CNN anchor shares experience

He has hosted presidential debates, won praise for coverage of Hurricane Katrina and traveled to more than 50 countries, and on Monday night CNN anchor Anderson Cooper made a special visit to the University of Miami for Senior Convocation 2008.

About 2,000 students and other guests attended “A 360-Degree Look at World Events,” hosted at the BankUnited Center and sponsored by Northern Trust Bank.

Cooper was welcomed by Sheldon Anderson, president of the Miami-Dade County Northern Trust Bank, and President Donna E. Shalala, as a “media rock star” and a “storyteller of the 21st century.”

“Anderson takes his obligations as a journalist seriously,” Shalala said. “He asks hard questions, and gives honest answers.”

Cooper, 40, kept the lecture lighthearted and conversational for the most part while discussing his beginnings, his hardships and his memorable stories. He said that he was always supported by his mother, famed actress, artist and socialite Gloria Vanderbilt, whom he described as “remarkable,” but “not practical.”

“When I asked my mom for advice [before an interview] she told me to wear vertical stripes because they were slimming,” Cooper joked.

Cooper also told the story of his first war zone coverage. Leaving high school early to explore southern Africa, Cooper eventually snuck into the jungles of Burma where he was using a fake press pass that a friend made on a computer. Cooper said places such as Burma, Somalia and Sarajevo exposed “the dark parts of the human heart where all is open for everyone to see.”

During his 15 years of experience, Cooper said that the biggest lesson he has learned is that “the line between the living and the dead, [and] the rich and the poor is as thin as the walls of the human heart.”

Before the lecture, Cooper spoke with various members of student media and said that public speaking isn’t something he does often, but when he does, he usually goes to college campuses.

“I really like the exchange with young people,” Cooper said. “I try to make [the lectures] conversational with the question and answer sessions.”

The “young people” in the audience seemed to enjoy the exchange as well – after the lecture at least 20 students waited in line to ask questions ranging from coverage of Cuba to the 2008 election.

Cyrus Girson, a senior studying finance, said that Cooper’s speech made it easy for students to relate to him.

“He actually had a personality,” Girson said. “He talked like a kid; one of us. He wasn’t some boring news anchor.”

Anthony Minerva may be contacted at