'Outworking everyone around you' leads to success, Cooper tells crowd
Anderson Cooper told a crowd of several hundred he didn't really find people who are famous or powerful that intimidating.
"No, not really. The thing is that politicians and celebrities are sometimes just normal," he said. "You realize that they're a lot less interesting than you might think."
The crowd that filled the Show Me Center on Sunday afternoon certainly seemed to find Cooper interesting, though. They offered a standing ovation as the CNN anchor breezed onstage and plopped down opposite Southeast Missouri State University instructor of communication studies Brooke Hildebrand Clubbs.
Cooper's visit came as part of the university's Speakers Series, and the conversation meandered between Cooper's perspective on recent world events and his own personal stories covering them. When he graduated from Yale University with a degree in political science, he said he honestly didn't know what he wanted to do with his life and that his mother had told him to "follow [his] bliss."
But having studied political science with an emphasis in communism, the fall of the Berlin Wall left him somewhat listless.
"When the Berlin Wall fell in '89, I was a senior. I was screwed, really," he joked.
So, he explained, he began sneaking off to wars with not much more than his bootlegged press pass, a home video camera and vague aspirations of becoming a war correspondent.
"I'm sure my mother was thrilled when she found out my bliss was going off to war."
He professed his belief in the power of "just showing up, faking it until you become what you're trying to be" to the hundreds of Southeast students in attendance.
"That's why even now, I don't take any days off," he said, before adding with a smile, "That's why I'm
working on a Sunday now."
When the conversation turned to how recent ISIS actions have spawned reservations in some journalists abroad, Cooper said it only makes journalists more cautious; that professionals have always accepted a certain degree of risk in certain environments.
During 2011's "Arab Spring," he and his crew were roughed up by supporters of Hosni Mubarak's crumbling regime.
"I don't know if anyone here has ever been punched in the head a lot, but it sucks," he said, but added, "It doesn't stop you from [reporting]."
He also explained that one doesn't have to go abroad to find compelling and somewhat risky stories. His experiences covering the events in Ferguson, Missouri, as well as Hurricane Katrina left him with a distinct impression of the enduring complexities of race relations in America, but he remains optimistic about how technological advances offer new and exciting avenues of elevating the conversation.
"I have no idea about the future of broadcast news," he said. "But we all have access to more information than any generation has ever had."
He said that the democratizing effects of the Internet offer millennials a wealth of opportunities, especially in media.
"The most important thing you can do is practice your writing. It takes a long time to find your own voice and write in your own voice." he said. "But true success comes from ... just outworking everyone around you."
And just as he had when he took the stage, after offering thanks, he left to another standing ovation.
Show Me Center, Cape Girardeau, Mo.