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O'Brien inspires other to make a difference

If there is one thing for which Soledad O'Brien should be admired, it is her voice. And not just her speaking voice, which, after years of exercise, is virtually perfect, but the metaphorical voice she projects to the world.

Before I learned her story, Soledad O'Brien was, in my mind, a poised, brilliant anchor and journalist. What I did not realize was how personally invested she is in all the stories that she shares with the world. As the product of an interracial marriage, O'Brien has faced discrimination and obstacles in her career. Thus, it comes as no surprise that she lends her voice to minority populations, including both the Latino and African-American communities. But she does not stop there -- she wants to lend her voice to anyone and everyone who would otherwise be unheard.

"I remember thinking I wanted to tell stories that might need a witness so they didn't just fade away," O'Brien said last Thursday at Kleinhan's Music Hall, where she was the speaker at the University at Buffalo's 36th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Commemoration.

And that is precisely what she has done. Today, the Harvard drop-out is not only a prominent CNN news anchor but also a successful documentary writer/producer who has been named one of Newsweek's "15 People Who Make America Great."

"I wanted to do stories about conversations that were uncomfortable and essentially unheard," said O'Brien, reflecting on her early journalistic desires.

Explaining her work, O'Brien told this story: One day after a large storm there were thousands of starfish washed up on the shore of a beach. A little boy on the beach began picking up the starfish one by one and throwing them back out to sea where they belonged. A man came by and scoffed at the boy, reminding him that the beach was miles long and what he was doing would make no difference. "Well," said the boy, "it will make a difference to this one."

O'Brien challenges each of us to be that little boy. Perhaps alone we cannot change the world, but that isn't necessarily what we're meant to do.

"It's about committing to make a change right here, picking up one starfish," O'Brien said. That is something all of us -- young, old, rich, poor and everything in between -- are capable of doing.

"The opportunity is now to lead the change you want to see. The time is now, and responsibility is only on us," she said.

That message should especially resonate among us -- the youth of America, the next generation with an opportunity to bring about change.

O'Brien began to wrap up her lecture with a call to all the students in the audience to remember one quote from Dante: "The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in time of great moral crisis retain their neutrality."

If that is not an inspiration, a motivation for the next generation of activists and small-scale heroes, I don't know what will ever be.

Christina Seminara is a junior at Nardin Academy.