Happenings: Soledad O’Brien Lecture

CNN anchor Soledad O’Brien to speak on First Amendment freedoms

Soledad Obrien photo

Soledad O'Brien

By Catherine Harper

How does the First Amendment impact our daily lives and careers? Next month, award-winning CNN anchor and producer Soledad O’Brien will join Texas State as the Lyndon B. Johnson Distinguished Lecturer and 2011 Fall Common Experience Speaker to explore the relevance of the First Amendment in today’s society. O’Brien will take the stage at Strahan Coliseum on Wednesday, Oct. 5 starting at 7 p.m.

Throughout her career, O’Brien has gained national recognition and fame through humanitarian efforts in both the media and with grassroots organizations. O’Brien has led the media for over two decades in keeping the public informed and connected to a society made free by the First Amendment.

With her broad depth of experience in news, O’Brien has dealt with issues of public interest firsthand as a co-anchor on nationally aired newscasts and producer of award-winning documentaries.

After attending Harvard University, O’Brien became an associate producer and newswriter for WBZ-TV in Boston. She steadily worked her way up to co-anchor on several national networks. In 1999, O’Brien became a co-anchor on MSNBC‘s “Weekend Today,” contributing breaking news stories to MSNBC’s weekday “Today Show” and weekend editions of “NBC Nightly News.” In 2003, O’Brien joined CNN as co-anchor of the national morning newscast “American Mornings.”

Today, O’Brien hosts and produces the CNN documentary unit “In America” exploring the lives of Americans across the nation.

With “In America,” O’Brien has expanded her scope of coverage to include humanitarian and social issues across the nation. In 2007,  O’Brien hosted and produced the CNN special “Black in America” exploring the struggles and successes of black men and women since the death of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2009, the series was continued with “Latinos in America” to present the Hispanic-American perspective.

During her career, O’Brien has covered breaking news around the nation. She has reported on such national news stories as the 1990’s school shootings in Colorado and Oregon; John F. Kennedy, Jr.’s fatal plane crash in 1999; the after-effects of Katrina with an interview of FEMA’s then-director Michael Brown in 2004; and the political caucuses and primaries of the 2008 presidential election.

O’Brien has been recognized as an important contributor to the national media, receiving several awards including an Emmy for her work on the Discovery Channel’s “The Know Zone”; the NAACP President’s Award in 2007; and the “Soledad O’Brien Freedom’s Voice Award” from the Moredad School of Medicine in 2008, so-named to honor her many accomplishments and subsequently dedicated to professionals instigating social change.

In November 2008, O’Brien received the Good Humanitarian Award from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health for her work as a special correspondent with CNN reporting on the effects of Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami.

“Ms. O’Brien has shown the world tragedies of human conflict, natural disasters, chronic and infectious diseases,” said Michael J. Klag, dean of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. “Ms. O’Brien has challenged all of us to think and act in ways that offer humanitarian answers to the problems of the moment and the problems of the century, including public health issues.”

In addition to her many professional accomplishments, O’Brien has become a prominent figure in the public, being featured in national magazines like People and People En Español. In 2005, she was named “Groundbreaking Latina of the Year” by Catalina Magazine. She was also named to Irish American Magazine‘s “Top 100 Irish Americans” twice, recognizing her multicultural heritage.

“I’m black and Cuban, Australian and Irish, and like most people in America, I’m someone whose roots come from somewhere else,” O’Brien wrote in a recent article on CNN.com. “I’m a mixed race, first-generation American.”

O’Brien is currently a member of several nationally recognized groups including the National Association of Black Journalists, which named her Journalist of the Year in 2010, as well as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists, the Harlem School of the Arts and The After-School Corporation.

Currently, O’Brien works as a CNN special correspondent and occasionally fills in for Anderson Cooper on Anderson Cooper 360. Find more information on O’Brien at the 2011 Common Experience calendar.

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