O’Brien delivers UNC’s MLK Memorial Lecture

CNN correspondent Soledad O’Brien, best known for documenting racial tensions in the United States, spoke to more than 800 people gathered at the University of North Carolina for the 30th annual Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Lecture.

“He said he wanted to be remembered as someone who loved people and tried to save humanity. Leadership is a mindset; regular people are doing extraordinary things. I see it in the stories I cover. There’s a mindset that says, ‘There’s no one else to do this, so it will be me.’
My parents taught us there is a moral authority in refusing to capitulate because someone says you have to."
O’Brien hosts the landmark documentary series, Black in America which began in 2008. The series sparked so much conversation that CNN created a second series documenting the Latino experience.

“I think Soledad is fearless in the questions that she asks,” said Averi Harper, a sophomore electronic communications major.

“It’s inspiring to me, especially as a minority who is interested in pursuing a career in broadcast journalism.”

Many contend that vision has been fulfilled and that the United States has entered an era of post-racism. But O’Brien said that idea is unrealistic.

“Talking about a post-racial America is a cop-out; it’s a joke,” she said. “It’s a way to get off the hook and not tackle the tough conversations that Dr. King was willing to have.”

More than 40 years have passed since King delivered his famous ‘I Have A Dream’ speech in Washington, D.C., and though the political and social landscape of the country has changed dramatically, O’Brien said people have to remember the essence of the speech.

“It’s very easy to boil Dr. King down to a sentence,” she said. “But that speech was about empowerment, saying, ‘I will stand with you and use my power to bolster the lack of power you have. I will stand with you.’”
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