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Ling, Brands Highlight Day Two of Honors Institute

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The second day of Phi Theta Kappa's Honors Institute stirred emotions with the story of a journalist held in captivity and a look at capitalism in the culture of competition throughout history and in America today.

The institute is underway at the University of Denver in Colorado. Phi Theta Kappa members, advisors and regional officers are in the midst of an intensive look at the 2012/2013 Honors Study Topic, The Culture of Competition.

Laura Ling

Laura Ling speaks with Honors Institute attendees.

Laura Ling kicked off the day with a moving presentation showcasing some of the stories she covered as vice president of the journalism department at Current TV, which included the drug war in Mexico and Internet censorship in China. Her presentation was sponsored by Professor Robert Blank, a former advisor at SUNY-Farmingdale in New York and a former New England-Middle States Regional Coordinator.

Blank served many years on the Honors Program Council and was an Honors Institute Coordinator, helping shape many aspects of the program currently in use. He is now retired and lives in Vermont.

Ling recounted her capture in 2009 in North Korea, during which she and her colleague Euna Lee were arrested and held for 140 days before being granted a special pardon.

The audience was visibly moved as Ling recalled the letters she received from her mother, father, sister, husband and friends while in captivity. She emphasized the importance of keeping hope alive in the most dire situations; she touched on how, despite the often cold treatment by her captors, she managed to make connections through rounds of small talk and by reaching out with a hug when she came across a female guard crying.

Ling is co-author of Somewhere Inside: One Sister's Captivity in North Korea and the Other's Fight to Bring Her Home, which she wrote with her sister Lisa.

Following her presentation, Ling met with smaller seminar groups to answer questions and to discuss, among other things, projects currently in production for her series E! Investigates on the E! Network.

The evening session featured Dr. H. William Brands, the Dickson Allen Anderson Centennial Professor of History at the University of Texas at Austin. His lecture was sponsored by Dr. Joan Fedor, who has attended almost every Honors Institute as Phi Theta Kappa advisor at Highline College in Washington, as a Regional Coordinator and as a member of the Honors Program Council. It's a relationship she often refers to as a "love affair."

Fedor and her late husband, Robert Fedor, an engineer with Boeing, were among the first persons to endow Honors Institute Lectures. She was named an International Honorary Member at the 2008 International Convention.

Joan Fedor and William Brands

Dr. Joan Fedor and Dr. H. William Brands

Brands spoke on the culture of capitalist competition throughout history and as it relates to today's current events.

"I found it very informative, and I thought it brought a lot of relevance to what is going on today," said Vanessa King, a member of the Alpha Omega Gamma chapter at Ashland Community and Technical College in Kentucky. "I'm normally more interested in science and math, (but) I think it was fantastic."

Students lined up to get Brands' opinion on current events such as the upcoming Presidential election. He continued to answer questions during a meeting with seminar groups following his presentation. Brands is the author of American Colossus: The Triumph of Capitalism, 1865-1900, among other works.

Day three brings presentations by Pulitzer Prize-winning author Taylor Branch and National Football League Hall of Famer Willie Lanier.