World-renowned sex therapist Dr. Ruth Westheimer says sexuality is simply a part of life and must be included with other important issues of the day.
That's the message she brings to the 28th year of Renaissance Weekend, which runs through Thursday at Charleston Place.
The non-partisan family retreat, founded and hosted by Philip Lader, former U.S. Ambassador to the Court of St. James, brings together Nobel laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners and other innovative leaders for discourse on issues such as religion, politics and science.
Lader, chairman of the media and advertising company WPP plc and a partner in the Nelson, Mullins, Riley & Scarborough law firm, stated in a news release that the weekend is a cross-generational conversation among accomplished individuals with widely divergent perspectives.
"Civility prevails, partisanship is frowned upon and commercialism is banned," he stated.
Westheimer is one of about 1,200 people in town for the event, said she's been attending for the past 15 years. Every year she holds a session on relationships for 13- to 16-year-olds, who came to the event with their parents.
Although her session is about relationships, she said, "The kids know they can ask me about sex."
Besides the session where she makes presentations on sexuality, Westheimer said she attends panels and seminars on topics that have nothing to do with psychology.
She especially makes sure she attends those that deal with the Middle East.
Mike McConnell, the U.S. director of National Intelligence, said he's attended sessions on neuroscience, physics and chemistry.
The sessions, though complex, are understandable, he said, because "they make them speak English."
McConnell said he was on five panels on intelligence and national security, and all of them had a huge audience.
People in general want to know if terrorism is a real threat to the country, he said.
McConnell said it is. The intelligence community every day uncovers terrorist threats, stops them and prevents them from recurring, he said.
Because most of the work is done in secret, the public doesn't know about the successes, he said. But "everybody knows about our failure."
Stopping such threats "takes a commitment of resources and support from the public," he said. And the Renaissance event gives him an opportunity to get that message out.
Also attending was Ken Sorensen, former adviser and speech writer for President John Kennedy, who helped pen the inaugural address that encouraged listeners to "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country."
Today, Sorensen is making a presentation that compares President-elect Barack Obama's campaign and election to Kennedy's.
Obama, just like Kennedy, is about to take the lead of a country that's been adrift for eight years, Sorensen said. And Obama is facing domestic and international problems similar to those Kennedy faced.
"What Kennedy offered the country on Jan. 20, 1961, was hope," Sorensen said. "On Jan. 20, 2009, Obama will offer hope."
In addition to discussion of serious issues, the event gives participants time to relax and have some fun.
Westheimer said she makes a point to go out dancing while she's here.
"It's wonderful to be Dr. Ruth," she said. "There's always someone willing to dance with me."