On September 13th Nantucket welcomed a variety of CEOs, journalists, researchers, and even a former president, to join the island masses for the eighth year of The Nantucket Project. The Nantucket Project is a weekend long series of Ted-Talk like lectures by important people with interesting jobs and/or stories that fit a common theme. It occurs in mid-september, with this year’s dates being from September 12th to the 16th. For these four days, The White Elephant’s yard became a melting pot for island locals, curious visitors from across the country, and of course the presenters, leaving everyone free to chat, bounce ideas off of one another for new business pursuits or what the next session would entail, and exchange business cards or phone numbers to stay in touch after the weekend was over. Each yearly installment of The Nantucket Project follows a certain one-word theme. These have included forgiveness, acceptance, and this year’s theme, neighborhood. These themes serve as the backbone for what each session is based around. Every day you have a certain number of sessions, including 6-8 presentations in a 2-hour timeframe. Each day has a different amount of sessions. Typically, Thursday and Friday have four sessions, Saturday has three, and Sunday has two. Each theme will largely decide which presenters come and what they speak about, which films are shown, and which activities are held for the participants. With this year’s theme of neighborhood, the presentations largely centered around stories of people coming together with or reaching out to the people they loved or people they wanted to help out and getting through a seemingly insurmountable obstacle.
The Nantucket Project was founded by Nantucket Nectars founder Tom Scott and Nantucket local Kate Brosnan of Plum TV in 2010. Since then, the project has become known across the country, hosting what is called “Satellites” in major cities and receiving the praise of Forbes and Time magazines. The project itself has expanded in scope. Now it is no longer just 500 people gathered in a tent by the shore, but original documentary films under the name of TNP Ideafilms, and a worldwide network of scholars receiving funding through The Nantucket Project for influential research projects. Both Brosnan and Scott have expressed their humble gratitude for how popular the project has become and the support from the island community as well as the many big-name sponsors such as Pure Insurance, BMW, and the Intel Corporation.
Every year, the thing about the Nantucket Project that excites people the most is the list of presenters, performers, and people of influence coming to the island. Past presenters have included Casey Neistat, the late John McCain, island musician and NHS parent Molly Glazer, Neil Young, and Deepak Chopra. This year, the island welcomed an impressive display of presenters. The list included the coach of the Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens, Tour De France legend and founder of the LIVESTRONG foundation for cancer research, Lance Armstrong, former member of the Obama Administration Simon Greer, Former New York police commissioner Ray Kelly, Amanda Knox, a woman sentenced to 8 years of prison for a murder she did not commit, LGBT comedian and breast cancer survivor Tig Notaro, ballerina Renee Robinson, Red Hot Chili Peppers drummer Chad Smith, press secretary under President Trump Sean Spicer, and 43rd President of the United States, George W. Bush, just to name a few. Every presenter shared a compelling story, showed groundbreaking data, or participated in gripping interviews.
The various participants in The Nantucket Project were able to share their thoughts on an app that provided schedules, activities, and a chat room. Two of the most popular speakers you may have never heard of are Chris Schumacher and Nadia Boyse Weber. Chris Schumacher is a murderer. After two friends of his executed a plan to steal drugs from his California apartment, he killed one of them and was sentenced to life in San Quentin prison. On parole, Schumacher now seeks forgiveness for his actions and seeks to help others to try his very best to make up for his actions. Nadia Boyse Weber is a tattooed Lutheran pastor who finds solace from her hard past in her own interpretations of the gospel, telling patrons at the Congregational Church that Saturday that oppressors were nothing but footnotes and the oppressed like Jesus Christ or John are the ones who reap everlasting glory. Weber was very active in the project, interviewing Lance Armstrong about his mistakes and where he plans to go in the future and performing the aforementioned sermon in the Congregational Church.
According to Tom Scott, the 2018 Nantucket Project was, “One of the most exciting years the project has seen.” Scott said he was very impressed with how people seemed to leave each session with a better understanding of the people around them and the “neighborhoods” they occupied. Patrons echoed Scott’s observations. Joel Meyers, the founder of AccuWeather, called The Nantucket Project, “mentally and physically stimulating,” and Chris Schumacher wrote that spending the weekend with his family and surrounded by people who supported and believed his story was, “The closest manifestation of God’s love that I’ll ever know.” To many, The Nantucket Project is an unparalleled experience. The people are active and engaged in each days plethora of events, and each speaker is engaging and friendly to boot. Islanders that can’t afford the 5,000 dollar tickets can experience the project in a number of other ways such as volunteering, applying for an islander’s pass by writing an essay explaining your qualifications, or signing a wait list and hoping for an email confirming your attendance to one of the sessions. Though the steps to avoid that hefty ticket price are convoluted and uncertain, getting a glimpse of the action however you can is said to be an experience like no other. Though the 2018 installment is over, Scott and Brosnan already have their sights set on 2019. Tickets are on sale now for September 19th-22nd, 2019, and if the past is any indication, the next chapter of The Nantucket Project will be something even more special than the last.
By Beck Barsanti