Soledad O'Brien's Harvard Years

Soledad O'Brien grew up in a family that valued education. Her father was a professor of mechanical engineering at Stony Brook University and her mother taught Spanish and French in the Smithtown high schools. Her father had a very immigrant mentality: No matter what happens, no one can take away your education.

Like her older siblings, she got into Harvard. But she left Harvard where she took pre-med courses while majoring in English during her senior year to take a production assistant job at WBZ-TV in Boston.

She rose quickly and soon headed to NBC News in New York, then station KRON in San Francisco, and then back to New York to co-anchor NBC’s Weekend Today. She moved to CNN in 2003.

Were her educator parents disappointed in her decision to leave college?

"I think that they really got it. My parents were not ambitious for us to go to Harvard, as many parents are. My parents were ambitious for us to do as well as we possibly could in school, and to get an education and to do everything well. And I went right from school to working, so it wasn’t like I was sitting on the couch trying to decide what I was going to do with my life. I think that would have sent my parents into a tailspin. I really immediately liked my job and I think it helped them that I had not a moment of regret."

And when the time was right, she returned to Harvard. In 2000, when she was pregnant, she returned and finished college very quickly.

"I didn’t have much to finish. And it was funny, once you’re in the workforce, you’re a much better student. You’re very organized. You’re not hanging out with people or going to keg parties. You’re on Amtrak, schlepping back and forth. And in those four hours, you’re reading books and writing papers. I was pregnant, so I was ragingly sick. That part was miserable. But I knew that if I didn’t do it, I would never do it.

My husband used to joke that he was dating a coed. But no: I didn’t wear makeup and I wore sweats like everybody else. I remember, that year I was named one of People magazine’s 50 most beautiful people. A professor said to me, 'Hey, I saw you in People magazine.' I said, "Hey, you read People magazine?"

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