After she finished speaking, I went up to her and said, "In my four years at Carolina, you're the most incredible guest speaker I've ever heard." I wasn't exaggerating. Helene Cooper spoke to my Diversity and Communication class today and I was blown away by her. She is the current White House correspondent for the New York Times and author of The House at Sugar Beach. Her graciousness, humility, and intelligence was so inspiring. Cooper, who was born in Monrovia, Liberia, immigrated with her family to the United States as civil war was intensifying. She enrolled briefly at UNC-Chapel Hill, and then went on to a career as a business reporter for the Wall Street Journal, later moving London to cover the transition to the euro, and finally ending up as a foreign correspondent. She spent a few months embedded with troops in Iraq in 2003 before returning to her homeland to write her memoir.
Cooper’s life story seems proof of the mythical American dream–that fabled ascent to success told and retold in the well of common history. Yet Cooper’s story is not predictable or purely suburban idealism: she seems to have infused her energy and keen perception of the world into every part of her life. She is proof that women–and, more specifically, women of color–can and will succeed in a male-dominated profession. She is proof that a bachelor’s degree isn’t your only ticket to career success. She is proof, in my mind, that journalism still has heart. I’m planning on reading her memoir soon. I look forward to getting further acquainted with this incredible woman.