Celebrated journalist and producer Soledad O’Brien is a role model to many across the country. She attributes much who she is now to the role models she had growing up and to her family’s heritage.

“The most important one was my mother, Estela, who immigrated from Cuba as a teenager,” O’Brien says. “Here is a woman who came to a country with a different language and culture. She is black. Yet she thrived here.”

According to Soledad, her mother faced challenges in America but persevered through those obstacles to raise six children and find a successful career as a teacher. To O’Brien, it’s clear that her family – and her mother especially – had profound impacts on how she led her life.

“She taught me to be so proud of who I am that, even when people put me down,” O’Brien says, “I’d know enough and feel strong enough to push through it and move ahead.”

“[My mother] taught me to be so proud of who I am that...”

Celebrating heritage

As someone who finds strength in the Hispanic community, O’Brien often takes time during National Hispanic Heritage Month to speak at colleges and universities, wherever people are looking to find meaning in the celebration of Hispanic culture.

“The message I often deliver is one worth sharing any month of the year,” she says. “Be considerate and aware of those around you – their different histories and different cultures. Celebrate and embrace each other.”

Moving forward

In the politically charged climate that has dogged 2017 and led many people in the Hispanic community to have concerns about their place in this country, it is an important message.

“Latinos are remaking this country every day with the contributions we make to its culture,” O’Brien says. “We need to figure out what we want to accomplish with our influence and make that define us – whether that means improving education for all, or redefining what it means to be an American, or improving quality of life.”

O’Brien exemplifies this belief in the power of her heritage in her own life and career. “My heritage is the foundation for my values, my family life, my view of the world as a place of possibility,” she says. “My heritage has taught me to be a striver, a hard worker and someone with a sense of obligation to be generous with others.”