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Updated 9:00 AM March 20, 2009

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CNN anchor to bring perspective on race in America

As a broadcast journalist who has covered numerous stories about diversity, CNN anchor Soledad O'Brien says people are becoming more comfortable discussing race.

The topic had been taboo for many years, especially among mainstream media that preferred to focus coverage on other issues. Now, news organizations — including CNN — are devoting more time on race and how issues related to it affects Americans, O'Brien says.

"This is certainly an interesting time in our country and history," she says. "But these stories aren't motivated or defined by Barack Obama becoming president. Stories involving race are interesting and have been relevant for a long time.

"It's an opportunity for all of us to sit down and talk about it — and that's a good thing."

O'Brien will discuss race, her career and news events she's covered during the Center for the Education of Women 2008-09 Francis and Sydney Lewis Lecture at 4 p.m. March 31 in the Power Center. The event, "A Conversation with Soledad O'Brien, CNN Special Correspondent," is free and open to the public.

O'Brien has covered many stories in her 22-year career, such as the World Trade Center attack, the incarceration of Taliban prisoners at Guantanamo Bay, and the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina and the tsunami in Thailand.

A New York-based anchor and special correspondent for CNN's Special Investigations Unit, O'Brien worked most recently on the "Black in America" series that focused on the state of Black America 40 years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The 2008 CNN program featured six hours of documentaries and weekly reports, as well as non-broadcast efforts to discuss race through lectures at universities and other venues. O'Brien says the project received overwhelmingly positive feedback. In fact, a second series on Black America, which focuses on success stories and initiatives, will air this summer.

CNN is producing another series that looks at race. O'Brien says "Latino in America" will focus on themes common to Latinos from various countries with different histories, and of different races, political and religious backgrounds — and on what they say links them as "Latinos."

"It's a look at America and how the large numbers of Latinos here are changing American culture and being changed by it," she says.

The series, slated to air in October, takes on personal meaning for O'Brien. She is African American, Hispanic and Irish.

"The goal is not to tell the same story," she explains about the "Latinos in America" series. "This series will show how the different cultures are connected."

O'Brien's upcoming campus talk will include a discussion of some of the obstacles she had to overcome, "but more importantly, the ways I've been inspired by those who faced far bigger obstacles than I," she says.

O'Brien joined CNN in July 2003 as the co-anchor of the network's flagship morning program, "American Morning." Before CNN, she worked at NBC in various tasks, including anchoring the network's "Weekend Today" and serving as a field producer for "Nightly News" and "Today."

She spent three years as a reporter and bureau chief for the NBC affiliate KRON in San Francisco and began her career as an associate producer and news writer at the then-NBC affiliate, WBZ-TV in Boston.

The Frances and Sydney Lewis Visiting Leaders Fund supports a visiting leaders program with the intent "to bring women leaders to campus for visits of varying lengths to provide students, faculty and community members with the opportunity to interact with these practitioners and scholars in seminars, presentations, classes or informal gatherings."

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