Soledad at Bakersfield Women's Business Conference

CNN correspondent Soledad O'Brien, keynote speaker at the 19th annual Bakersfield Women's Business Conference, was a little reluctant when a women's magazine recently asked her to pen a Mother's Day piece on the best advice her mother ever gave her.

Her mother was not "warm and fuzzy," but more of the "tough nut" variety, O'Brien told listeners at her luncheon address.

After a young, frustrated O'Brien told her mother a news director had refused to hire her because she wasn't dark enough for the lone reporter job he'd set aside for a black journalist, and another potential boss asked if she'd be willing to change her ethnic name, O'Brien's mother said: "Most people are idiots. Now go get another job."

Words to live by, O'Brien said, but "most people are idiots" isn't the stuff of Hallmark cards.

O'Brien did get another job, of course. After covering local news in San Francisco and Boston, she went on to MSNBC, NBC and later CNN, where she co-anchored the network's American Morning show for four years. She now works for CNN'S Special Investigations Unit, which produces documentary-style in-depth reports.

O'Brien's mother is a black, Cuban immigrant, and her father is a white, Australian immigrant of Irish descent. When her parents were dating, they had trouble finding restaurants willing to serve an interracial couple. Maryland, where they met, would not permit them to legally marry in 1958, so they had to drive to Washington, D.C., for their nuptuals. Afterward, people cautioned them against having children, sure that their offspring would never fit in.

"I'm the fifth of six children," O'Brien said. "Obviously, they didn't listen."

Moreover, the couple sent all six of their children to Harvard University.

"If people put out obstacles, step around them," O'Brien said. "Decide what you're going to do and go do it. It's that simple."

At a separate workshop for R.O.S.E. Mentors and their charges, O'Brien told girls to seek out advice from successful people -- whether they personally know them or not -- and to listen to what they have to say. If you get defensive, you can't learn from constructive criticism, she said.

And if you assume someone won't assist you merely because they're powerful and have achieved a lot, you could miss out. O'Brien recalled writing to a news anchor she'd never met when she was an up-and-coming reporter, and how pleased she was that the woman wrote her a long, single-spaced letter critiquing her work.

"I still have that letter," she said.

O'Brien added that she tries to pay back that debt by helping other young people coming along, and that many others she knows do the same. O'Brien said she's encouraged every day by the public's willingness to help strangers.

"If I go on TV and say so and so needs help, the next day I'll have 50,000 e-mails from people saying, 'What can I do? How can I help?'" she said. "I think that's amazing."

Via http://www.tradingmarkets.com/.site/news/Stock%20News/1389857/


Anonymous said...

Wow, truly an inspiration! I'd love to see her at a women's business network and hear what all she has to say.

Anonymous said...

Soledad, If you would get out of Obama's pocket, you might be a much better reporter. You should be "fair and balanced". You are one of the reasons I no longer watch CNN.