• Books on a bookshelf, blurred background and sharp focus on the title "Toy Wars" by G. Wayne Miller.

    Pell Center Visiting Fellow G. Wayne Miller Will Co-Executive Produce “Toy Wars”

    Pell Center Visiting Fellow G. Wayne Miller will co-Executive Produce “Toy Wars,” a limited dramatic series for Amazon.  Based on Miller’s 1998 book “Toy Wars: The Epic Struggle Between G.I. Joe, Barbie and the Companies that Make Them,” the project brings together some of Hollywood’s best creative talent, including Josh Gad; Josh Schwartz; and Seth Gordon.

    “Toy Wars” tells the tale of G.I. Joe and Barbie, produced by Hasbro and Mattel, respectively. Miller spent years chronicling Hasbro’s efforts with G.I. Joe, acquisitions, attempted takeover by Mattel in 1996, and Hasbro’s milestone successes and failures.

    Hasbro, Inc. has been a pillar of Rhode Island since it was founded in 1923.  The company remains headquartered in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. Pell Center Executive Director, Jim Ludes, and Miller co-hosted an episode of “Story in the Public Square” featuring an interview with Brian Goldner, Hasbro’s current CEO, chairman, and president. Click here to watch the episode.

    Ludes praised Miller’s success, saying, “Wayne Miller is a tremendously gifted storyteller whose accomplishments in so many different media—from his day-job with The Providence Journal, to his books, his documentaries, and our collaboration with Story in the Public Square—signal his exceptional talent and diverse skills.  We’re lucky to work with him and wish him every success in this new project.”

    Miller directs the Pell Center’s Story in the Public Square initiative and co-host’s the Center’s television show of the same name.

  • Image from a Fall 2016 Lecture on Pope Francis' encyclical.

    Fall 2016 Event Series Announced

    Today the Pell Center announced a wide array of events for fall 2016, encompassing topics ranging from the ethical challenges of new technologies to the history and legacy of slavery in New England. In addition, there are several events covering the 2016 presidential race. Tickets to Pell Center events are free. Please RSVP in advance for each event on the Pell Center’s Eventbrite page, as seating is limited to 100. Call 401-341-2927 with any questions or concerns. For more information, visit pellcenter.org or email pellcenter@salve.edu.

    Please note, all events this fall will take place at the Pell Center, Young Building, 518 Bellevue Ave, Newport RI 02840 and space is limited.


    Who Stole Conservatism?

    September 20, 2016, 7:00 p.m.

    Mario DiNunzio, Ph.D., Providence College

    Traditional conservatism was captured, distorted, and harnessed to the service of laissez faire capitalism. In the process classic conservatism virtually disappeared from the American political scene and remains largely absent.



    Debate Watch: Presidential Debate

    September 26, 2016, 8:30 p.m.

    Join the Pell Center staff and friends for a spirited discussion and to watch the first debate. We will survey the audience before and after the debate to see how opinions have changed.



    The Ethical Challenge of New Technologies

    October 5, 2016, 7:00 p.m.

    Lewis M. Duncan, Provost, U.S. Naval War College

    Humanity is on the verge of multiple new technological revolutions that will change how people work as well as the quality and length of their lives. Join us for a compelling discussion of the ethical and societal implications of these new technologies.



    Debate Watch: Presidential Debate

    October 19, 2016, 8:30 p.m.

    Join the Pell Center staff and friends for a spirited discussion and to watch the final debate. We will survey the audience before and after the debate to see how opinions have changed.



    Hacking the Election

    October 24, 2016, 7:00 p.m.


    • Shawn Henry, President, CrowdStrike
    • Sean Kanuck, former National Intelligence Officer Cyber Issues
    • B. David Mussington, Ph.D., Center for International Governance Innovation
    • Francesca Spidalieri, Pell Center
    • Brent Turner, Secretary, National Association of Voting Officials

    In recent years, state-sponsored hackers and proxies have breached targets from the White House to the State Department to the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to the DNC, and attacks against electoral candidates and the parties they represent are likely to continue up until the presidential election in November and beyond. More troubling is the possibility that foreign governments may seek to manipulate election results directly or indirectly by affecting turnout, disrupting election sites, and ultimately undermining confidence in the US electoral system itself.

    As the United States moves towards the 2016 presidential election, how might recent hacks impact the outcome? What can be learned from the recent breaches of the OPM, DNC, and states’ voter registration databases?  Is the vulnerability of the US electoral system (including voter registration databases and voting machines) to cyber attack a real threat?  If so, how can those breaches be detected? And what can the US ultimately do to protect the integrity of its elections from hacks?

    A panel of distinguished experts will discuss these and other timely issues on the ability of the US government and local state jurisdictions to maintain the confidentiality, availability, and integrity of our most sensitive information systems and networks.



    Memorializing our Conflicted Past: Historic Preservation and Slavery in New England

    November 1, 2016, 7:00 p.m.


    • Brent Leggs, National Trust for Historic Preservation
    • Jon Marcoux, Ph.D., Salve Regina University
    • Joanne Pope Melish, Ph.D., University of Kentucky
    • Penny Outlaw, Royall House and Slave Quarters
    • Keith Stokes, 1696 Heritage Group

    The panel will address the following areas:

    • Historical Perspective on Slavery in New England- A brief outline of slavery in New England and its legacy
    • Preservation of slavery and post-emancipation sites and memorials – A discussion of the importance of preserving these historical places and presenting history to the public. What story or stories should be told through memorials? The debate over erasing the legacy of slavery… (Harvard, Yale, etc.)
    • History as a tool to start a dialogue about contemporary issues of race– How can we use historical sites and memorials to engage the entire community in a conversation by linking the past to the present?



    Now What? A Panel Discussion of the Election Results

    November 9, 2016, 7:00 p.m.


    • Karen Bordeleau, Retired Executive Editor and Senior Vice President, The Providence Journal
    • Robert Hackey, Ph.D., Providence College
    • Jim Ludes, Ph.D., Salve Regina University
    • Ted Nesi, Reporter, WPRI

    Elections can signal a public desire for change or a broad commitment to the status quo. One night after the American people select their next president, join a panel discussion of what comes next: from the mechanics of a presidential transition to the policy challenges facing the new president.



    Lessons for the Next President from America’s Wars of the 21st Century

    November 29, 2016, 7:00 p.m.

    Joseph Collins, Ph.D., National Defense University

    Professor Collins’s research effort began with two questions from the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: what were the costs and benefits of our wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and what were the strategic lessons from those conflicts. His presentation will cover the difficulty of learning from experience and then outline the strategic lessons derived from our experience in Afghanistan and Iraq. Those lessons will cover a number of subjects from civil-military interaction to unity of effort to the changing character of war. He will also discuss the costs and benefits of these conflicts, and their applicability of his research to the war against ISIS.




    Photography for Salve Regina Viewbook.


    Pell Center—Young Building

    Salve Regina University

    518 Bellevue Avenue (intersection of Ruggles Ave.)

    Newport, RI 02840

  • Title page of "Understanding Cyber Threats: Lessons from the Boardroom," a publication from the Pell Center

    Pell Center Releases New White Paper, “Understanding Cyber Threats: Lessons for the Boardroom”

    Newport, R.I. – Cyber risk is an underrated but all too real threat to organizations of every size, industry, and sector. From the boardroom to the server room, employees and board members must be aware of cyber risk and play an active role in the overall security posture of an organization operating in the digital age.

    In a newly released White Paper titled, “Understanding Cyber Threats: Lessons for the Boardroom,” Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri provides an overview of existing frameworks, toolkits, and other resources that organizations can consult to stay informed about cyber threats, develop and update comprehensive cyber risk management strategies, and learn about some of the best practices and effective mechanisms deployed in the field to combat cyber threats. Core to this paper is the notion that senior leaders can no longer treat cybersecurity as an isolated ‘IT problem’ best left to their IT department and must instead integrate cybersecurity front and center into their decision making process in a holistic and comprehensive manner.

    “Today, cyber risks affect all industries and all markets and can represent an existential threat – especially to smaller companies that have limited resources and have often built their business around one line of products or services,” said Spidalieri. “Modern boards and C-suite executives must view cybersecurity as an enterprise-wide risk issue, and develop sound strategies to protect their organizations’ sensitive information and digital investments. This requires them,” she continued, “to have a deep understanding of the cyber context in which they operate, the ability to make informed decisions based on cyber risk metrics and integrate them in the overall business process, and the willingness to ask tough questions when necessary.”

    The White Paper is based on content presented during an Executive Seminar for senior leaders and business managers hosted by the Pell Center and Bank of America Merrill Lynch in May 2016. Multiple subject-matter experts and practitioners participated to the event and shared lessons learned and best practices to prevent, manage, and mitigate some of the most pressing cybersecurity issues companies currently face.

    “It has become an unfortunate truism that there are only two types of organizations: those that have been hacked, and those that don’t yet know they have been hacked,” said Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes. “This White Paper clearly outlines practical steps senior leaders can take to respond to a dynamic and rapidly-evolving array of cyber threats.”

    “Understanding Cyber Threats: Lessons for the Boardroom” is part of the ongoing Cyber Leadership Project at the Pell Center and follows previous reports that investigate critical issues in cybersecurity leadership development across the United States.

    The White Paper is available for download here.

  • Executive Director Jim Ludes and fellow G. Wayne Miller speak with emmy award-winning broadcast journalist David Schuster

    September, 2016: “White House Chronicle: Story in the Public Square”

    This weekend, “White House Chronicle: Story in the Public Square” hosts Jim Ludes and G. Wayne Miller welcome Emmy-winning broadcast journalist David Shuster to the show.

    Throughout his remarkable career, Shuster has covered American politics on major cable news networks from MSNBC to Al Jazeera America, and more. This episode delves into the narratives surrounding political campaigns, particularly in the 2016 presidential race. With the election fast approaching, the dominant narratives from each camp compete for attention from voters all over the country.

    “David Shuster showed us why he’s such a good journalist. He delivers profound insights about the stories that make up the 2016 campaign with wit and energy,” said Jim Ludes.

    “White House Chronicle” airs nationwide on some 200 PBS and public, educational and governmental (PEG) access stations; and worldwide on Voice of America Television and Radio. An audio version of the program airs four times every weekend on SiriusXM Radio’s popular POTUS (Politics of the United States), Channel 124: Saturdays at 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, and Sundays at 1 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET.

    In Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, the program airs Sundays at 11:30 a.m. on Rhode Island PBS, Digital 36.1, and other carriers; and 7 p.m. Sunday on PBS Learn, Digital 36.2, and other carriers.

    Story in the Public Square is a partnership of The Pell Center at Salve Regina University and the Providence Journal.

    Locally, the broadcast will be aired on Sunday, September 4, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. on Rhode Island PBS (WSBE).


  • Photo of Derek Miller on stairs in Lisbon.

    International Relations Expert Derek B. Miller Joins Pell Center as Adjunct Fellow

    The Pell Center at Salve Regina University announced the addition of international relations expert Derek B. Miller as an adjunct senior fellow.  Miller, a Boston, Massachusetts native, is the founder and Director of The Policy Lab and has worked in international affairs with the United Nations, several foreign governments, and think tanks for over twenty years. He studied at Georgetown (MA, National Security Studies), Oxford (St. Catherine’s College and Linacre), The Graduate Institute of International Studies in Geneva (diplome des études superior, D.E.S.) and the University of Geneva (Ph.D. in international relations).Profile image of Derek B. Miller.

    Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes praised Miller’s addition: “I’ve known Derek since we were both graduate students at Georgetown and I joined his effort to start a journal that would go on to shape important debates in the defense community in the 1990s. He’s part visionary, part doer, part scholar, and part poet. We look forward to the many contributions he will make to the Pell Center in the years ahead.”

    Miller’s specialties include international security affairs; Iraq and U.S. policy theory; public policy and planning; UN affairs; and humanitarian affairs and international development.

    Miller is also an acclaimed and prize-winning novelist whose debut novel, Norwegian by Night (2013), won the CWA John Creasy Dagger and was published in fifteen languages. Norwegian by Night was the Read Across Rhode Island selection in 2015 when Miller visited Rhode Island from his home in Oslo, Norway, where he lives with his wife and two children. The Girl in Green, his second novel, was published this year.



  • Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes and fellow G. Wayne Miller speak with Raina Kelley on the set of Story in the Public Square.

    August, 2016: “White House Chronicle: Story in the Public Square”

    This weekend, “White House Chronicle: Story in the Public Square” hosts Jim Ludes and G. Wayne Miller welcome ESPN’s Raina Kelley to the show. Kelley is the managing editor of ESPN’s new site, The Undefeated, a content initiative focused on the intersection of sports, race and culture. The site features in-depth reporting, commentary and insight on race and culture through the lens of sports.

    Kelley delves into the tensions and conversations that led to the founding of theundefeated.com.

    “Sports plays such a huge role in American society, but it’s more than games,” said Ludes. “Sports can often be the starting point for conversations about race and identity and meritocracy—issues that are front and center in our public life. I found it remarkable to learn of ESPN’s investment in The Undefeated, but, as Raina makes clear in our interview, this is a real commitment by ESPN to long-form journalism about stories that matter.”

    “White House Chronicle” airs nationwide on some 200 PBS and public, educational and governmental (PEG) access stations; and worldwide on Voice of America Television and Radio. An audio version of the program airs four times every weekend on SiriusXM Radio’s popular POTUS (Politics of the United States), Channel 124: Saturdays at 8 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, and Sundays at 1 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET.

    raina kelleyIn Rhode Island and southern Massachusetts, the program airs Sundays at 11:30 a.m. on Rhode Island PBS, Digital 36.1, and other carriers; and 7 p.m. Sunday on PBS Learn, Digital 36.2, and other carriers.

    Story in the Public Square is a partnership of The Pell Center at Salve Regina University and the Providence Journal.

    Locally, the broadcast will be aired on Sunday, August 7, 2016 at 11:30 a.m. on Rhode Island PBS (WSBE).

  • Image of the Herbert and Claiborne Pell medal for United States History on a black background.

    61 Students Awarded Pell Medal for Excellence in U.S. History

    Newport, R.I.— 61 Rhode Island students earned the Herbert and Claiborne Pell Medal for U.S. History this year. The medal, originally presented by Senator Claiborne Pell and his wife, Mrs. Nuala Pell, recognizes college and high school students in the state who have excelled in U.S. History.

    “The students in Rhode Island continue to earn well-deserved recognition for their exceptional dedication to U.S. history,” said Clay Pell. “It has long been a goal of my family to learn from the past and prepare for the future.”

    “Understanding our history is critical to the health of our republic,” said Pell Center Executive Director Dr. Jim Ludes. “The Pell Center is proud to continue honoring those Rhode Island students who have excelled in the study of American history.”

    Established by the Pell family, the Pell Medal is named for Representative Herbert C. Pell and his son, Senator Claiborne Pell. Herbert Pell served as a member of Congress and American Minister to Portugal and Hungary, while Claiborne Pell, who is responsible for the creation of the Pell Grants and the National Endowment for the Humanities, served in the Senate for 36 years and worked to strengthen American foreign policy.

    The winners of the 2016 Herbert and Claiborne Pell Medal for excellence in the study of U.S. History are:

    Dagoberto Nunez, St. Andrew’s School
    Morgan Brown, Barrington High School

    Caroline Roohr, Roger Williams University
    Sarah Ricks, Mt. Hope High School

    Central Falls
    Christopher Fontes, Central Falls High School

    Hannah Sheldon, Coventry High School

    Miya Lohmeier, Cranston High School East

    Sean Bradley, Cumberland High School

    East Greenwich
    Anessa Petteruti, Rocky Hill School
    Eitan Vilker, East Greenwich High School

    East Providence
    Nicholas Guarino, East Providence High School
    Lucy Ehrlich, Providence Country Day School

    Liam Garvey, Smithfield High School

    Antonio Rua, Burrillville High School

    Davina Phouthakoun, Johnston Senior High School

    Jacob Marrocco, University of Rhode Island

    Michael J. Matkowski, Lincoln High School
    Leonidez Lorenzo, William M. Davies Jr. Career and Technical High School

    Carlos Vasquez, Middletown High School
    Eva Killenberg, St. George’s School

    Marissa McPhillips, Narragansett High School
    Jonathan Lehourites, Middlebridge School

    Brooke Warner, Paul W. Crowley East Bay MET School
    Abby Wasylean, Rogers High School

    North Kingstown
    Jacob Maguire, North Kingstown High School

    North Providence
    Hannah Grivers, North Providence High School

    North Scituate
    Kyle Corry, Ponaganset High School

    North Smithfield
    Eric Ethier, North Smithfield High School

    Patience Adegboyega, Charles E. Shea Senior High School
    Zachary Wyllie, William E. Tolman High School
    Jeidy Par, Blackstone Academy Charter School

    Madeline Hobbs, Portsmouth High School
    Johanna Appleton, Portsmouth Abbey

    Emily Fisher, Rhode Island College
    Margareth Cruz, Central High School
    Tyler Stein, Providence College
    Heather McLeod, Rhode Island School of Design
    Michelle Johnson, Brown University
    Allison Paul, La Salle Academy
    Samuel Martinez, Classical High School
    Seth Antoch, School One
    Jessica March, Lincoln School
    Ping Promrat, The Wheeler School
    Edwin Lantigua, Paul Cuffee Upper School

    Jamie Tebeau, St. Mary Academy Bay View

    Nicolas Pezzullo, Scituate High School

    Kurt Deion, Bryant University

    Matthew Marasco, The Prout School
    Rosalind Lucier, South Kingstown High School

    Max Hempe, Bishop Hendricken High School
    Brandon Lawton, Pilgrim High School
    Thao Pham, Warwick Veterans Memorial High School
    Lindsay Russell, Toll Gate High School
    John Cuthbertson, Community College of Rhode Island

    West Greenwich
    Hillary Gallagher, Exeter West Greenwich High School

    West Warwick
    Alec Charon, West Warwick High School

    Joseph Brodeur, Westerly High School

    Wood River Junction
    Marissa Alfiero, Chariho Regional High School

    John Montani, Mount Saint Charles Academy
    Katyanna Colburn, Beacon Charter High School for the Arts
    Lilia Merbouche, Woonsocket High School

  • Profile image of Iskander Rehman.

    Expert on Asian Security Issues Iskander Rehman joins Pell Center as senior fellow

    Newport, R.I. – The Pell Center at Salve Regina University welcomes Dr. Iskander Rehman as a resident senior fellow specializing in international relations.

    Dr. Rehman comes to Newport from the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C. where he served as a visiting fellow in the International Order and Strategy Program. Previously, Dr. Rehman served as a fellow at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments in Washington, D.C., an associate and Stanton Nuclear fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, D.C., a visiting fellow at the Observer Research Center in New Delhi, a research fellow at the Transatlantic Academy of the German Marshall Fund in Washington, D.C., and a visiting fellow at the Institute for Defense Studies and Analyses in New Delhi.

    “I’m thrilled to be joining the Pell Center. Senator Pell’s vision for international relations was one based on openness, regional expertise, and diplomatic engagement. I look forward to helping further his vision at the Pell Center and to working alongside the Salve Regina community,” said Dr. Rehman.

    “We are delighted to have someone with Iskander’s background and expertise join us at the Pell Center” said Executive Director Jim Ludes.  “Asian security issues are likely to dominate the twenty-first century,” he continued, “and we’re lucky to have someone join us with real expertise in a region that is home not just to the world’s largest country by population, but also the world’s largest democracy, vast natural resources, and tremendous economic potential as well as poverty, conflict, and human rights issues.”

    Fluent in both English and French, Dr. Rehman received his BA, Masters of Science, and PhD in Political Science from the Institute of Political Sciences (Sciences PO) in Paris, France. His previous research has explored the relationship between China and India, Australia’s contributions to Asian security, nuclear issues, and the wide range of Asian territorial disputes.  His work has been published by the Naval War College Review, Asian Security, and The National Interest, among many other outlets.

    “It’s remarkable to find a scholar of international relations at this point in his career with the diverse and deep expertise that Dr. Rehman has,” said Ludes.  “We expect him to make an immediate difference in the research we’re doing on global issues and to make a meaningful contribution to the students at Salve Regina University, too.  We’re lucky to have him.”

    The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University is a multi-disciplinary research center—or think-tank—focused at the intersection of politics, policies, and ideas.  Other initiatives include cybersecurity, leadership, and Story in the Public Square.

  • Pell Center Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri looks away from the camera at a cybersecurity conference in Rome, Italy.

    Senior Fellow Engages with International Cybersecurity Community

    Newport, R.I. — Pell Center Senior Fellow Francesca Spidalieri spent the month of June traveling throughout Europe and the Middle East to speak at three different international conferences on cybersecurity and to engage with world-renowned experts and policy-makers shaping the future of Internet governance and security.  Spidalieri shares her account of the trip:

    Capitalizing on the research carried out in the past year on cyber leadership development and countries’ cyber preparedness and resilience, I eagerly participated in multiple international engagements on cybersecurity-related topics and shared insights and lessons learned from the field.

    IMG_0604I first visited Oxford, UK for a two-day workshop with representatives of major international organizations, including the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the World Bank, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA), the Commonwealth Telecommunications Organizations (CTO), the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies (PIPS), and others. These organizations are working in tandem to develop a National Cybersecurity Strategy (NCS) Reference Guide meant to help countries around the world elaborate, implement, or further enhance their respective national cybersecurity strategies. This document will be a key resource for countries to gain a clear understanding of what the purpose and content of a national cybersecurity strategy should be, and will outline relevant models—such as the Cyber Readiness Index 2.0 (CRI) I have been working on—available to governments to enhance cybersecurity and protect critical information infrastructures essential to their national security and economic well-being.

    After the United Kingdom, I traveled to Rome, Italy to participate in the first-ever Conference on “Cyber Strategy and National Security,” co-sponsored by Moire Consulting and the Pell Center. The invitation-only event was attended by government representatives, diplomats, selected journalists, subject-matter experts, and a delegation of midshipmen and instructors from the US Naval Academy. This was one of the first times in which the Italian government publicly discussed some of its most ambitious efforts—including the creation of an Italian Cyber Command—to defend Italy’s critical infrastructures and sensitive information from cyber threats emanating from state and non-state actors. On this occasion, I had the privilege of representing both my native country—Italy—and my adopted country—the United States—and to help building bridges between the two.  In addition, I had the opportunity to discuss one of my most recent Pell Center studies on the role that US service academies play in developing a pipeline of qualified cyber strategic military leaders, and share findings and lessons learned with Italian representatives.

    IMG_1117I then headed to Tel Aviv, Israel to take part in the 6th Annual International Cybersecurity Conference, also known as Cyber Week, organized by the Tel Aviv University’s Blavatnik Interdisciplinary Cyber Research Center, the Israeli National Cyber Bureau, and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The annual event brings together cybersecurity professionals from Israel and around the world to meet with policymakers, entrepreneurs, investors, and academics to discuss cyber threats facing the international community and the latest advances in cyber technology. This year, the program focused on the impact of cyber threats on commerce, technology, economy, academia, defense, and diplomacy, and included lectures, a start-up competition, workshops, and roundtables.  On the first day of the conference, I delivered a presentation on the “Global Cyber Readiness Index,” a methodology specifically designed to evaluate countries’ maturity and commitment to securing their national cyber infrastructures and services upon which their digital future and growth depend. The panel discussion that followed provided an opportunity for policymakers, subject-matter experts, and diplomats in the audience to weigh in and engage in a lively discussion on the economic erosion caused by cyber insecurity.

    In short—what an incredible journey through half of the world! Even though all of these engagements show how far the international community has gone in combating cybercrime and other malicious cyber activities and in establishing international norms of conduct in cyberspace, they also continued to confirm that much still remains to be done in the years ahead.

    I look forward to continuing to participate in these important discussions and use my research at the Pell Center to raise awareness about systemic problems and actionable solutions in this field. – Francesca Spidalieri, Senior Fellow for Cyber Leadership




  • Pell Center Prize winner Javier Manzano speaks from the podium during an event for the acceptance of his award.

    Witness: Photographer and Filmmaker Javier Manzano Receives 2016 Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square

    Newport, R.I. – One day in Aleppo, Syria, in 2012, Javier Manzano was in a car driving along a road.  He found himself in one of the world’s most dangerous places because he is a photojournalist and there was a story to tell.

    As they drove, he saw the road in front of him erupt as a Syrian Air Force bomb detonated.  His car screeched to a halt and as the driver tried to reverse course, a second explosion detonated 40-50 meters to his rear- igniting the car behind him and killing everyone inside it.

    Fearing that the planes would soon return to strafe the road with cannonGirl with Bread fire, Manzano and his fellow travelers scampered to safety, ducking into a former welding shop where women and children huddled, clutching loaves of bread they had just stood in line to receive.  The picture he snapped in that moment tells a story—a young Syrian girl, the look of anguished worry clear in her eyes, the bread she had been waiting for held close.

    This is the face of the Syrian civil war and we know it in the west because people like Javier Manzano are willing to risk their lives to tell the stories of those who can’t.

    * * *

    On June 21, Manzano was honored with the 2016 Pell Center Prize for Story in the Public Square. The prize honors a storyteller whose work has significantly influenced the public dialogue. Previous winners are Pulitzer Prize winning-journalist Dana Priest (2013), Emmy-winning screenwriter Danny Strong (2014), and best-selling author Lisa Genova (2015).

    Sitting in Newport, RI, the afternoon before receiving the Pell Center prize, Manzano described candidly the emotions his work provokes in himself.  “I’m pretty angry,” he says.  “You see these things, you report on these things, you show the world, but somewhere over the Atlantic the story gets lost and policies don’t change.”

    Javier Manzano’s personal story began in Mexico where he was born to an American mother and Mexican father.  After college and graduate school, he began work as a photographer for the Rocky Mountain News before that paper ceased publication.  When it folded, Manzano drove to the Mexican border and began working as a freelance photographer documenting the drug and gang violence along the Rio Grande border between the United States and Mexico.  Sleeping in his own car, showering at a local Y, and developing local relationships, Manzano honed his craft and documented the bloody violence of a local police force engaged in conflict with a ruthless drug gang.

    Since then, Manzano has worked in Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Nigeria, among other countries, where he has captured the carnage of war and the best and worst of humanity.

    A picture taken on October 18, 2012 shows two Syrian rebels taking sniper positions at the heavily contested neighborhood of Karmal Jabl in central Aleppo. After two years largely on the sidelines, the international community is finally showing signs of taking action on Syria's escalating conflict but analysts say it may be a case of too little too late.   AFP PHOTO/JAVIER MANZANO

    Manzano won the Pulitzer Prize in 2013 for this image, taken in 2012 and distributed by Agence-France Presse, of Syrian rebels in their fighting position.

    During his time in Syria, Manzano captured a haunting image of two Syrian rebels in their fighting position in an abandoned building.  Shrapnel holes in the metal screen on the front of the building yielded fingers of light piercing the darkness.  Manzano captured the image on his camera and sold it as a freelancer to Agence France Presse for $150.  Months later, the image he captured earned Manzano rightful recognition with the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for Feature Photography.  Manzano was the first freelance photographer to be recognized with the award in 17 years.

    * * *

    At the reception that follows the presentation of the Pell Center Prize, Manzano is given the rock-star treatment.  Audience members clamber for the opportunity to ask him a question.  He responds patiently to every question—though most ask the same question over and over.  “Is it dangerous?”  “Are you a target?”  “Why do you accept so much risk?”

    In his remarks, Manzano had stressed the difficulties that freelance journalists face when they travel to cover conflict stories. “It’s a commitment that you have because there’s no other way to keep going.” There are days, he admits, when he doesn’t want to go back out, doesn’t want to don the Kevlar body armor that is as vital to his work as are his cameras.  “It’s what journalism is about, it’s about telling stories,” he says, “that is your job… Sometimes it is not pleasant. Sometimes you don’t want to go out there, you don’t want to go to visit a front line.”

    He cautions against freelance journalists simply buying a plane ticket and following a story; instead, Manzano advises his younger colleagues to properly prepare themselves with medical supplies, body protection, and training.  A number of charities now support preparing journalists and photographers for service in combat zones—something that could have saved lives earlier in the War on Terror.

    While freelance journalists face a myriad of challenges, it can be an advantage to have the flexibility to stay in a certain place for longer periods of time than staff journalists. Manzano prefers to make residence in close proximity to where his stories are based. Projects have taken him to Afghanistan, Syria, Mexico, and Turkey for years at a time.

    “It gives you a greater understanding of what the situation really is, so you can translate that to your audience… in imperfect terms, because I am not Syrian, I am not Iraqi, I am a white man with some khaki pants and multiple pockets, telling you what the story is,” said Manzano.

    * * *

    In presenting the fourth Pell Center Prize to Manzano, Pell Center Executive Director Jim Ludes heralded the photographer’s role in shining a light in the dark corners.

    “This evening, we put our own humble stamp of endorsement on Javier Manzano,” Ludes said.  “In the most dangerous locations, often amidst death and destruction, he bears witness for all of us.  In the unblinking eye of his camera, he has captured courage and fear, desperation and hope, valor, death, horror, and even love.  He is an accomplished storyteller, in the truest sense of the word, who deepens our humanity by sharing stories that we might wish we didn’t have to know.  But, stories that, as citizens of this planet, we must know.  And because of Javier Manzano and his work, we do.”

    Manzano acknowledged the gravity of his work.

    “There is a message that someone still wants to tell you from inside Syria. Do not forget about us,” he told the audience.  “[T]he vast majority of the casualties of war are civilians that couldn’t get out in time or they’re just stuck, they have no choice, and you question ‘Why am I doing this if I don’t see any change across the pond, across the Atlantic?’”  He continued, “It makes our job very hard to justify until someone you’re photographing pulls you back and tells you ‘Photograph my son, and photograph my pain, photograph me.”

    Senator Claiborne Pell believed it was important that we speak for those who cannot, or dare not, speak.  The same spirit animates the work of Javier Manzano. He finished, “I wish we could give [their loved ones] back to them, but the most we can offer is that their voice is going to be heard somewhere.”

    A partnership between the Pell Center at Salve Regina University and The Providence Journal, Story in the Public Square is an initiative to study, celebrate, and tell stories that matter.

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