Rocky Fork Enterprise

Vietnam War 'poster child' will speak at Academy


Gahanna's Columbus Academy will host Kim Phuc, called the poster child of the Vietnam War and an icon of the cry for peace, during a free public lecture at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 in Academy's Schoedinger Theatre, 4300 Cherry Bottom Road.

Phuc is the girl who was photographed running naked up a road with her skin on fire and screaming in agony, fleeing the horrors of the Vietnam War.

Phan Thi Kim Phuc was born and raised in the village of Trang Bang, 30 minutes north of Saigon.

During the Vietnam War, the strategic Route 1 that runs through the village became the main supply road between Saigon and Phnom Penh.

On June 8, 1972, an American military advisor coordinated the napalm bombing of Phuc's village by the South Vietnamese.

Nine-year-old Phuc fled from a pagoda, where she and her family had been hiding.

She will recount her story, painting an unforgettable image of her life and how it was altered by the click of a camera.

Nick Ut, the Associated Press photographer who was there to cover the siege, took the photograph of young Phuc.

Moved by her pain, he rushed her to a South Vietnamese hospital. She then spent 14 months recovering in Barsky Hospital, the American hospital in Saigon, where her care was paid for by a private foundation.

Ut's photograph of Kim remains one of the most unforgettable images of the Vietnam War.

In 1997, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization named Phuc a Goodwill Ambassador for Peace.

In that role, she spreads the message of the need for reconciliation, mutual understanding, dialogue, and negotiation to replace confrontation and violence as a means of settling conflicts.

The culture of peace, as envisioned by UNESCO, seeks to eliminate the root causes of violence by promoting a set of attitudes, values and behaviors that reflect and inspire social interaction and sharing based on principles of freedom, justice, democracy, human rights, tolerance and solidarity.

Overcoming pain, fear and death, Phuc talks about an incredible life path that many will never experience. After surviving such trauma, she is still full of strength, compassion and forgiveness.

Today she lives in the Toronto area of Canada with her husband and two sons, Thomas and Stephen.

As the 18th guest speaker in Academy's Phil Currier Lecture Series, Phuc follows in the footsteps of such previous guests as Nobel Peace Prize nominee Sheila Watt-Cloutier, award-winning author James Loewen, the late human rights advocate Yolando King, soldier/poet Brian Turner, healthcare pioneer Paul Farmer and Olympic marathon champion Joan Benoit Samuelson.

The lecture series was founded in memory of Phil Currier, former head of Academy's Upper School, whose zest for life overshadowed his untimely death in 1995.