Thursday, January 28, 2010

At the University of Vermont Soledad O'Brien Talks About Service



Soledad O'Brien, just a few days home from being in Haiti covering the earthquake for CNN, spoke at the University of Vermont.

Her keynote was part of a week of events designed to explore Rev. Martin Luther King's ongoing relevance.

Her speech connected many aspects in a history of human neglect.
The failure of Haiti as an infrastructure is a hundred years old," she says. "Haiti did not happen in a vacuum. They have a government that fails them. You cannot ignore a country for so long and then be surprised when there is a price to pay."

According to O'Brien, pre-earthquake Haiti had an 85 percent unemployment rate, 60 percent of the population had no access to healthcare, and an estimated 225,000 children were working as slaves, farmed out as household help.

"As we sit and watch the pictures," she says, "we have to ask ourselves, 'Are we okay with this?'"

She emphasized to the audience that service is a key to progress and to our national morality. She says that was clear in both her time spent after Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans and in Haiti.

"The only way you can lead effectively in a challenging environment is to serve. By being a serving leader, [King had] the authenticity, the consistency, and ultimately the authority and his message came through."

She quoted Dante's Inferno "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality."
"There is nothing worse than doing nothing and saying nothing when your voice is needed. Even the perpetrator of something bad is less bad than the person standing by who has an opportunity to speak or to act and chooses not to. There are talkers and there are doers. Which are you? Which am I?"


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