It was truly an honor to join Soledad O’Brien, filmmaker Michele Midori Fillion, historian Leisa Meyer, journalist Missy Ryan, and Vice Admiral (Ret. U.S. Navy) Ann Rondeau for this excellent panel discussion in conjunction with a screening of Michele’s powerful documentary, “No Job for a Woman.” The evening at NYU’s Washington D.C. campus was organized by the National Endowment for the Humanities, and so many staff and students from NYU made the evening simply a pleasure to attend.
The documentary and panel discussion can be watched in full by clicking HERE. I have to say the film is well worth your time. Michele told the story of women who fought to cover WWII as journalists, focusing in on Martha Gellhorn, Dickey Chapelle, and Ruth Cowan–names that are well-deserving, if not more so, of household name recognition as their male counterparts like Walter Cronkite or Ernest Hemingway. If that idea raises your eyebrow, you need to watch the film.
I’ve seen it three times now, and I’ve been floored and astonished each time. What sticks with me maybe most profoundly were some of the thoughtful observations that Martha Gellhorn made in her writing about war. This is a good one:
War happens to people, one by one. That is really all I have to say and it seems to me I have been saying it forever. Unless they are immediate victims, the majority of mankind behaves as if war was an act of God which could not be prevented; or they behave as if war elsewhere was none of their business. It would be a bitter cosmic joke if we destroy ourselves due to atrophy of the imagination.
In short, watch Michele’s film.
I wasn’t sure what I could add to such an interesting piece of history, and I think my primary contribution was describing how it works to use the bathroom in a combat zone. (The photo below is me talking about exactly that.) The general theme was how women participate, sometimes as equals, sometimes as part of a tiny minority, in combat zones as both journalists and military professionals. The audience was great, all of the other panelists were terribly smart and interesting, and Soledad O’Brien took pains to prepare in advance and gave us great questions and did an amazing job of keeping a lively and interesting conversation going. It was fun, and such an honor.
Before the panel, Soledad told us what many already knew: that the next day would be her last hosting “Starting Point” on CNN. She’s moving on to independent projects with her own production company, StarFish Media Group, as well as some nonprofit endeavors. It was amazing to see her at work firsthand, and to be part of an event that was so successful in large part because of her talent and hard work.
All of the staff from the NEH and NYU were simply fantastic, as were the DC-based NYU students. Thanks, everyone!
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