Soledad O'Brien: Taking a Stand for Education

The CNN reporter talks about her new documentary 'Don't Fail Me' and how education can lead to a more peaceful nation.

Soledad O'Brien

She's a celebrated broadcast journalist known for her in-depth human interest documentaries such as CNN's Black in America and Latino in America. Beliefnet spoke with Soledad O'Brien about her upcoming talk at the Newark Peace Education Summit.

Q. What does it mean to you to be a part of the Newark Peace Education Summit?

A. I was thrilled to be asked. Anything with the Dalai Lama attending and someone like Mayor Corey Booker – sort of a nice group of people to be asked to participate with. The connection is our new documentary, Don't Fail Me,  which takes a look at the crisis of education in America. I’m hopeful that I’ll get a chance to talk about some of the things that I think to be solutions to not only improve educational opportunities for young people, but by extension, reduce poverty, decrease violence and increase peace.

Q. You’re a success at CNN and in your field of journalism. How did your education play into that?

A. It’s everything and not just my formal education. I went to high school and then on to college, but a lot of my job is about being educated. It’s about reading, learning and discovering new things. The only way to get new experiences and to grow is to be educated by exposure. It’s so crucial. The more you can be exposed and the more you can be educated, the more you see opportunity in your life and the more you see chances to do something else and different versions of what an end outcome can be. All those things lead to more peaceful solutions. People who are desperate and hopeless look at violence as the way out, and I think anybody who sees opportunity doesn’t.

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Q. Many people would not associate the media as being peacemakers. Perhaps the media could even be called instigators. How do you make peace a part of your job?

A. I don’t think the media are instigators; I think in some ways we often play a role of not doing anything. One of the nice things about doing documentaries is that you get to camp out on a story for nine months to a year as I do and tell a fully fleshed out story. There’s a lot of power in that. You get a better understanding to all sides, which ultimately is how you get to peace. Everybody gets their say. It’s not one side saying, ‘I’m right and I’m not going to listen to the other side.’ It’s about trying to forge a common ground and an understanding of the issues to get to a resolution. I think education and thoughtful discussion, which is hopefully what our documentaries can bring about, are the first steps to people saying, ‘I disagree with you, but I hear you.’

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Jennifer E. Jones
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