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Soledad O'Brien Biography

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Birth Name: Soledad O'Brien
Born: 09/19/1966
Birth Place: Saint James, New York, USA

Born on Sept. 19, 1966 in Saint James, NY, O'Brien was christened Maria de la Soledad O'Brien, with her first name following a Spanish tradition of naming a child for "Our Lady of Solitude." A child of biracial parents, O'Brien's father, Edward, was a mechanical engineering professor originally from Australia, while her mother, Estella, was of Black-Cuban heritage who had immigrated to the states in the 1950s. The couple met at Johns Hopkins University in 1959 and married when an interracial marriage was still illegal in some places in America. O'Brien was raised in Smithtown, a small North Shore town on Long Island, NY, where she attended Smithtown High School East before attending Harvard University, obtaining a degree in English and American literature. When the future journalist was 21 years old and a college senior, O'Brien left school for her first job, though she did return to Harvard in 2000 while pregnant and earned her degrees. She began her career in radio, doing a medical talk show "Second Opinion" and "Health Week in Review" at KISS-FM in Boston in 1989, before working as an associate producer and news writer for "Eyewitness News: First Edition" at WBZ-TV in Boston.

From there, O'Brien moved to the San Francisco NBC affiliate KRON, where she served as a local reporter and bureau chief for three years. In 1991, she took a big leap up the ladder when she joined the NBC News department as a New York-based field producer, producing segments for "NBC Nightly News" (1970- ) anchored by Tom Brokaw and "Today" (1952- ). One of her professional highlights included traveling to Cuba to cover Pope John Paul II's historic visit in 1998. O'Brien began anchoring MSNBC's award-winning technology program "The Site" in 1996. Although short-lived, the hour-long program devoted to technology and the Internet brought her national fame. In 1999, she began anchoring NBC's "Weekend Today," gaining more and more notoriety with each high-profile gig. During that time, she continued to contribute reports for the weekday "Today" show and weekend editions of "NBC Nightly News," covering such notable stories as John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane crash and the school shootings in Colorado and Oregon. In 2003, she covered the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster and later anchored NBC's weekend coverage of the Iraq War.

In July of 2003, CNN stole O'Brien away from NBC, giving her exclusive access as the only broadcast journalist permitted to travel with First Lady Laura Bush on her trip to Moscow. In November 2004, O'Brien reported from Columbus, OH on the late and contested count of that state's electoral votes that handed George W. Bush the White House again. In December of that same year, O'Brien was among a handful of CNN anchors sent to Puhket, Thailand to cover the aftermath of the Indian Ocean earthquake and ensuing tsunami that claimed more than 230,000 lives in 14 different counties. CNN won an Alfred I. duPont Award for their tsunami coverage. Meanwhile, in the summer of 2005, the very busy O'Brien first covered the London suicide bombing attacks that killed 55 people before reporting from a devastating Gulf Coast region following the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina. O'Brien earned the George Foster Peabody award for her part in CNN's Katrina coverage and drew raves for her daily reports as well as for her take-no-prisoners interview with shamed former FEMA head, Michael Brown.

In 2006, O'Brien was awarded the Women of Power award by the National Urban League and also won a local Emmy for her work as co-host on Discovery Channel's "The Know Zone." Meanwhile, her stint on CNN's flagship morning program, "American Morning," came to an end in 2007 due to low ratings, with O'Brien being replaced by former Fox News anchor Kiran Chetry. Despite the step down, she continued working for CNN, serving as a host for numerous documentaries for the on-going series, "In America," filling in for Anderson Cooper on "Anderson Cooper 360" (2003- ) and covering the 2008 elections as a reporter. In the previous year, she anchored the CNN special, "Black in America" (2007), which focused on the struggles and successes faced by African-Americans following the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. In 2011, with CNN canceling "American Morning" altogether, O'Brien returned to the morning anchor chair for "Starting Point" (2012- ), which covered news of the day while routinely wading into the 2012 presidential election.

By Shawn Dwyer