La Mesa resident co-founds veteran-centered speaker program

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Marcus Luttrell, the man the book and movie ‘Lone Survivor’ were based on, was just one of the speakers at Clever Talks, on May 16, at the NBPL Admiral Kidd Catering and Conference Center. 

A La Mesa resident, Hillary Manalac, is vice-president of Clever Talks. She is one of the forces behind creating this event and organization.

“I was born in National City, moved to La Mesa a decade ago,” said Manalac. “Chris (Soriano) and I were journalists.  He was working in Arizona, we met at an Asian journalism association.”

Marcus Luttrell, the man the book and movie ‘Lone Survivor’ were based on, was just one of the speakers at Clever Talks, on May 16, at the NBPL Admiral Kidd Catering and Conference Center. 

A La Mesa resident, Hillary Manalac, is vice-president of Clever Talks. She is one of the forces behind creating this event and organization.

“I was born in National City, moved to La Mesa a decade ago,” said Manalac. “Chris (Soriano) and I were journalists.  He was working in Arizona, we met at an Asian journalism association.”

Soriano is CEO.

Clever Talks is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, founded in 2014, that hold events, such as the one in May, that hosts speakers like Luttrell and Mark Cuban of Shark Tank fame, to name a few, to inform and motivate active-duty military and veterans through ideas.

When Manalac met Soriano, both wanted to create a speaker’s event, like TED Talks, for millennials. What the result evolved into was an annual forum, with mini-events during the year, designed to motivate transitioning out-of-the military members, showcase veteran businesses that have done well, and bring in speakers who explain their life stories and experiences.

“We have smaller events called Clever Ops,” said Manalac.

The entire line-up for the May event had Jessica Sanchez, of American Idol fame, Matthew Griffin founder of Flip Flops, Derek Abbey with the Travis Manion Foundation, Eric Johnson, CEO, of Trident Coffee, Andrew and Ryan Beltran co-founders of Original Grain, Joe DeSena CEO of Spartan Races, Luttrell, and the former Navy Seal who helped capture Osama bin Laden, Rob O’Neill.

Andrew and Ryan Beltran, owners of Original Grain, make watches from reclaimed materials.  One such collection is the Alma Mater, as in using materials from your alma mater in the watch.

“Step into it,” was a phrase Marcus Luttrell passed along to the attendees.  Surviving what he did in combat, it is a meaningful term to him and those who understand braving any type of situation.

“He (Osama bin Laden) was taller than I thought, skinnier than I thought,” Rob O’Neill summed up bin Laden after seeing him in the room that other Navy Seals and he were in.   

“I’m really excited to be here at Clever Talks,” said Chula Vista-native Sanchez, who sang the national anthem.  “My dad was in the Navy.”

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