Launch into Leadership

Distinguished Speaker: Don Lemon

Don Lemon, host of CNN Tonight with Don Lemon, visited Georgia State on Tuesday, Oct. 2 for the Distinguished Speaker Series. Photo by Daniel Varitek | The Signal

Acclaimed CNN news anchor Don Lemon spoke to a full crowd of students in Student Center East about his life and the relationship between politics and the media during Spotlight’s second installment of the Distinguished Speaker Series.

Before Lemon addressed the university as a whole, The Signal had the opportunity to interview him directly.

“This is my advice for life and not just journalists: Don’t judge, be curious. Especially about your subject and you can do the same with your neighbor. If your neighbor feels a certain way, why do they feel that way instead of judging them for feeling that way,” he said.

The event opened with a jeering crowd as Lemon graced the stage in his navy blue suit and joyful smile. Professor Donna Krache mediated the event, asking Lemon a series of questions that gave insight to both his personal and professional life.

Krache began by asking Lemon about his early life and what led him to become a journalist. From a young age, Lemon was interested in journalism because it allowed him to connect with others and depict a positive image for African-Americans in media. It was while viewing African-American news anchor Gene West when Lemon decided he wanted to embody West’s positivity on his own screen.

Lemon, notorious for his unapologetic voice and opinion, then spoke of how he was able to attain this voice when he spoke of his sexual abuse as a child on live television. He decided to speak out after hearing the accusations against Bishop Eddie Long, who allegedly sexually abused people within his congregation.

Lemon said his experience proved to him that an abuser can have any face and form. He told his story on live television and was apprehensive about whether it would receive praise or hate. He said he was relieved when he received an overwhelming amount of support as many others shared similar experiences.

He spoke on his journey as a gay man as well and how he had to accept his sexuality despite his religious background. It was shortly after this acknowledgment when Lemon began to tear up as he expressed his gratitude for the overwhelming amount of students that attended the event.

Krache then asked Lemon how he deals with haters and critics. Lemon stood up and dusted off his shoulder as a display of his response.

Trump tweeted at Lemon criticizing his support for LeBron James. Lemon replied to the president by telling him to watch his show for a response. Lemon asked, between Trump and James, which person was better with children: “The guy who’s putting them in cages or the guy who is putting them in school?”

Lemon concluded his time with a final comment on racism, noting that it must be addressed with universal accountability. “We are our brother’s keeper,” Lemon said. “There is no such thing as complicitly tackling racism. This nation must stop reaping its benefits.”

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