Full video of every panel.
The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit, Oct 10 in Washington, D.C., is an invitation-only live journalism event featuring panel discussions and interviews with some of the world’s most influential figures. The summit will showcase stories from military leaders and decorated veterans, Nobel Prize winners, politicians and journalists speaking about issues of service and heroism. The event will be streamed live on The Daily Beast site. Stay tuned for updates as the summit approaches.
John Herbst had been on the police force in New York for less than a year when he was deployed to Iraq in 2004. Not long into his tour, he led a successful counter-attack against an ambush on his unit and for his actions earned a Bronze Star with Valor, the military’s fourth highest combat award. Just two weeks after that ambush, John’s team was patrolling on the notorious Route Irish outside of Baghdad when his vehicle hit an IED and the ground blew up beneath him. Two members of his crew were killed in the attack. John was seriously wounded and medically evacuated back to the United States. He was the first New York City police officer injured in the war on terror and in New York, his story occasioned a few headlines and small news stories. The real story is how he’s still at it, still a cop and a soldier, still accepting as his own responsibility the safety of others and the calling of his nation.
John’s service could have ended in 2001 after his initial enlistment in the army ended and he had the chance to leave again in 2004 when he was wounded in Iraq, but he’s not looking for a way out. He loves his job as a cop and is intensely proud, though humble, about his military service.
In 2012, I served with John in Afghanistan. I know how much he loves his work because he tried persuading me to join the police force at least twice a day while we were overseas. I met up with him recently to talk about his service and ask him who his heroes are.
Heroes, leaders and trailblazers including General John Allen, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, and scholar Robin Wright join The 2013 Hero Summit. Stay tuned for the full list of presenters and the summit agenda coming soon.
GENERAL JOHN ALLEN,
U.S. MARINE CORPS (RET.); DISTINGUISHED FELLOW OF FOREIGN POLICY, THE BROOKINGS INSTITUTION
General John R. Allen, USMC (Ret.), is a 38-year veteran of the Marine Corps, having served in key command and staff assignments in the United States, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia, including combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. His final active duty assignment was as commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Since his retirement, General Allen has affiliated himself with the Brookings Institution and the Washington Institute For Near East Policy. He is a permanent member of the Council on Foreign Relations.
EXECUTIVE EDITOR, THE DAILY BEAST
John Avlon is the executive editor of The Daily Beast and a CNN political analyst. He is the author of Independent Nation: How Centrists Can Change American Politics and Wingnuts: How the Lunatic Fringe Is Hijacking America as well as an editor of the anthology Deadline Artists: America’s Greatest Newspaper Columns. Previously he was a columnist and an associate editor for the New York Sun and chief speechwriter for New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. He won the National Society of Newspaper Columnists’ award for best online column in 2012.
Alex J. Berliner
For the second year, The Daily Beast is convening the Hero Summit: An Exploration of Courage, Character & Our National Security. See what’s on tap at the October 10 event in Washington, D.C.
The Daily Beast is pleased to announce that the annual Hero Summit: An Exploration of Courage, Character & Our National Security—an influential gathering of some of the brightest minds and bravest individuals from America and abroad—will convene for its second power-packed year on October 10, 2013, in Washington, D.C.
Streaming Video and Live Coverage of The Daily Beast's Hero Summit. (Mindy Schauer / The Orange County Register-ZUMA-Corbis)
An invitation-only event that will be streamed live on The Daily Beast, the Hero Summit will analyze the essential elements of moral and physical courage, illuminate untold stories from the front lines, and consider the power of the service ethic.
The summit will open the morning of October 10 with panel discussions and interviews with top U.S. military officials, experts on counterterrorism and national security, leaders in politics, and veterans of the U.S. Armed Forces who will share their incredible stories of heroism and loyalty. In the evening, Ron Meyer, Vice Chairman NBCUniversal and former Marine, will be joining Tina Brown in hosting a buffet dinner and an exclusive screening of the brilliant new movie from writer/director Peter Berg, Universal Pictures’ Lone Survivor, starring Mark Wahlberg,Taylor Kitsch, Emile Hirsch, Ben Foster, and Eric Bana. After the screening, Brown will be joined for a panel discussion by Foster, Kitsch, Berg, and retired Petty Officer 1st Class Marcus Luttrell, Lone Survivor author and former Navy SEAL.
Speakers at the summit include U.S. Army Chief of Staff General Ray Odierno, Gen. Michael Hayden (USAF Ret.), film and television producer Jerry Bruckheimer, New York City police commissioner Ray Kelly, retired U.S. Marine Corps four-star Gen. John Allen, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka, journalist and author Robin Wright, and New York Times columnist David Brooks.
We will explore the challenges American servicemen and women face transitioning back to civilian life—and how the skills acquired in the military can be leveraged beyond the battlefield to vigorously impact business, politics, and civil service. Conversations also will explore the core principles of courage with police officials making our streets safer, political leaders innovating change, and entrepreneurs championing inspired solutions to the challenges we face today as a nation.
We salute our corporate sponsors, Jeep, IBM, and AT&T, all of whom are committed to supporting veterans and without whom this summit would not be possible.
And we are partnering once again with six esteemed nonprofit organizations: The Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, The USO, The Mission Continues, Team Rubicon, and Student Veterans of America.
Admiral McRaven talked David Petraeus; Madeleine Albright, Bernard-Henri Lévy, and Ryan Crocker remembered fallen Ambassador Chris Stevens; Tina Brown interviewed Aaron Sorkin and Tony Kusher; and more highlights from The Hero Summit.
Newsweek and the Daily Beast's first annual edition of The Hero Summit produced a series of powerful and touching moments over two exhilarating days in Washington D.C. at the United States Institute of Peace and the Newseum. The event brought together luminaries, statesmen, and military leaders including Adm. William McRaven, Madeleine Albright, Bernard-Henri Lévy, Gary Kasparov, Tony Kushner, Aaron Sorkin, and Bono, who interviewed New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, along with a host of service members, veterans, diplomats, and journalists, and others in a stirring conversation on the nature of courage and character.
The summit, hosted by Newsweek and The Daily Beast editor in chief Tina Brown, was presented by Jeep, along with IBM, USAA, and Mary Kay—and included as solution partners the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation, The Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, The Mission Continues, Student Veterans of America, and Team Rubicon.
After rousing opening remarks on Wednesday evening from USIP President Jim Marshall, a former congressman and member of the U.S. Army Ranger Hall of Fame, Brown set the tone for the conference when she spoke of "this disconnect between those who've served and those who haven't ... When you talk to people in the military, there's a sort of quiet rage about that. They feel they have so much to talk about and so much to offer, but they're not really being heard and everyone just doesn't get it."
The night then kicked off with journalist Charlie Rose interviewing Adm. McRaven, who commanded the raid on Osama bin Laden's compound. McRaven called resigned CIA Director David Petraeus "the finest general" he had served under. He also disclosed a new detail about the bin Laden raid, saying that while America did not inform the Pakistani government because it seemed inconceivable that the world's most-wanted man could be holed up so close to the country's prestigious military academy without their knowledge. But, he said, that assumption proved unwarranted: “We have no intelligence to indicate the Pakistanis knew he was there.”
(From left to right, top to bottom) Admiral William McRaven; panelists; former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright; and Newsweek & The Daily Beast editor in chief Tina Brown, at The Hero Summit in Washington D.C. at the United States Institute of Peace and the Newseum. (Scott Henrichsen (4))
McRaven was followed by the four-member crew of Dust Off 73, the Army medical evacuation team that spent three days in a continuous rescue operation in Eastern Afghanistan. The members, speaking with ABC News senior foreign affairs correspondent Martha Raddatz, shrugged off the "hero" label, stressing that they were doing the job they'd been assigned. Sgt. Julia Bringloe, the team's medic, also dismissed the idea that being a woman on the front lines distinguished her, saying: "it's a job, not a gender."
The evening concluded with U2 frontman and co-founder of ONE and (RED) Bono interviewing his hero, two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. The singer, playing up his role as interviewer, pressed Kristof on his own life, and even worked in a Petraeus joke:
"I think women notice that you work with your wife--you sleep with an activist," he said to the journalist. "Only one," Kristof replied. "I'm delighted to hear that, as we know this week what happens when it's two," Bono shot back as the crowd cracked up. Later he noted that Kristof also "slept with George Clooney," referring to a trip the two took to Darfur.
He has sprinted toward turmoil in war zones, jungles, and disaster areas from Iraq to Peru. This past week, Howard “Ford” Sypher did it again—in D.C. Abigail Pesta reports.
Howard “Ford” Sypher specializes in chaos. A former member of the elite Army Rangers, he served three tours in Iraq and two in Afghanistan. Now a civilian, he and a team of war veterans chase disasters—tornadoes in Tuscaloosa, hurricanes in New York—to help people in the aftermath. He is used to the unexpected.
Sypher in South Sudan, where refugees battle floods, malnutrition, and disease. (Matthew Brudnok)
And so he was ready for action this week in Washington, D.C., when he came upon a sudden crisis on a busy city street. A car had swerved out of control, plowing into two other cars, then smacking into several people on the sidewalk. One woman was hit so hard, he says, “it blew her shoes and socks off.”
Sypher was in town for Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s inaugural Hero Summit, honoring military leaders and other people of courage. He had spoken at the summit about how veterans are coming together by the thousands through his nonprofit group, Team Rubicon, to serve as volunteers in disaster zones.
He didn’t expect to find himself in the middle of a disaster on the streets of the capital city. But when it happened, he knew what to do.
In a taxi on Friday when the accident occurred, he jumped out and ran to the people lying sprawled on the sidewalk. “I thought I was gonna find people in pieces,” he says. “I expected to find hamburger all over the place. Luckily, no one was dead.”
Sypher, who had trained as an emergency medical technician in the military, performed an immediate triage on the two people who’d been struck, checking them for injuries and broken bones; then he calmed the shocked group of bystanders. The paramedics came and whisked the victims away; it was unclear why the driver had lost control.
At the scene, he says, a homeless veteran walked up and offered to help. Sypher handed him his card.
The president digs the much-buzzed-about film, its screenwriter, Tony Kushner, says at ‘Newsweek’ and The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit.
Kushner would know. Just before arriving at the summit, he had dashed across town from a private screening he attended with Obama and the film’s director, Steven Spielberg, among others, at the White House.
Kushner joined moderator Tina Brown on a summit panel about the making of the film, saying he thought Obama “really liked it." The president's entourage also "seemed to like it," he said. "They all stood up.” Then he joked, “Maybe they do that every time.” Clearly having an unusual evening, he added with a laugh, as if to explain his somewhat harried state, “I just literally walked out of the White House. I couldn't find the limo.”
Kushner, who won a Pulitzer Prize for his play Angels in America, said he wrote three drafts of the Lincoln script, which ultimately zoomed in on the president’s life during the passage of the 13th Amendment abolishing slavery. The film is based in part on the book Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Kushner said he “picked over words” in the final script with actor Daniel Day-Lewis, who plays Lincoln in the film, “trying out different sentences—what if we did this, what if we did that.” Kushner called the back-and-forth a lot of fun.
When it came time to start filming, however, Day-Lewis explained to Kushner that it was time to move into a new mode. “He said, ‘I hope you won’t feel bad when I stop speaking with you on the set. At that point, I can only have a conversation with Steven.’”
Kushner said, “We texted.”
Family members of wounded and fallen soldiers share strategies for surviving loss.
In one of the most poignant moments of Newsweek and The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit on Thursday, Patti Walker described the day she saw her husband after shrapnel had shot through his brain in Iraq.
From left: Deborah Roberts, Patti Walker, Bill Norwood, Lori Bell, and Kim Ruocco discuss losing loved ones. (Scott Henrichsen)
"The only way I recognized my husband was from the tattoos on his arms, because he was so incredibly swollen,” she said. The doctors told her to get busy and find a nursing home, as the prognosis was “a vegetative state at best.” Walker thought it was too soon for the doctors to determine her husband’s fate.
“I left the room,” she said, in a show of defiance.
Today, her husband, Kevin, sat in the audience at the summit, drawing a standing ovation. He has had a phenomenal recovery. “The vegetative state they thought he was gonna be in was not,” said Walker, who now works as an advocate for the U.S. Army Wounded Warrior Program, which provides services for severely injured soldiers.
Walker was one of four panelists who described the toll war takes on families, and the grassroots groups that have cropped up to help.
Panelist Kim Ruocco said her family suffered a devastating blow when her husband took his own life after serving in Iraq. “My husband lived a heroic life but died a not-so-heroic death,” she said. “My fear was that the way that he died would wipe out the way that he lived.”
Having lived through such tragedy, she now works with other families who have lost a loved one to suicide, serving as a director at the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. “When someone dies by suicide, the family has a completely different kind of grief process,” she said. “My passion was to figure out how to help other families once I finally got through it.”
Veterans could be America's secret economic weapon—if employers can get past their discrimination.
The unemployment rate among post-9/11 veterans has become a national security issue, according to four veterans who have set up an organization to help other service members make the transition back into civilian life.
Captain Kaloa Hearne, right, speaks with Frances Mumtford, a representative with Tank-Automotive and Armaments Command (TACOM), during the Veterans Affairs Job Fair in Detroit on June 27, 2012. (Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images )
“If you look at all the military slogans, they’re about joining the military because you will be better off on the other side,” said Mike Haynie, the executive director and founder of the Institute for Veterans and Military Families at Syracuse University and a U.S. Air Force veteran, at The Hero Summit, presented by Newsweek and The Daily Beast. But in the face of high unemployment and the mental-health issues some veterans face on their return, he adds “those recruiting campaigns and those measures become pretty shallow.”
“I had to go from being a student before I was deployed to coming back and being a student again,” said Peter Meijer, of the struggles he felt when returning to school after deployment.
Peter joined the Student Veterans of America on the board of directors as a way to provide support in colleges across the country—there are currently 660 active chapters.
“So we do it together,” he said. From issues of acclimation “to issues of mental health, we try to get everyone in the same room talking. So you don’t have a guy who comes back who is older than everyone else and behind everyone and who is alone. We don’t want someone to suffer alone.”
Both Elizabeth Perez-Halperin and Eli Williamson, also panelists, say they set up their organizations with the idea that the best support they could provide veterans was getting them jobs.
Perez-Halperin is the president and founder of GC Green, a general contracting firm that uses a veteran-based workforce and construction solutions for renewable energy projects. Their slogan is:” Getting Green Done with Vets.”
From Adm. William McRaven’s praise for Holly Petraeus to U2 legend Bono’s sit-down with The New York Times’ Nicholas Kristof to filmmaker Aaron Sorkin’s ‘Newsroom’ secrets, catch up on Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s first annual Hero Summit.
Aaron Sorkin has given the first details about Sony’s hotly anticipated Steve Jobs biopic, which will unfold in ‘real time’ and depict Jobs backstage at three product launches. Jace Lacob reports.
Sony’s upcoming Steve Jobs biopic will not be offering another twisty, non-linear perspective like 2010’s Oscar-nominated Mark Zuckerberg film, The Social Network, according to screenwriter Aaron Sorkin.
Speaking at Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit earlier on Thursday, Sorkin—who also created HBO’s media-skewering drama The Newsroom —offered some details about the upcoming film, which is based on Walter Isaacson’s bestselling biography of the Apple founder and late visionary.
“I hope I don't get killed by the studio for giving too much away,” Sorkin said, “but this entire movie is going to be three scenes, and three scenes only, that all take place in real time.”
Real time, Sorkin said, "is when a half hour for you in the audience is the same as a half hour for the character on the screen. There will be no time cuts. Each of these three scenes is going to take place before a product launch—backstage before a product launch. The first one being the Mac, the second one being NeXT (after he had left Apple), and the third one being the iPod."
Jobs’s launch of the Macintosh computer in 1984 effectively began Jobs’s meteoric climb; NeXT, in 1990, showed his efforts to begin anew after leaving the company he founded, and in 2001 the iPod singlehandedly changed the way that audiences consume media.
Yes, that’s the entire film, according to Sorkin, who is currently writing a draft of the script, which he hopes to end with the quote, "Here's to the crazy ones,” a reference to an ad campaign that Jobs had created.
"If I can earn that ending, than I'll have written the movie I want to write,” said Sorkin.
With the war in Iraq formally ended, too many of our translators there have been left behind. Abigail Pesta reports.
Kirk Johnson, founder of The List, a group that resettles Iraqi translators who helped American soldiers in war, blasted the White House on Thursday, saying the administration isn't doing enough to protect our allies. "I used to be very polite in Washington when I came to talk about the obstacles," he said. Not anymore. "The obstacle is the White House."
Kirk Johnson thumbs through a binder filled with cases of Iraqis he is trying to move to the U.S. (Jill Carroll/The Christian Science Monitor/Getty Images)
Speaking at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's Hero Summit in Washington, D.C., Johnson described the dangers and death threats foreign translators face from their fellow countrymen for helping Americans. But the U.S. policy, he said, is essentially this: "If you survive long enough, if you survive all these militias, maybe we'll consider bringing you here."
Haider Khairallah is one of those translators. He joined Johnson at the summit to talk about his own experience in Iraq, describing how he got the job helping American soldiers: One day, he said, the troops showed up on his street. "I said, 'How can I help you, gentlemen?' They laughed. I said, 'Why are you laughing?' They said, 'You're the first person to speak English.'"
Khairallah was serious about helping. He went with the soldiers that day as they cleared the town of bombs, serving as their translator. Then he joined the troops permanently, making $5 a day. "I had this dream to rebuild Iraq. So this is where I can fit, rebuilding my country," he said. He described one night when the soldiers came under attack and he pulled one of them to safety, losing his leg in the process.
"People look at me and say, 'Why did you do it?'" he said. "It's just a human reaction. You work every day with these guys, they become like brothers, family. That's how I felt, you know—he'll stick up for me, I'll stick up for him."
Later, when the troops left, Iraqis turned on him. "They looked at me as a traitor to this country. They held the Koran towards me," he said. "My house was bombed several times … three times I was driving a car and they shot at my car. I had to leave the country."
That wasn't so easy. He wound up stuck in Jordan for four years trying to prove that he was a refugee who had worked with U.S. troops, he told moderator Howard Kurtz, Washington bureau chief for Newsweek and The Daily Beast. "I was losing hope ... I felt that my life is gonna end soon, there's no option for me," he said. "I had to prove my leg got blown up because of the war. I had to bring all the papers and do all the interviews … prove my case."
Brian Castner spent eight years defusing bombs—but he's emphatic that he's no hero. Jesse Wegman reports.
Brian Castner defused countless bombs and other explosive devices during his eight years in the military, but speaking Thursday at the Hero Summit, presented by Newsweek and The Daily Beast, he repeatedly rejected the claim that he is a hero.
Brian Castner, an Iraq war veteran, poses for a photo at his home on July 23, 2012 in Grand Island, N.Y. Castner (David Duprey / AP Photo)
“It’s not right,” Castner said, noting that he had attended an award ceremony one day earlier for a friend who lost three limbs in an explosion. “I feel like our standard for hero has dropped too low.”
In a focused and thought-provoking conversation with ABC News correspondent John Donvan, Castner—who served as an explosive ordnance disposal (EOD) officer from 1999 to 2007, including two years in Iraq—insisted that throughout his service he was just doing what he was trained to do. “If we call people in general service to others heroes, we let ourselves off the hook. ‘Well, heroes do something extraordinary!’ But if we saved that term, maybe it would ennoble us to do more.”
Castner told Donvan that when he first joined the military he had wanted to work as an astronaut. But when he discovered EOD, he said, “there was this incredible brotherhood I wanted to be part of. I knew if I succeeded … I would’ve done something really hard that I could be proud of.”
That brotherhood has suffered its share of casualties over the past decade of war; Castner referred to a memorial with the names of EOD officers who have died in the line of duty, and said that more names were added to that memorial last year than in any year since 1945.
“If you look at those names, nearly every single one of them, something killed them that they never saw,” Castner said, calling the element of surprise the biggest threat to all bomb defusers.
“The IED that somebody else discovers … in some ways they’re doing a lot of the more dangerous work. If I know where it is, I’m not in danger anymore,” Castner said. “I never worried about the bomb I knew about. I worried about the bombs that were hidden.”
The screenwriter and producer says Americans are destroying our own heroes, from fallen generals to tech geniuses—and gives a sneak peek at his upcoming Steve Jobs film.
Sorkin said he plans to end his Steve Jobs film with this classic Apple advertisement.
Aaron Sorkin loves to write a good scene. He is drawn to flawed, larger-than-life heroes. So he’s naturally tempted to take on, you got it: David Petraeus.
At Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Hero Summit on Thursday, Sorkin said he "would love to take on" Petraeus in the second season of his hit HBO drama The Newsroom. "Unfortunately, the time line ends the day before" news of the scandal broke.
Steve Jobs, on the other hand, will make his debut in another Sorkin project, a film whose plot he revealed on Thursday: three real-time scenes about the creation of the Mac; Jobs’s following company, NeXT; and the iPod. Sorkin said he’ll consider the project a success if he can make people remember the iconic Mac ad: "Here's to the crazy ones."
"If I can live up to that ending ... I will have won,” said Sorkin.
Sorkin recalled that he had a quote "phone relationship" with Jobs. In fact, he said the Apple founder asked him for help in writing his famous Stanford commencement speech.
Sorkin said he thinks the public is "eating our heroes alive" with snarky tweets and expressions of superiority. "General Petraeus plainly is a hero in the classic definition. He's put men in harm's way ... he's protected us." He calls the story of Petraeus's affair with Paula Broadwell a "Shakespearian twist."
In the end, said Sorkin, "He made a very human mistake."
At The Daily Beast's Hero Summit, Sen. John McCain took a break from criticizing President Obama's policies in Egypt, Libya, and Syria to denounce the discord in his Republican Party. 'It's the first time I've ever seen Republican senators running ads, raising money that is used to attack other incumbent Republican senators,' said McCain.
Twenty years after the infamous military operation in Somalia, former Army Brigadier General Craig Nixon told the audience at The Daily Beast's Hero Summit about the 'quick reaction force' that was assembled to rescue survivors from the two downed helicopters. 'It was cooks,' Nixon said. 'It was anybody who could carry a rifle.'
From Adm. William McRaven to columnist Nicholas Kristof to Bono, WATCH VIDEO of the summit’s must-see moments.
During The Daily Beast's Hero Summit, New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly detailed the mistakes made by Kenyan officials who were dealing with al-Shabab's recent mall takeover in Nairobi. Among other errors, 'they did not handle witnesses well who were trying to get out,' said Kelly, and they misused rocket-propelled grenades.