming, rescuing and restoring theCookCountypublic health safety net. McNary has been appointed by two Illinois Governors, the Illinois Attorney General, the Cook County Board President and other State Constitutional Officers to serve on several state boards, task forces and transition teams.  Until earlier this year, McNary served as the founding president of USAction, one of the nation’s largest coalition of progressive grassroots organizations. Over six election cycles, McNary has worked with the Rainbow/Push Coalition where he co-directed targeted voter registration and “Get Out the Vote” campaign efforts.  He has a degree in journalism and communications from theUniversityofIowa.

John Nichols is a pioneering political journalist and blogger and is a co-founder of Free Press, the nation’s media-reform network.  Nichols writes for The Nation magazine as its Washington correspondent, is a contributing writer for The Progressive and In These Times, is the associate editor of the Madison daily newspaper Capital Times, and has contributed articles to dozens of other newspapers.  Nichols was featured in the documentaries “Outfoxed,” “Unprecedented,” “Call It Democracy,” and “Orwell Rolls in his Grave.”  He has spoken at events sponsored by the FCC, the Future of Music Coalition, the AFL-CIO, the Newspaper Guild [CWA], and dozens of other organizations.  Nichols is the author of The Genius of Impeachment (The New Press); Jews for Buchanan (The New Press); and Dick: The Man Who is President (The New Press), and he edited Against the Beast: A Documentary History of American Opposition to Empire (Nation Books).  With Robert W. McChesney, Nichols co-authored the books It’s the Media, Stupid! (Seven Stories); Our Media, Not Theirs (Seven Stories); Tragedy and Farce: How the American Media Sell Wars, Spin Elections, and Destroy Democracy (The New Press); and The Death and Life of American Journalism (Nation Books).

Tobias Pflüger is a member of the executive committee of Germany’s Left Party and a board member of Tübingen Militarization Information Association (IMI).  From 2004 until 2009 he was a member of the European Parliament.

Vijay Prashad is Professor and Director of International Studies at Trinity College, Hartford, CT. His two new books are Arab Spring, Libyan Winter (AK Press, April 2012) and Uncle Swami: South Asians in America Today (New Press, June 2012). His The Darker Nations: A People’s History of the Third World (New Press) won the 2009 Muzaffar Ahmad Book Prize. He is a regular correspondent for Frontline (India), Himal (Nepal), Asia TimesCounterpunch, and Bol (Pakistan).

Suraia Sahar is a founding member of Afghans for Peace (AFP), an alliance of Afghans from various ethnic, religious, socio-economic, cultural, and political backgrounds with a united vision for a democratic, all-inclusive, just, and peaceful Afghanistan. AFP includes students, professionals, community leaders, and activists, with chapters around the globe. Based in Toronto, Suraia has spoken at antiwar events across North America.

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