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Heard on Campus: Ron Haviv at the Penn State Forum

“At the beginning the Bosnians were happy that we were there and telling their story, but by year two or so [of the Bosnian War] people would come up to me and say, ‘Go home, we don’t want you here. Nobody cares what you’re doing. Let us die in peace.’ And that was a very difficult thing to understand in that people who were trying to help tell their story were being told they should leave. So, a lot of journalists left. They said, ‘You’re right. We can’t do anything, we’re failing, and we’re going to go.’

“When it came time for me to make that decision on what to do, I had to really think about what the purpose was of being there. Because the work was failing in its initial attempt to have an impact. For me I decided I was going to stay because one of the things I learned in school in relationship to the Holocaust was the idea that when Roosevelt and others were asked why they didn’t do anything, the response was, ‘Well, we didn’t know.’ I said that can’t happen in this day and age. At least there’s going to be evidence to hold people accountable for their actions, and their inactions. And that became my own rallying cry to stay.”

— Ron Haviv, an Emmy-nominated, award-winning photojournalist, has covered more than 25 conflicts and worked in more 100 countries over the last 30 years, including the Bosnian War. Haviv, who has documented conflict and helped to raise awareness about human rights issues around the globe, presented “Shadows of Memory” at the Penn State Form on Dec. 5 at the Nittany Lion Inn.

Haviv has produced an unflinching record of the injustices of war. His work in the Balkans, which spanned over a decade of conflict, was used as evidence to indict and convict war criminals at the international tribunal in The Hague. President George H.W. Bush cited Haviv’s chilling photographs documenting paramilitary violence in Panama as one of the reasons for the 1989 American intervention.

Haviv, who is the founder of the photo agency VII, has published four critically acclaimed collections of photography, and his work has been featured in numerous museums and galleries worldwide, including the Louvre, the United Nations, and the Council on Foreign Relations.

His first photography book, “Blood and Honey: A Balkan War Journal,” was called “One of the best nonfiction books of the year” by The Los Angeles Times and “A chilling but vastly important record of a people’s suffering” by Newsweek. His other monographs include “Afghanistan: The Road to Kabul” and “Haiti: 12 January 2010.” His latest book, “The Lost Rolls,” was described by The Washington Post as “An odd family photo album in which the kin are the people and places that have defined global politics and culture in the past quarter century.” Haviv created the national public archive Lost Rolls America, preserving memories and images from previously undeveloped rolls of film from the American public.

The next Penn State Forum will feature Mark Focht, deputy commissioner and chief operating officer for the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation, who will present “Landscape Architecture and the Public Realm” on Feb. 8, 2019, in President’s Hall of the Penn Stater Hotel and Conference Center.

Modeled after the National Press Club, the Penn State Forum includes lunch, followed by remarks from a distinguished speaker. After the presentation, a facilitator poses questions submitted by members of the audience to the speaker. Together, the speaker and audience have an opportunity to explore some of the most pertinent issues facing higher education and society today.

The Penn State Forum Speaker Series is open to the public. Tickets are $25 and include a buffet lunch. Tickets may be purchased through the Penn State id+ Office, located at 20 HUB-Robeson Center. For questions, call 814-865-7590 or email For more information and a complete list of speakers, visit

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