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Caring & combat: Common Reading Experience examines war and compassion

War: a timely, complex, and often difficult topic to tackle. Which is exactly why The Heart & the Fist is this year's choice for the Common Reading Experience: because it asks hard questions and doesn't offer easy answers, and so inspires reflection, analysis, and discussion.

And, to join in on the discussion, The Heart and the Fist author Eric Greitens will hold a lecture and book signing at the Community Concert Hall on September 27. He will also visit classes that day.

The Common Reading Experience, now in its sixth year, gives every incoming freshman a free copy of that year's book selection at the Fall orientation. The book is then integrated into many courses, and is used as the basis for on-campus films, lectures, panel discussions, concerts, plays and more throughout the Fall.

"The goal is to provide a common intellectual experience for faculty, staff, students, and community alike," says CRE Coordinator Bridget Irish. "It's a meeting place for ideas, where you can hear a variety of opinions and perspectives. It also introduces freshmen into that world of ideas by providing opportunities to discuss the ideas in the book both inside and outside the classroom."

In The Heart & the Fist, a New York Times best seller, author Eric Greitens renders the story of his leadership and service as humanitarian, soldier, and Navy SEAL officer. It also explores his view of what can be accomplished when compassion and courage come together in meaningful service.

As a Navy SEAL, Greitens was deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan, the Horn of Africa, and Southeast Asia. He served as the commander of a Joint Special Operations Task Unit, commander of a Mark V Special Operations Craft Detachment, and as commander of an al Qaeda Targeting Cell. In 2011, the Association of the United States Navy named the much-decorated Greitens its Navy Reserve Officer of the Year.

After returning from Iraq, Greitens used his combat pay to found The Mission Continues, a non-profit organization that helps wounded and disabled veterans build new lives as citizen leaders. His work with the group also earned him the President’s Volunteer Service Award.

“One of our jobs at a liberal arts college is to help generate questions that do not have yes or no, black or white, answers. This book helps us do that,” says Irish. “Greitens explores issues to do with peace and war that we all need to grapple with. Also, here at Fort Lewis College we have many ways in which students can perform public service. As a humanitarian, Greitens knows a great deal about this area and provides a unique and inspiring model of how to genuinely and effectively help people.”

Other upcoming events revolving around this year's Common Reading Experience include:

  • Weekly radio interviews on issues raised in The Heart and the Fist, airing on KDUR, Fort Lewis College's community radio station, Wednesdays 5:30 - 6 p.m., September 17 - December 5. Listen locally at 91.9 or 93.9 FM, or online at www.kdur.org.
  • Exhibit, "Strength & Compassion: Photographs by Eric Greitens," September 27 - October 12, at the Art Gallery, in the Art Building.
  • A panel discussion on "Delivering Effective Humanitarian Aid," 7 - 9 p.m., October 9, in the Student Union Ballroom.
  • An evening of poetry and discussion, "Healing War," with Pamela Uschuk, 7 p.m., in Room 130, Noble Hall.

Find a complete listing of events here.

Learn more about the Common Reading Experience.

Learn more about Eric Greitens and The Heart & the Fist.

Watch Eric Greitens discuss his book and work on the Charlie Rose show.

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