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TV journalist Don Lemon talks truth advocacy, shares advice in campus lecture

TV journalist Don Lemon talks truth advocacy, shares advice in campus lecture

TV journalist Don Lemon talks truth advocacy, shares advice in campus lecture
March 22
16:48 2019

Longtime TV journalist Don Lemon spoke to a crowd of several hundred people in the Auditorium Building Thursday about what drew him to his career, the importance of truth advocacy in journalism and offered attendees advice that he received along the way.

Lemon was the final guest speaker in the Division of Student Affairs’ yearlong Distinguished Lecture Series.

Lemon said that “right this very moment” is the most important time to be a journalist and that because of his job, he has “the most honest conversations about what’s happening in the country.”

“It has never been more dangerous [to be a journalist],” Lemon said after acknowledging recent targeting and attacks on journalists around the world. “Yet still, as journalists, we rise.”

Lemon, who previously visited UNT in 2013, noted that being one of the only people of color on primetime cable news came with challenges and responsibilities but said it was his job to “be the voice of reason” for the marginalized groups he represents.

CNN Anchor Don Lemon praises a question by SGA President Muhammad Kara during his presentation of the UNT Distinguished Lecture Series on March 21 in the Auditorium Building. Image by: Trevon McWilliams.

“A lot of people are not sure about what’s real and what’s true and they don’t know how to feel about it, so they come to me,” Lemon said. “It is my job to be an advocate for the truth — to point out racism, to point out sexism, to point out homophobia, islamophobia, antisemitism, to point out the people demonizing immigrants. To help people is to arm them with the truth.”

Lemon said he is “equipped to handle” the responsibilities he bears as a TV journalist because of “knowing [his] history” and an interest in the nature of the profession from a young age.

“My particular calling was not as an advocate in a traditional manner,” Lemon said of his initial attempt to study law as his father did. “From watching newsreels and local news, from reading and from absorbing history books, from experiencing the injustice of family members older than me, I became curious [about journalism]. Through this calling I have been fortunate enough to figure out how to use it for a greater purpose than my ego [or] to make money.”

Computer science freshman Johnathan Brown said he enjoyed the event and wished that Lemon had said more on topics that caught Brown’s attention.

“Don Lemon is a great speaker, but whenever he mentioned that attacks on journalists are unwarranted, I wanted him to elaborate on it,” Brown said.

Media arts graduate student Daniela Ibarra said Lemon’s speech was “profound” and made her think more about her future.

“I loved his quote where he said, ‘the two most important days are the day you are born and the day you find out why,’” Ibarra said. “It was [also] really interesting to hear how he balances his identities while trying to remain impartial.”

Lemon said he is “forced to evolve” every day in his career as a journalist and highlighted the necessity to keep an open mind to the opinions of others “in any profession” or life experience.

“You have to open your mind,” Lemon said. “You have to be quiet and listen. You cannot ask someone to do something that you are not willing to do. If you are asking someone to re-examine their beliefs, you must be willing to re-examine yours. When you own your own mind, no one can own you.”

At the conclusion of his lecture, Lemon left attendees with a piece of encouragement.

“Pioneering is hard, but you are up to the task,” Lemon said. “Signed, Don Lemon.”

Featured Image: CNN Anchor Don Lemon talks about his struggles growing up as a gay black in his family during the Distinguished Lecture Series on March 21 in the Auditorium Building. Image by: Trevon McWilliams.

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Francisco Fregoso

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