What It Takes
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Revealing, intimate conversations with visionaries and leaders in the arts, science, technology, public service, sports and business. These engaging personal stories are drawn from interviews with the American Academy of Achievement, and offer insights you’ll want to apply to your own life.

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    Rita Dove and W.S. Merwin: A Gift for Language

    Two of America's greatest poets - both former Poet Laureates and Pulitzer Prize winners - get to the heart of why poems speak to us when other forms of language fail. They also share stories about the people who inspired them to make a life in literature. And they read some great poems, of course!

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    Sir Edmund Hillary and Reinhold Messner: King of the Mountain

    Man's relationship to mountain was forever changed by these two adventurers. Sir Edmund Hillary was the first person to reach the summit of Mt. Everest. A generation later, Reinhold Messner became the first person to reach it solo, and without oxygen. They each tell remarkable stories here of what drove them to the top of the world, and how it felt to be there.

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    Lord Martin Rees: The Future of Humanity

    We have Lord Martin Rees to thank for much of what we understand about black holes, quasars, and other distant objects in the night sky. He is England’s Astronomer Royal, and has spent the past fifty years looking deep into the past, to understand the origins of the universe. But for the past two decades he’s also been asking the most difficult questions about the future of humankind, a future made uncertain because of tremendous advancements in science and technology.

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    Leymah Gbowee: A Call from God

    This story is a testament to the power of one person to change the world. When civil war broke out in Liberia, Leymah Gbowee was 17 years old. Over the next fourteen years it would become one of the most vicious, deadly wars in history (one tenth of the population was killed). One night Gbowee had a dream: to organize women to pray for peace. That dream led to a mass women’s movement and to some creative non-violent tactics (including a sex strike!) that helped bring an end to the war. Leymah Gbowee tells her inspiring life story here, from a poor West African village to the Nobel Peace Prize.

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    Lynsey Addario: Portraits of Love and War

    This Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist has covered wars and humanitarian crises in 70 countries, including Iraq, Libya & Afghanistan. She has been kidnapped twice and she’s been badly injured on the job, but she is determined to open our eyes to the state of the world and the human condition, no matter the risk. Lynsey Addario is a lively storyteller who brings emotion and humor to every tale, whether she’s describing growing up the child of hairdressers, the harrowing details of her kidnapping in Libya, or the heartbreaking work of documenting women who die in childbirth.

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    Norman Schwarzkopf: Duty, Honor, Country

    The last time the United States had a grand military parade was in 1991, following the swift, crushing victory over Iraq in the Persian Gulf War. General Schwarzkopf was the commander of that war, and he was widely credited as the person responsible for restoring America's military might and its reputation, 20 years after the war in Vietnam. The interview featured here was conducted shortly after the Gulf victory, and it gives a glimpse into a critical American moment. Schwarzkopf also reveals many of the lessons he learned about leadership during his 39 years in the military.

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    Peyton Manning and Herschel Walker: Preparing to Win

    Inspiring tales and life lessons from two of the most legendary players in football history. One grew up the son of an NFL quarterback, and one the son of a farmer, but for both, the key to living out their greatest dream was simple: work, work, and more work.

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    Bernie Taupin: Lyrical Inspiration

    When Elton John and Bernie Taupin met as teenagers, they were each talented and full of potential, but together, they were unstoppable. For over 50 years, with Taupin as lyricist and John as composer, they have created many of the most enduring songs in pop and rock n' roll. Taupin describes his decision to leave farm life to pursue his love of poetry and music, and he tells the story of how he and Elton John met soon after, in 1967. He also lays out the unusual and speedy process they have always used to write their songs. And if you've ever wanted the back story to "Your Song" or "Daniel," now's your chance.

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    Khaled Hosseini, Scott Turow and Charles Krauthammer: Second Lives

    If you’ve ever dreamed of reinventing yourself, take inspiration from these three writers. Each one followed a traditional career path, before turning the page to pick up pen & paper. Khaled Hosseini, once a doctor, became author of international bestseller “The Kite Runner”. Scott Turow, attorney at law, became the master of legal thrillers such as “Presumed Innocent.” And psychiatrist Charles Krauthammer became a Pulitzer Prize-winning newspaper and magazine columnist. Each speaks, in this episode, about finding one’s true passion, and pursuing it with zeal.

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    Beverly and Dereck Joubert: Spirit of the Wild

    The look in a lion's eye, fixated on its prey... the sound of a hyena taking down a zebra foal... the tender ministrations of an elephant. For over 40 years, the Jouberts (National Geographic Explorers) have lived in some of the most remote places in Africa, capturing on film what other humans have never seen. They are in love with each other, and with their mission: to save big cats and other wild creatures. They tell amazing stories here of their encounters with animals, their solitary existence in the bush, and the buffalo attack that almost killed them both, but strengthened their resolve.

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