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82-Year-Old Arctic Adventurer Barbara Hillary Will Speak at Atheist Convention

Barbara Hillary, the first black woman to reach the North Pole as well as the oldest woman to reach both poles, will speak at the American Atheists National Convention in Salt Lake City on Easter weekend next April, the national nonprofit announced Tuesday. Hillary became fascinated with arctic travel after retiring as a nurse. At age 75, on April 23, 2007, she became the first black woman to reach the North Pole. She then traveled to the South Pole as well and, approaching her mid-80s, is planning yet another expedition.

Barbara Hillary, aged 75, at the Geographic North Pole, April 23, 2007

Hillary, an ardent atheist and no stranger to public speaking, has appeared on NBC News, FOX, Good Morning America, and others, in addition to speaking at several major universities. Yet, she has never addressed an atheist audience before.

“We’re delighted to bring Barbara Hillary to our 2014 National Convention,” said American Atheists President David Silverman. “We’ve been working on this for months and we’re thrilled to make the announcement. She’s so inspiring as a role model for people young and old, and she is passionate about the natural world and atheism.”

“We’re making a special effort at our convention this year to bring keynotes who haven’t spoken at atheist conventions before,” said Public Relations Director Dave Muscato. “Being an atheist is a normal and positive part of American society today. Many people don’t realize that many of their their heroes are, in fact, atheists. That’s something that needs to change, and we’re making it happen.”

Other keynotes at the American Atheists National Convention include NFL Oakland Raiders punter, author, gamer, and musician Chris Kluwe; Survivor®: Philippines $1,000,000 Grand Prize Winner reality TV star and sex therapist Denise Stapley; and Mark White, bass player of the Grammy-nominated band Spin Doctors, known for their hits “Two Princes” and “Little Miss Can’t be Wrong.” All nonbelievers, none have spoken at an atheist convention before.

In addition, American Atheists announced Tuesday that Arizona State Rep. Juan Mendez will speak at its 2014 National Convention as well, will will be the second time Mendez has addressed an atheist audience. Mendez made national headlines in May of this year for opening a congressional session with a quotation by the late astronomer and atheist Carl Sagan, instead of the traditional opening prayer.

American Atheists’ 40th Annual National Convention will additionally feature such speakers such as Reverend Barry Lynn of Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, Maryam Namazie of the Council of Ex-Muslims, popular bloggers PZ Myers and Greta Christina, and American Atheists President David Silverman. The convention will also feature a costume party, live music, stand-up comedy, an art show and silent auction, national and local exhibitors, and childcare options for attending families. The convention takes place the the weekend of April 17-20, 2014 in Salt Lake City, Utah.

AMERICAN ATHEISTS is a national 501(c)(3) organization that defends civil rights for atheists, freethinkers, and other nonbelievers; works for the total separation of religion and government; and addresses issues of First Amendment public policy. American Atheists celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

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