There are three pillars of a successful movement, stories, tools, and faith. We've heard incredible stories the last 24 hours, and many of us are building the tools for democracy... but what I want to share with you is about faith, my struggle with faith.
Growing up, I had two loves. Jesus and the internet.
My dad worked at IBM and my family moved out to Silicon Valley when I was very young. Our home happened to be right across the street from a church. But not just any church, this church had thousands of members and was ground zero for Jerry Falwell's new Moral Majority movement on the west coast.
I was born again when I was 8, I put my faith in Jesus and became quite the precocious young conservative. As a teenager, i developed a fiercely independent worldview. I called talk radio, went on mission trips, listened to Rush Limbaugh, while my mom homeschooled my two sisters and I, trying to protect us from the corrupting influences of the secular world.
Then one day my dad brought home a weird looking phone and plugged into his computer. It made a bizarre screeching noise like it was trying to mate with a rhinoceros or something. Instead it attracted me, and that's when I found out that computers could talk to each other.
That was it. From that point on, I would spend my mornings doing schoolwork, I'd go to church three times a week, and then i'd go online and meet all kinds of people..hackers, feminists, punks, Tori Amos fans...people far older than me who had no idea i was 12 years old. I was judged on my brain, not discounted because of my age. I loved it.
I went to college at Liberty University. This is where Dr. Falwell trained young soldiers to go out into every profession and win it for the kingdom of God. It is a massive operation, thousands of students on campus, tens of thousands off campus, all fed by a global network of churches and an infrastructure that dates back two thousand years. My role was in the computer lab, I spent all my time there. Brought the internet to campus, made Liberty's first website, and even fixed Dr. Falwell's computer.
But by spring break, I had run out of breath, literally I couldn't breathe. I had cancer. Lymphoma. I started chemo right away, with my church and my family by my side. but just two weeks into it, we found out my mom had cancer too.
After 9 rounds of chemo. I survived, my mom didn't, our family fell apart, and my faith in God was shattered.
It was the very beginning of the dot com boom, and my ticket out was this whole mess was at a startup in Boston. But just 6 months later, the cancer came back. This time it was in my blood. Now I was totally screwed. The only chance I had, and it was a long shot, was if the doctors could find a bone marrow donor. Then I'd have maybe a ten percent chance of surviving.
While they looked, I spent two months in the hospital getting hammered with chemo. I was in the ICU constantly, I almost died a couple times, I was in so much pain I had a button to push which would inject me with pharmaceutical grade heroine. Every time I pressed it, I felt defeated and broken. I just wanted it to end. God had forsaken me.
But the doctors hadn't.. they found a match. They baked me in an oven of radiation for a couple of weeks, and then early one morning, groggy from all the benadryl, I watched as a tiny little bag of marrow emptied into my arm. I walked out of the hospital two weeks later. My body replenished with the blood of a stranger.
I couldn't waste another second of my life, so I gave myself to the Internet, what I loved the most. I was an engineer at Lycos, one of the first search engines and then became the CTO at Business.com...all up until 9/11. Then the activist in me awoke. I had no illusions at all that I could change anything, but I knew this was a historic moment, and that if I didn't at least try, I would look back in 10 years and regret it.
Robert Greenwald was looking for someone to research the Iraq war for his first documentary. I sent him a link to my blog and the next day I was a movie producer.
Four crazy intense months later, I drove up to our very first screening at an indie theater in Santa Monica. The line was around the block. We added a second screening that night. And in a matter of weeks activists all over the world organized thousands of free screenings all coordinated through the website. And bit by bit the media changed the way they talked about the war.
Holy crap!!!! this works! My faith was restored, but it wasn't faith in God. It was faith in the internet.. or really.. it was faith in people connected through the internet.
We went on to start Brave New Films making several documentaries, crowd funding films, and actually changing things I never imagined were possible, all by telling storie