The Center for Southeast Asian Studies hosted a public talk by Kim Phúc and Nick Ut on June 8, 2019, as well as a series of events leading up to this visit.
Kim Phúc is the focus of one of the most recognized photos in the world, officially titled, “The Terror of War.” Nick Ut is the Pulitzer-prize winning photographer who captured the iconic image of children running from napalm during the Vietnam War in 1972. The girl in that picture, now an adult, Ms. Phúc, and Nick Ut visited the Madison campus in June.
The Center for Southeast Asian Studies, the Pyle Center, and the Department of Public Instruction hosted a reception and lecture by both visitors on June 8. In addition, the event raised money to build a children’s library in Ms. Phúc’s name in her home province in Vietnam. Mr. Ut detailed the events that led to the photograph and Ms. Phúc recounted her unbelievable story and discussed her book: Fire Road: The Napalm Girl’s Journey through the Horrors of War to Faith Forgiveness and Peace. She described how she survived 3rd degree burns to one-third of her body, her struggle to overcome the trauma of the attack, and her journey in pursuit of a deeper meaning from this personal tragedy.
The reunion of Ms. Phúc and Mr. Ut on the UW-Madison campus 47 years after the events of the famous photograph was a powerful and memorable event attended by over 400 people from Wisconsin and beyond.
The Center for Southeast Asian Studies also hosted a K-12 professional development workshop on Saturday, May 11, for Wisconsin teachers in anticipation of the visit by Ms. Phúc and Mr. Ut. The workshop gave teachers a chance to discuss Ms. Phúc’s photograph and iconic images more broadly. It also addressed the larger subject of teaching about atrocities, conflict, and other dark moments in public memory, combining lecture and discussion to consider multiple insights into issues directly relevant to classroom teaching. Finally, it allowed teachers to develop curricula corresponding to Wisconsin’s new Social Studies Standards. Teachers also had the chance to attend a special lunch with Ms. Phúc and Mr. Ut on the day of their public talk.
For the workshop, UW-Madison’s Harrington Professor of History, Alfred McCoy, gave a talk over lunch titled “Antidotes to Atrocity: Learning the Lessons of the Vietnam War,” on the context of the photograph and bombing on the day of the napalm attack. A team of social studies professors from UW-Madison’s Department of Curriculum and Instruction then led a post-lunch workshop, offering three presentations:
- “Iconic Photographs that Frame Conflicts,” by Professor Simone Schweber, who teaches social studies methods, qualitative research, and Holocaust history.
- “Films for Classroom Use on the Vietnam War,” by Professor Jeremy Stoddard, who specializes in teaching with photographs, and has written extensively on teaching secondary social studies with film, photographs and digital media.
- “Perspective-taking on Conflicts,” by Professor Li-Ching Ho, who is an expert on secondary social studies, specifically the teaching of critical geography and controversy in both liberal and illiberal democracies.
In addition to catered lunches during the workshop and on the day of the pubic talk, participants received complimentary lesson plan materials and a copy of Ms. Phúc’s book.