The Secret War Of Dr. Libby O’Connell When I first met Libby O’Connell 13 years ago she was like a kid in a candy store. Having just been hired by A&E as an in-house historian for the History Channel, she was primed to help her new company take her life’s passion—namely, world history—and give it, in television terms, "broader reach." Libby was the person in charge of public outreach for History and would in time help create a series of first-rate initiatives that linked historic people or events with national organizations and, of course, local cable operators. At the time, Libby’s PhD in history gave her the chops to get doors opened and to make meetings happen at high levels of academia and the public sector. Her problem, at least at the time, was she was still learning the cable industry—particularly the strange and intoxicating force that is the MSO. But as they say, that was then… Today, Libby O’Connell is one of a handful of executives who can take intelligent, compelling content and broaden its appeal without having to dumb it down. And she’s also fully aware that unless an initiative resonates at the system level, it probably won’t fly. We spoke a few days before this year’s Cable Show, and she was bubbling about a new initiative History was set to announce. She said to me, "I can’t talk about it yet, but it’s incredible. Our affiliates are going to love it." That initiative turned out to be Take a Vet to School, a History program that allows operators to stage events at schools, libraries and community centers. These events put school-age kids and war veterans in touch with one another and allow the young people to hear first-hand accounts of war experiences, while providing all participants a chance to explore the deeper meaning of war and the essential role that the American soldier has played in this country’s history. When Libby and I caught up last week, I was struck by two things. The first was how adamant she was in stressing the value of Take a Vet to local operators. ("What a great opportunity to meet with local politicians. What politician is going to say no to a chance to be photographed with both war veterans and school kids?") But the second thing that struck me was how heart-felt this was for Libby. "This is personal," she told me. We then talked about the war each of us remembers most vividly— namely Vietnam—and how each of us played a part in America’s disdain for that war; disdain that radiated onto the men and women who actually laid their lives on the line to fight it—even though most of them had been drafted and had no desire to be there. As Libby and I spoke, her voice became more animated as she recalled how people during Vietnam misdirected their anger. "I have to be careful here," she said. "Because me may not all agree on the war, but we can agree on our veterans. We’ve come to realize you can support the warrior, and not the war." As part of the generation of Vietnam-era kids who, tacitly or otherwise, made the veterans of that war feel like pariahs upon their return home, Libby said she hoped take a Vet to School would provide all soldiers—including the once maligned Vietnam vets—a chance to receive the recognition and attention they’ve so nobly earned. As Libby said, "You can’t change history, but you can sure learn from your mistakes." (Editor’s note: U.S. war veterans can participate in the History Channel’s Take a Vet to School by going to http://www.veterans.org. Cable affiliates can learn more at http://www.aetnjustclick.com).