Soledad O’Brien encourages APSU students

Award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O'Brien delivered a powerful and encouraging message to an audience of over 500 people in Clement Auditorium Tuesday evening at Austin Peay State University./Philip Sparn

Philip Sparn |

CLARKSVILLE, Tenn. – Award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien delivered a powerful and encouraging message to an audience of over 500 people in Clement Auditorium Tuesday evening at Austin Peay State University.

The former CNN and NBC reporter focused on motivating the audience, of mostly APSU students, to take a stand and to do something significant in their lives.

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O’Brien, who made her mark in the broadcast media field by addressing diversity in her reporting, emphasized the importance of “taking a stand for what you believe in” and “flipping the script.”

O’Brien said she gained her inspiration to address diversity in society from her unique upbringing with mixed-race, immigrant parents and from the life and words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

O’Brien pointed out that Dr. King ended up being the leader of one of the world’s most important movements because he decided to lead and take a stand for something he believed in.

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“He (Dr. King) decided to use his voice to take a stand on a position that most people did not agree with, even some of his own people,” said O’Brien. “He decided to stand up anyway for the voices of people that were not heard.”

O’Brien said this approach helped her find her voice as a reporter, as she aims to tell the stories of marginalized people whose voices’ are not heard and tell the stories that empower others.

“(Dr. King) taught us that true leadership is about departing from the script … Taking a different path to stand up for values we believe in, like fairness and justice,” said O’Brien. “He taught us that once you figure out what you’re supposed to do in life … Go and do it.”

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O’Brien spoke about her path to success in the broadcast journalism and documentary profession and discussed the challenges she has faced in the evolving journalism field.

The Harvard graduate formerly served as the anchor for the NBC program “Weekend Today,” and was a reporter for CNN and many other networks. She also developed many documentaries and special reports, including the award-winning series “Black in America” and “Latino in America.”

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O’Brien discussed her concerns with sensationalism in the media and the growing celebrity-centered news field. She said she started Starfish Media Group in 2013 to impact people in ways that are more meaningful and focus more on the un-told stories that she wanted to tell.

O’Brien stressed that if someone wants to do something meaningful and significant in his or her life, they have to, as Dr. King said, “stand for something you believe in.”

“We are always trying to figure out our place in the world,” said O’Brien. “Everyone is focused on their jobs, when they start and how much they get paid … But, really, the bigger and more important question is what do you stand for, what do you believe in and what’s your goal in life? Not to get x-amount of dollars you make.”

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Photos by Philip Sparn |