Even if you’re not old enough to remember John Denver singing “Calypso,”  that single surname in my title probably conjures up an image of the oceans along with awareness and sensitivity to their ecosystems. So I wasn’t very sure who I was going to encounter this morning when I helped Steve Dembo ustream Philippe (petit-fils* of Jacques) Cousteau’s pre-opening keynote Q&A with the media and selected educators. I thought it might be a stretch to post about him here just because I was on the video camera for the session. No problem! Not only did he actually mention the power of storytelling several times without any prompting from me, he is also investigating a project with the American Film Institute that does more than challenge students to take action – it also makes sure that that action is shared and quantified. I’m surprised we weren’t quick enough to give him a standing ovation when he said that it’s not that we can make a difference, but that everything we do does make a difference: “Action leads to awareness and awareness leads to learning.”
He was no less inspiring during his hour long keynote and then another two hours posing for pictures and signing autographs in the Discovery room. He laid the secret of his success squarely at the feet of both his family and a very special Jr. Hi teacher. They gave him the foundation and the confidence to become a storyteller/teacher who advocates for the care and study of what makes up almost 70% of the surface of our planet. He grew up with stories. And since his father died six months before he was born, it was through stories that he came to know his dad.

A tip of the hat to Scott Kinney for his fine keynote introduction. For the second year in a row, Scott did a great job mixing facts and humor to inform and warm up the several thousand educators in attendance.

*That’s grandson for the French challenged. And the language guy in me always did think it fortuitous that the family name ends in the French word for water.


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  1. Debbie Bohanan said:

    Well put Joe! He was an excellent speaker and I loved that he went home after talking to someone who said they were not an environmentalist, looked up the definition on the computer and used that definition to prove that we are all environmentalist in one way or another.

    I would like to thank him for spending so much time with us in the Discovery room! He gave everyone a chance to ask questions, pose for pictures and sign autographs! He is a great storyteller and environmentalist and it was a pleasure to meet him.

  2. Bobbi Gurney said:

    I had the opportunity to meet Philippe Cousteau in Portland, Oregon last summer during a DEN event at the Animal Planet Expo. It was a small crowd, which was a bonus for us. He was so generous with the children who really could not understand the magnitude of the knowledge & history behind man they were meeting. He was a pleasure to meet and left a lasting impression. How lucky you were to have him as a key note speaker. Thanks for sharing Joe!

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