Save the date: Feb. 21 is set for the 2011 lecture of the David C. Hardesty Jr. Festival of Ideas sponsored by The Charleston Gazette and West Virginia University. The free public program will begin at 7:30 p.m. at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences.
This year's speaker is international journalist Sebastian Junger, author of "The Perfect Storm" and an award-winning chronicler of the war in Afghanistan.
Born in New England and educated at Connecticut's Wesleyan University, Junger was drawn to danger. He worked as a high-climber for a tree removal firm until a chainsaw injury sidelined him. Turning to journalism, he focused on risky jobs.
His work with offshore fishing led to "The Perfect Storm," which dominated best-seller lists for three years and became a Warner Brothers movie. With his profits, Junger created a scholarship foundation for children of maritime families.
Junger covered the breakup of Yugoslavia and reported from other crisis zones. Then he spent more than a year embedded with U.S. troops in eastern Afghanistan, reporting the hazards soldiers face in the bloody combat sector. His work appeared in National Geographic TV documentaries, The New York Times, Harper's Magazine, ABC News, Vanity Fair and other outlets.
Most recently, he wrote a book titled "WAR" and produced an hour-and-a-half documentary, "Restrepo," about the Afghan conflict.
In his lectures, Junger describes U.S. difficulties in Afghanistan and the emotional impact on young American soldiers. The Feb. 21 lecture is to be followed by a public reception and book-signing session.
Since 1999, the Gazette-WVU Festival of Ideas has brought dozens of major speakers -- from Pulitzer Prize-winner Seymour Hersh and terrorism expert Fareed Zakaria to poet Maya Angelou and Internet journalist Arianna Huffington -- to Charleston for free public appearances to enhance the community's cultural life.