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The Green Room: Kathy Eldon, creative visions and your life’s mission statement

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The Green Room: Kathy Eldon

Englert Theatre — Monday, Oct. 1 at 7 p.m.

Video still of Kathy Eldon delivering a TedX Teen talk in 2011.

Kathy Eldon’s life has taken her far from her native Cedar Rapids. This week’s featured speaker in the Green Room lecture series at the Englert Theatre has lived in England and Africa (she now resides in California), and is a filmmaker and the author of 17 books, ranging from cookbooks to travel guides to a memoir. Together with her daughter Amy Eldon Turteltaub, Eldon founded Creative Visions Foundation to support “creative activists” using media and art to push for social change.

The foundation was inspired by the life and work of her son, Dan. A talented photographer and writer, who was always interested in issues of social justice, he was born in London and raised in Africa. Dan briefly attended Cornell College in Mount Vernon in 1992. In the spring of that year, he returned to Africa, to work on a feature film in Kenya.

At the time, there were refugee camps in Kenya for Somalians who had fled civil war, drought and famine in their country. Dan visited the camps, which led to him to taking a job as a photojournalist for Reuters covering the fighting in Somalia, which eventually included U.S. troops. (In December 1992, President George H.W. Bush ordered the U.S. military to intervene in Somalia’s civil war, and at its height, the 15-month-long “Operation Restore Hope” involved almost 28,000 U.S. troops.) Dan’s work attracted international attention, but in 1993, when covering the aftermath of a U.S. helicopter attack on a Somalia militia headquarters, he and three fellow journalists were attacked by an angry mob and killed. Dan was 22 years old.

Since 2004, Creative Visions Foundation has supported more than 260 project on five continents.

Like the Green Room’s other featured speakers, Eldon has created a “community homework assignment” for those attending the Monday, Oct. 8 event at the Englert.

When my son Dan was 19, he developed his mission statement of “Safari as a Way of Life.” (See below). No matter your age or stage in life, a person should have a mission statement. What sparks your soul? What mark do you want to leave on this world? Ultimately, what is your mission statement?

Dan Eldon’s Mission Statement for Safari as a Way of Life: “To explore the unknown and the familiar, distant and near and to record in detail with the eyes of a child, any beauty, (of the flesh or otherwise), horror, irony, traces of utopia or Hell. Select your team with care, but when in doubt, take on some new crew and give them a chance. But avoid at all costs fluctuations of sincerity with your best people.”

Along with its featured speakers, each week the Green Room highlights a nonprofit doing important work in the Iowa City area. On Oct. 1, it will be United Action for Youth, which offers programs for all young people, ages 12 to 17. UAY describes itself as “a place for youth to have a voice and give back creatively to their community.”

This will be the fourth of six sessions for Green Room 2018. The lecture series started in 2016 as a University of Iowa class “designed to encourage students to think of new ways of asking questions about important issues, and help them move from asking those questions to taking constructive action.” The Green Room is still a class, but since last year, its sessions at the Englert Theatre have been open to the public.

All Green Room events are free, and begin at 7 p.m.


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