On September 22, UN Secretary Ban ki-Moon launched a challenge: "Use your voice as a global citizen and tell these leaders in a short video what you think needs to be done to make this world a better and safer place. Be a Citizen Ambassador to the UN."
Emily Troutman which we featured before on The Road thought of her core message: "I want us both to agree to say one true thing out loud everyday. To remember one real person. To remind ourselves that our tragedies—yours and mine—are lived and felt one person at a time; just like our hope, our renewal, our future can also be lived and carried out into the world, one person at a time. You have a chance to be that person."
It was one of five selected out of more than 450 screened by top leaders at the UN. As a result of winning the contest, Emily will be named a "UN Citizen Ambassador", get to travel to New York to attend the UN Day Concert, and meet Secretary General Ban ki-Moon.
So, time to have another chat with Emily:
Photographer, videographer,... What are you now?
Emily: The lines are blurring between the photographer and the videographer. Which for me, opens up the possibility to create really robust narratives. I'm still just a baby in this process, my work leans more towards automated slideshows, but in the future, I expect more and more online articles to contain video instead of still shots.
From the narrative in the video, it seems you are not only good in visuals, but also in wording it.
Emily: People who know me, know that I began my career as a writer through poetry. And even at a young age, was very successful at that. The study and craft of poetry taught me a lot about how to draw a line from complex intellectual constructs into emotion.
And then comes the humanitarian aspect..
Emily: Humanitarian work is considered the next frontier for me. There is a tremendous need for high quality communications tools that also maximize the potential of the internet to bring people together around important issues.
Although I have a Master's Degree in Public Policy, it was really through my blog that I really learned how to talk to people about complicated issues. In 2005, I traveled to Iraq while conducting research for my graduate thesis on democracy. While there, I witnessed the first post-Saddam elections and emailed my friends about what I saw and how it made me feel. I had no idea that the emails would be more important than the thesis, but somehow, I managed to tell real stories about people I met and the lives that touched mine.
From those early emails, I created my blog: who we are / how we live, and really started to embrace an unusual avocation-- to write and talk about complicated problems in a personal way. I tried never to forget my original audience: my little sister, my mom, policy wonks, colleagues.
And then came this video you made for the UN. What message did you try to bring?
Emily: For this project, I genuinely asked myself, "What do *I* want to say to world leaders?" I knew I didn't want to put forward any particular policy or opinion, but instead, to call on them, and all of us, to connect with something true and real. To think less about politics and more about people, actual people that we know. I think this is something humanitarian workers in the field do regularly. When they talk about Iraq, they tell stories about people they know there. When they talk about hunger, they tell stories about hungry people.
It's a subtle but profound shift in thinking. Through this video, and all of my work, I hope to remind myself and others that power is personal. Real change is only created by hope and empathy, by strength and commitment, by listening to others and acknowledging that quiet voice, in my own heart, telling me what needs to be done.
So what's next?
Emily: For now, my professional goals as a writer and photographer are just to get better at what I'm doing and learn more. I have some local projects planned here in Baltimore and DC, but I'm hoping to head back to Africa in the winter. I'm always looking for interesting projects and people to collaborate with.
Check also Emily's website and her blog
Read other interviews on The Road.