On Ben Hartranft’s LinkedIn page, his life and career are summed up perfectly: “Diagnosed with autism at age two, I knew only 20 words. Through many kind people and lots of intentional work, I now have no off button. I want to share my story with autism spreading hope. Showing those like me that they are unique and special, while I also help the neurotypical to understand my journey and what it is like to have autism.”
Blair is most excited to welcome Mr. Hartranft, the founder and president of family-run company Benergy1 Presentations, to Skeptics on Tuesday, April 18, where he’ll talk not only about how kindness and inclusion has shaped his life, but also why he believes others should lead by such virtues.
“We may never see how our actions affect others,” said Mr. Hartranft in a pre-event interview, as he began to share his life story and reveal the compassion he holds for those who have helped him through the “many highs and lows” of his life, particularly his family.
“I give a lot of credit to those who have helped me. I have found great support from their kindness and inclusivity. Thus, I seek to encourage everyone to display this same kindness and inclusion. Be the one kind person. Be the one who includes others. Be the one to change lives. The cost of kindness is low, but the impact is immense,” said Mr. Hartranft as he gets ready for his visit to the hilltop.
Much of the kindness and inclusivity that Mr. Hartranft espouses are values imperative to Blair’s mission. As a School and as individual community members, Blair remains committed to practicing core values that shape who students are as individuals and how they treat one another, both within the community and the greater world.
For Mr. Hartranft, the mission looks a lot like a tree or a light, as he believes “One tree can start a forest, one light can push back darkness and one kind person can change the world.”
Though many of the anecdotes Mr. Hartranft plans on sharing with students next Tuesday may be based on values familiar to students, the native Pennsylvanian reminds everyone that no one’s story is the same. Everyone is different in their own, amazing way, and each individual has a family or circle of friends of uniquely gifted individuals. Those are the “people you keep close to you. They can help shape how you see the world and pull you through hard times.”
All are invited to hear Mr. Hartranft speak in the forum of the Chiang-Elghanayan Center next Tuesday at 7 p.m.
History of Skeptics
The Society of Skeptics was established as a forum for students and faculty to discuss and debate important global issues; it has grown to become one of the premier high school lecture series in the United States. Each week, speakers from the political, social, scientific, economic and literary arenas share their unique perspectives with students, who are encouraged to engage with presenters, asking questions and debating points of view.
The program, which is funded in part by the Class of 1968 Society of Skeptics Endowment Fund, is an outgrowth of the Blair International Society, begun in 1937. Forty years later, former history department chair Elliott Trommald, PhD, Hon. ’65, established the modern Skeptics program as a regular forum for student discussion and debate; history teacher Martin Miller, PhD, took over in the mid-1980s and molded the program into a weekly lecture series, one that has since continued without interruption. Under the tutelage of Dr. Miller and his successor, history department chair Jason Beck, Skeptics has featured a wide variety of speakers who are thought-provoking, engaging, accomplished in their respective fields and often controversial. For a listing of upcoming Skeptics programs, please visit Blair’s website.