Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Capital Leadership Initiative

The Capital Leadership Initiative (CLI) is run by the Junior League of Raleigh (JLR), and I am lucky enough to be a part of this year's program. On Monday night we had our second session at the JLR building on Hillsborough Street in Raleigh, N.C.

It's been years since I was in a leadership training course like this: sitting in a room full of passionate, motivated, professional, and incredibly intelligent women. While I was studying at Meredith College, I naively thought that environment was the norm. Leadership training opportunities were common. The camaraderie of female leaders eager to improve their skills was not rare. After graduation I soon learned that such an encouraging environment is both hard to find and incredibly valuable.

This week has reminded me that Meredith College was the right place to earn my undergraduate degree. Isn't that a great feeling? To recognize that you made the right decision?

It's an odd thing to look back on one's relatively short life and recognize all of the key moments that brought you to the present. For whatever reason, I found myself rather nostalgic as I drove home from the session on Monday.

In no attempt to brag, I must say: I have led a charmed life. I am so happy to be a part of this year's CLI program, which has already helped me greatly.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Studying JFK

As part of my research for Abandoned Allies, I have had the pleasure of briefly studying the life of President John F. Kennedy. I still have much to learn on many, many topics.

Yet I have never fully understood obsessions with Elvis, JFK, and Princess Di. Because these public figures changed the world so drastically and each died at a young age, reasons for the existence of such an obsession seems obvious. Curiosity has gotten the better of me over the years and so I have spent time studying each one--and have subsequently fallen in love with them along with the rest of the world. And I similarly mourned their loss as if I actually knew them once upon a time.

President Kennedy, for those of you whom don't know, is tied to the beginning of the U.S. Special Forces which is why I have been studying his life. Many people argue about the actual start of the Special Forces because its roots are traced back even further--but that's the natural course of history. One thing leads to another, which leads to another, and such is life: it is all connected and it is cyclical. That's an oversimplification, of course, but it's undoubtedly true that JFK played a key role in the development and strengthening of the U.S. Special Forces.

Ergo, I have been studying his life, presidency, and influence on strengthening a pool of talented volunteers willing to participate and lead unconventional warfare. It is absolutely fascinating, but this segment of history is clouded by his untimely death. Most of my research results in assassination conspiracies, making it challenging to easily find more about his connection to the U.S. Special Forces. I shall return to my books, where I might have more concentration information I seek--when I have more time.

I should note: this research is not as relevant as other topics in the film so I haven't allowed myself a lot of time with it. I simply find this tangent enjoyable when I return to it, and my curiosity grows stronger each time. I would love to know many more details about the Special Forces, and Kennedy's development of this elite fighting force.

The U.S. Army John F. Kennedy Special Warfare Center and School is located at Ft. Bragg in North Carolina. I have been lucky enough to visit the Airborne and Special Operations Museum in Fayetteville, N.C. I remember sitting in the gift shop wishing I could afford a copy of John Plaster's SOG: A Photo History of the Secret Wars long before I had the pleasure of interviewing him in Wisconsin.

With a tripod I took a self-portrait before leaving the airport in
Duluth, MI, en route to interview Maj. John Plaster.

While the Special Forces are, obviously, a key part of the film's subject matter, I haven't delved completely into their history and JFK's critical role. And, thus, I am reminded that there are many depths to my ignorance on the subject matter I attempt to share with my generation: the history of our nation during the Vietnam War, present day foreign trade, current immigration policy, protection of human rights, and the history and culture of a people known collectively as Montagnards.

My ignorance knows no bounds, apparently. I have a lot more to learn.

For now I am satisfied with having merely scratched the surface, knowing just enough to be dangerous, and boldly serving as a humble spokesperson for this group of people that have been marginalized for so long. It's more than terrifying to know that you may be asked to speak for a group of people you're still getting to know. Therefore, I'm eternally grateful to those supporting and leading us who confirm or correct the details I share.

Should someone challenge the truth of the content shared in Abandoned Allies, I am content in continuing conversations. I have done as much research as I can with the resources available. And because of this--knowing I have done my best--I am content to offer the response, "Prove me wrong. Do your own research. Or offer me resources that will allow further investigation."

We are limited in our resources. We have done the best with what's available. And this film is a final product which I will be proud of for the rest of my life. I have faith and a lot of hope. And I look forward to the future.

Most of all, I look forward to finally sharing this story with you on screen.