Agnes Scott College in Georgia at the 124th Commencement on May 11. O’Brien was also awarded an honorary degree for her distinguished career as a broadcast journalist, trailblazing documentaries about race, ethnicity and American identity and personal philanthropic commitment to the education and empowerment of young women.
The small women's college had 187 graduates, ranging in age from 20 to 52 years and hailing from 34 states and 12 countries.
“As you leave here, over the next few years, you’ll be told all the things you cannot do, cannot achieve and those things you absolutely, positively will fail in. Please do not listen … if you listen to those naysayers, then you’re the bigger idiot,” O’Brien said.
She recounted the tale of how her Cuban black mother and Australian white father had met in Baltimore, fallen in love, and married in 1958 despite a law against interracial marriage and despite the disapproval of society at the time.
She told the graduates, “You have an opportunity to be a role model to those who look like you and those who look nothing like you.”