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.
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.
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.”
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.
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."
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.
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.
In a wide-ranging conversation with The Daily Beast's Michelle Cottle, chess legend and political activist Garry Kasparov talks about repression in Russia, and how he thinks President Obama should address it.
The CIA spends piles of money on technology, but its most valuable assets will always be people, former counterterrorism director Henry Crumpton said at The Hero Summit.
Crumpton offers praise for Gen. Petraeus.
Henry Crumpton, former coordinator for counterterrorism at the CIA, told the Hero Summit that the most important heroes of the intelligence agency are those you will never know. “You have spouses and husbands and sisters that do those things all the time and you would never know,” he says.
A dapper man with a Georgian charm, Crumpton is sometimes called the “American James Bond.” He served for more than two decades in the CIA and was the recipient of the the agency’s highest achievement, the Distinguished Intelligence Medal.
Crumpton remembered one secret hero he had met during his time as a spy in Africa in the 1980s. The man, an African insurgent, came to the U.S. Embassy where Crumpton was serving undercover as a U.S. diplomat. Crumpton turned the young man into an asset, and he provided an immense amount of usable information. This is why, despite the huge amount of money spent on the technical aspects of the CIA, Crumpton says he “has a bias towards human intelligence.”
“What was remarkable about this source was his motivation,” said Crumpton. “We paid him a modest salary but he was really motivated by how he could help his people and he thought the U.S. was the route to that.”
Later Crumpton learned that the asset had been killed trying to cross a dangerous war zone in Africa. Crumpton said the man was an example of a hero that he knows the identity of—“but no one else will.”
Madeleine Albright remembers her colleague, Libyan ambassador Christopher Stevens—and recalls how she handled embassy attacks during her time at State. By Harry Siegel.
'Diplomats on the Front Lines' panel remembers Stevens.
The recorded voice of U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens, who was murdered in the Sept. 11, 2012, assault on the American consulate in Benghazi, provided a somber opening to the Diplomats on the Front Lines panel at Newsweek & The Daily Beast’s Hero Summit. In the tape, Stevens introduced himself as the newly freed nation’s ambassador.
Two of Stevens’s colleagues, former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright and veteran ambassador Ryan Crocker, were joined by public intellectual, philosopher, and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy in paying tribute to their fallen friend as they discussed the need in the uncertain, post–Arab Spring world for diplomats with the drive and courage to work “outside the walls” of the embassy.
"No American diplomat knew Libya better than Stevens did," said Crocker, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan over the past decade, pointing to the two years Stevens served as ambassador to the opposition in Libya before the death of Col. Muammar Gaddafi, one of the signature moments in the Arab Spring. “Chris was one of our very finest officers, fluent in Arabic. He knew the regions, and he knew the dangers.”
“It's very hard to be an ambassador behind the walls,” Albright said. She called Stevens, a career diplomat who worked at State when she was its first female secretary, “the kind of person we need to have…Chris wanted to get out from behind the walls and represent the U.S. in difficult places—to be the eyes and ears of the president and the American people.”
Former secretary of state Madeleine Albright (center) and philosopher and activist Bernard-Henri Lévy (left) on stage during The Hero Summit on Nov. 15, 2012. (Scott Henrichsen)
Read live tweets from a discussion between former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright, former Ambassador to Iraq and Afghanistan Ryan Crocker and Bernard-Henri Levy on the dangers and opportunities for 21st-century diplomats.
See live tweets as Ariel Investments President Mellody Hobson interviews U.S. Navy Veteran Eric Greitens and other service men and women on their unwavering commitment to their country--and why it doesn't end once the uniform comes off.
There is life after war. New groups help vets find meaning on the home front.
Greitens discusses wounded soldiers' desire to continue to serve.
Eric Greitens remembers returning home from Iraq, asking wounded soldiers—suffering from missing limbs, missing lungs—what they wanted to do next. One after another, they said, "I want to return to my unit." When Greitens asked, "What if you can't return?" They said, "I want to find a way to serve."
Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, runs a group that helps veterans do just that—keep serving. The Mission Continues awards fellowships to former soldiers, allowing them to lead local community-service projects.
On Thursday, Greitens joined thee other military veterans onstage at Newsweek and The Daily Beast's Hero Summit in Washington, D.C., to talk about creative ways to give soldiers a second act.
Tawanda "Tee" Hanible, a gunnery sergeant in the Marine Corps, was among them. Once a rebellious teen, she joined the Marines in a desk job, then later married and went to Iraq as a young mother. She's now the founder of Operation Heroes Connect, which links veterans with at-risk kids.
She described one particularly difficult kid who was paired with a staff sergeant. "He stuck with this kid from day one," she said of the sergeant, who became a real mentor. "He just continued to be on his side." The boy got his GED and is joining the Army, she said—a win for both.
Failure to bring back wounded soldiers and survivor’s guilt haunt our veterans for the rests of their lives. Healing, they say, starts with talking.
Maj. Shirley shares her story.
U.S Marine Lu Lobello watched Iraqi insurgents in Baghdad ambush his unit and shoot his radio operator in the head. During the battle, Marines killed 20 innocent civilians.
A member of his troop screamed, "We shot a baby. We shot a baby."
Lobello is one of thousands of military veterans who wrestle with the psychological wounds of war. During a panel discussion at Newsweek & The Daily Beast's Hero Summit on Thursday, William Nash, a combat therapist who served in Iraq, told the audience that the stress soldiers experience stems from what they feel is a failure to live up to deeply held values, to bring back fellow injured soldiers, and to cope with survivor’s guilt.
Nash told moderator Wolf Blitzer, CNN lead political anchor, that many warriors feel they let their units down. "They failed to live up to deeply held values and ideals," Nash said, which leads to "survivor guilt, moral injury, and feeling betrayed by leaders sometimes."
Nash added that there is a "hierarchy of shame" in the military in which those who were not wounded or shot at are deemed less worthy.
See who’s attending and what’s on tap at the October 10 event in Washington, D.C.
No to Syria. Army veteran Brian Van Reet argues against intervention.
The ’60s TV comedy took the ‘situation’ in ‘sitcom’ to dizzying heights, but who knew back then that the show was also subversively and delightfully feminist?
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From Adm. William McRaven to columnist Nicholas Kristof to Bono, WATCH VIDEO of the summit’s must-see moments.