How does a Hilton Head micro-influencer and her sidekick videographer from Charlotte get invited to work directly with Condoleezza RiceSanjay GuptaPaul Nicklen, and Robert O’Neill?

Before we tell you that, let’s back up and reinforce who each of these people are in case your age bracket or political ethos is not full fledged.

Condoleezza Rice is currently the Denning Professor in Global Business and the Economy at the Stanford Graduate School of Business; the Thomas and Barbara Stephenson Senior Fellow on Public Policy at the Hoover Institution; and a professor of Political Science at Stanford University. She is also a founding partner of RiceHadleyGates, LLC.

From January 2005 to 2009, Rice served as the 66th Secretary of State of the United States, the second woman and the first African American woman to hold the post. Rice also served as President George W. Bush’s Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs (National Security Advisor) from January 2001 to 2005, the first woman to hold the position.

From 1989 through March 1991, Rice served on President George H.W. Bush’s National Security Council staff. She served as Director; Senior Director of Soviet and East European Affairs; and, Special Assistant to the President for National Security Affairs. In 1986, while an international affairs fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rice also served as Special Assistant to the Director of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta is the multiple Emmy award winning Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN. Gupta is also a practicing neurosurgeon at the Emory Clinic and the Associate Chief of Neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital. Since 2001, Gupta has reported health and medical news for all of CNN’s shows domestically, internationally and digitally. His medical training, public policy experience and literary style have informed his reporting and made his dispatches some of the most distinctive on television.

Gupta has reported from nearly every war zone and natural disaster in the world. From the conflicts in Afghanistan, Iraq and the middle east to the earthquake in Haiti, Tsunami in Japan and Hurricane in Puerto Rico, to name just a few. As one of the first doctors to arrive in these disaster areas, Gupta is often asked to provide medical assistance, as he is done all over the world – including five battlefield brain operations in Iraq.

Paul Nicklen is a Canadian photographer, filmmaker, and marine biologist who has documented the beauty and the plight of our planet for over twenty years. As an assignment photographer for National Geographic magazine, Nicklen captures the imagination of a global audience.

Nicklen is uniquely qualified to create his brand of documentary photography which informs and creates an emotional connection with wild subjects in extreme conditions. His work delivers audiences to an underwater realm witnessed by few. Nicklen’s sensitive and evocative imagery has garnered over 30 of the highest awards given to any photographer in his field, including the BBC Wildlife Photographer of the Year and the prestigious World Press Photo for Photojournalism.

As a co-founder of the non-profit, SeaLegacy, Paul Nicklen is opening a fresh, progressive chapter in the story of ocean conservation. Through visual storytelling, Sea Legacy inspires millions of people to stand up and have a voice for the pristine places threatened by climate change.

Rob O’Neill is one of the most highly-decorated combat veterans of our time and the author of the New York Times best-selling memoir The Operator: Firing the Shots That Killed Osama bin Laden and My Years as a SEAL Team Warrior. A former SEAL Team Six leader with the Naval Special Warfare Development Group, he deployed more than a dozen times and held combat leadership roles in more than 400 combat missions in four different theaters of war. A highly-trained Navy SEAL, he led the military’s most elite and was involved in our nation’s most important campaigns. With most of his career shrouded in a classified cloak, O’Neill was the man on the ground we have never heard of but know exists. He was one of the quiet professionals performing the most difficult tasks in the most difficult circumstances, serving his remarkable career in the shadows and keeping America safe in the process.

Since leaving active duty, O’Neill is a co-founder of Your Grateful Nation, which provides individualized transition support for Special Operations heroes and their families. They provide executive-level mentoring, transition services, and family stabilization support.

In 2017, James Lamar, had an idea to bring the world’s finest thought leaders and storytellers to the low country community to explore new insights and perspectives with through open conversation and dialogue to provide a forum to exchange unfiltered ideas.

The Lowcountry Speaker Series brings global experts to the local stage to present a wide variety of subjects, from world affairs and politics, to business and economics, education, and the arts and entertainment. 

Now back to how we got involved. As a long-time partner of the Hilton Head Chamber of CommerceLisa Staff was introduced to James Lamar. They met and hit it off and Lisa’s brand of storytelling photography was exactly what James was seeking to document the inaugural and keystone event in the lowcountryLisa invited fellow photographer Deevo, from Fusion Photography to tag along and shoot video and the content creation journey began.

In addition to subscribers and individual ticket holders, the audience also included individuals from community groups such as the Hilton Head Island-Bluffton Chamber of Commerce Junior Leadership Program, Bluffton Boys & Girls Club, and PEARLS Girls of Hampton County. Tickets for individuals in these community groups were made possible through donations to Lowcountry Speaker Series’ Our Doors Are Always Open Charitable Fund, presented in conjunction with Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. This initiative has raised over $35,000 to help fund program participation opportunities for qualified community members, including educators, students, veterans, first responders, and volunteers. 

For most of the evening we were invited backstage as VIP’s to document Ms. Rice and her staff as they interacted with lowcountry native sons and daughters as well as having the opportunity to photograph the actual lecture in the massive auditorium at the Marriott Resort on Hilton Head Island.

Condoleezza Rice spoke openly about a sundry of topics near and dear to her, and we were relatively surprised at how genuine and candid she comes off. The packed room of over thousand ticket holders listened intently to each and every word and Ms. Rice received a standing ovation at the end of the forum.  

Lowcountry Speaker Series founder and host James Lamar stated, “Our vision of creating a forum for community conversation, to discuss today’s most important topics, is coming into focus. I am most proud of the fact that the Lowcountry Speaker Series program is supporting broader community participation through the Our Doors Are Always Open foundation. The success of the Lowcountry Speaker Series is dependent on the community’s support, so I encourage residents and businesses to invest alongside me to make it part of our community’s fabric.” 

Truthfully speaking, having the opportunity to create content for such enigmatic events and be around so many educated and open-minded people is an opportunity of a life-time and we are excited to be part of the ongoing series.