On Friday, the CNN anchor spoke of the importance of recognizing diversity at Georgia Health Sciences University’s Diversity Summit. O’Brien, the anchor of CNN’s morning news program Starting Point, was the keynote speaker at the event’s concluding dinner held at the Salvation Army Kroc Center.
O’Brien produced the documentaries Black in America and Latino in America.
“They all said the same exact thing. ‘No one ever wants to tell our story. We’d like to have our voices heard as well,’ ” O’Brien said. “Giving everyone a voice in this story of who we are is not only a good thing, it was a critical thing. A story without everybody’s voice is not the full story.”
O’Brien shared her multiracial background. Her mother, who is black and Cuban, and her father, who is white and Australian, married in 1958 when interracial marriage was illegal. One of six children, O’Brien said that her parents endured people refusing to serve them at restaurants, spitting on them and even friends telling them their multiracial children “would never fit in this world.”
O’Brien said her mother told her, “We knew America was better than that. We knew that the promise of America was not that.”
“There is a certain bravery, I think, in deciding that you’re going to sit firmly on the right side of history because sometimes it doesn’t feel very good,” O’Brien said. “My parents were my first example of forging on anyway.”
O’Brien said that she represents what America looks like: diverse, multicultural and multiethnic.
“Fighting for diversity requires you to push past the barriers of everyone else’s expectations,” O’Brien said. “I think we have an obligation, if we really want to see change that includes everyone’s voice. We have to figure out how to share the world we all live in. We have to build on our life experiences and find connections to build peace and civility and come together. That requires hearing everyone’s voice on an issue.”
A graduate of Harvard University, O’Brien lives in Manhattan with her husband and four children. Now in its second year, the Diversity Summit is focused on increasing partnerships and inclusion in the community.