Ted Leonsis (CAS ’77) may be an AOL emeritus vice chairman, film producer of “Nanking” and owner of the Washington Capitals and Washington Mystics, but he returned to his alma mater yesterday to discuss his film, life and the Internet with a class in the Intercultural Center.

While speaking in the Human Rights: A Culture in Crisis class, Leonsis addressed his experience in producing the film “Nanking.” The 2007 documentary depicts the 1937 Nanking Massacre in Nanjing, China, chronicling the experiences of Western businessmen, professors and missionaries who aided the Chinese against the Japanese.

The Georgetown graduate offered students a sketch of his life, particularly the prominent role that the university played in his development.

“My years at Georgetown were full of self-actualization business. Georgetown taught me to connect the dots,” he said.

Leonsis said that one of the most traumatic experiences of his life occurred when he was in a plane crash. After this, he said, he was able to refocus his life.

“I was not prepared to die, I had anger and fear, and this is when I drafted the list with the 101 things I will do before I die,” he said. “I have already checked off 72 or 73 of them.”

The primary impetus for making “Nanking,” Leonsis said, was to give a voice to the story.

“I made the film not with a business metric in mind, it was not box office that motivated me, it was a story that needed to be told,” he said.

He focused on the motivation of Westerners to remain in China and help Chinese locals protect themselves against the invading Japanese.

He also responded to criticism of the film and addressed its banning in Japan, claiming the Chinese survivors simply wanted a voice for their long ordeal.

“They did not want retribution. They just wanted to tell their story,” he said.

Creativity is another important element in his work as a producer, he said, as in his use of parts of an old original tape filmed at the time and its integration into his film.

Films are ways to both disseminate information and serve as a vehicle for community expression and solidarity, Leonsis said.

“The power of aspiration and redemption is what brings and holds communities together,” he said.

In addition, he spoke to students about the role of the Internet in modern self-expression.

“I want to use [the] Internet to turn everybody into a philanthropist, [as] it is a platform for everybody to get their message out. Internet is better than TV, [as] you can watch it from every venue, search whatever you want.”

Supporting charities and philanthropic efforts will remain one of his most significant and long-lasting accomplishments, he said.

“I realized that I needed to bring in business discipline in young, start-up charities to make [them] succeed,” he said.

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