Lisa Ling Delivers Fall Convocation Address

Acclaimed journalist shares her experiences covering stories around the world.

(September 16, 2013) — It was a welcome that Lisa Ling had not expected. When she stepped off the plane as a reporter sent to cover the civil war in Afghanistan, she was suddenly surrounded by young boys holding high-powered weapons, some of which dwarfed the small frames that toted them.

“It was a shocking site to see all these boys militarized,” Ling recalled of that 1994 overseas assignment, her first as a correspondent for Channel 1 News. “It became clear that they were prepared to fire those weapons.”

That encounter was just one of the many compelling stories Ling shared with an audience of about 400 University of Miami students on September 9 at the BankUnited Center Fieldhouse, where she delivered UM’s Fall Convocation address, tracing her life from a fledgling journalist to a seasoned professional who now serves as executive producer and host of the Oprah Winfrey Network’s “Our America.”

Her experience in Afghanistan, along with the realization that what was happening there wasn’t being told, convinced Ling that she needed to tell stories to a bigger audience.

In her talk, titled “Open Heart, Open Mind,” Ling recounted her stint as a field correspondent for National Geographic’s “Explorer” and how she traveled to China to report on how that country’s “one-child policy” resulted in thousands of female babies being abandoned or put up for adoption because of cultural and social traditions that make boys more desirable than girls. “There’s no black and white story,” Ling said. “There are so many different shades.”

Ling discussed her story assignments on sex trafficking in America, the effect of a woman’s incarceration on her children, and the disproportionate number of African-American males serving prison sentences.

She also offered advice to UM students. “Leave your comfort zone and experience the world,” she told them. “You’ll become a smarter person, more well-versed and more marketable.”

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Lisa Ling answers questions from student reporters during a media availability session held prior to her talk.

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