Through a collaborative effort, the Orono Public Library, the Town of Orono, and RSU 26 ( the Orono schools) brought an exhibition and presentation of the Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits to the Orono, Maine community, October 6-November 10, 2023. Thirteen portraits and the accompanying biographies were displayed in retail businesses, banks, offices and community spaces throughout Orono. The Orono Public Library organized a scavenger hunt to encourage community members to visit all of the locations that displayed a portrait, with the opportunity to enter to win gift certificates from local businesses as well as mugs and tote bags highlighting the Americans Who Tell the Truth portraits.
As part of the month-long project, community members also viewed the documentary film, Truth Tellers, at the Orono Performing Arts Center.
On Nov 1, Robert Shetterly visited the three RSU 26 schools to talk about the project. He engaged students in conversation at all grade levels. Using the portraits for Sojourner Truth and Aldo Leopold, his discussion with K-5 students ranged from what makes them angry to how they respond when something is unfair to how the ecosystem is affected when predators are removed.
With Orono Middle School students he discussed Bree Newsome and the importance of examining our history, enabling us to move into a future that unites us. He talked about the idea of making “good trouble” and how that guided Newsome’s scaling of the flagpole to remove the Confederate flag.
Shetterly’s time with Orono High School students focused on his own story and then hearing from students their concerns about the world. Their issues ranged from mental health to the wealth gap to climate change.
Shetterly’s day in Orono ended with a panel discussion open to the community. Portrait subjects Sherri Mitchell and Tim DeChristopher joined Shetterly as they discussed each of their journeys of courageous citizenship and how those beliefs and actions guide them in today’s world when democracy and truth seem so threatened. Not surprisingly, much of their conversation focused on having a moral compass that guides them to act from a place of love. Perhaps the evening can best be described by Robert Shetterly who says, “Americans Who Tell the Truth tries to be a lantern that throws light forward and back; knowing the truth of past struggles for justice is essential to seeing clearly the obstacles and possibilities in the future.”