Web Event Enables Troops to Tell Their Stories to America
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 17, 2010 Everyone’s life is a story, and the Defense Department will help 10 servicemembers and an Army spouse tell their stories as part of the TEDxPentagon Web event Nov. 19.
These are human stories, stressed Sumit Agarwal, deputy assistant secretary of defense for outreach and social media. “These are not dry recitations of statistics,” he added.
TEDxPentagon is licensed by TED, which stands for Technology Entertainment Design. Speakers talk for 18 minutes and tell stories about their lives, their beliefs, their work or their relationships.
TED is a nonprofit organization devoted to ideas worth spreading. Started as a four-day conference in California 25 years ago, TED has grown to support those world-changing ideas with multiple initiatives. The annual TED conference invites the world’s leading thinkers and doers to speak for 18 minutes. Their talks are then made available, free, at TED.com.
“It is a great way to connect Americans with their military members,” Agarwal said of the Web event.
And the stories are incredible. Sarah Hertig will read a letter to her daughter about being an Army wife. Navy Lt. John F. Pucillo will speak about serving in Iraq. The lieutenant lost his leg in a roadside-bomb explosion in 2006. In August 2007, he returned to full active duty as an explosive ordnance disposal officer.
Army Col. Geoffrey Ling will speak about being on the cutting edge of science. Ling works with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. Marine Corps Master Sgt. Julia Watson will speak about her experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan and her outreach to women in those countries.
Army Gen. William E. “Kip” Ward, the first commander of U.S. Africa Command, will end the sessions with a talk about leadership.
The stories will be widely available on YouTube, and people can watch the speeches as they are delivered at http://www.livestream.com/TEDxPentagon. The sessions start at 10 a.m. EDT Nov. 19.
“We’re doing it because the formula and format TED has brought to oratory in the nonfiction realm has created an unprecedented outcome,” Agarwal said. “They’ve achieved more than 300 million views of their videos. It’s bigger than any network television, bigger than Lady Gaga. This is huge. You can’t get those numbers through traditional means.”
DOD views using TED as a 21st century extension of long-standing community relations activities, Agarwal said, noting that the department has long maintained a speakers’ bureau –- people who go to organizations and speak about their lives in the military.
“This model TED has established has the promise of getting the DOD story to a much, much wider audience,” he said. “We’re hoping that the services take advantage of this and move forward.”
Others speaking are Cmdr. James Edwards, the captain of the Navy’s first littoral combat ship; Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley, commander of the Army Accessions Command; Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey W. Schmidt, a tactical air controller; Rear Adm. David Titley, the oceanographer and navigator of the Navy; Air Force Tech. Sgt. Stuart Wilson, a cyberspace defense operator, and Navy Capt. (Dr.) William Todd, a pediatric orthopedic surgeon.