CNN’s Don Lemon speaks at UA’s ‘Through the Doors’ event

Don Lemon
CNN anchor Don Lemon speaks at The University of Alabama’s Ferguson Theatre on Feb. 22, 2013.

Don Lemon doesn’t care if nobody believes in him, and urges others to feel the same way.

“Louisiana told me ‘no’ in many ways because I was born black,” Lemon said. “Fortunately, this little black boy’s family didn’t get the memo.”

A reporter and anchor for CNN since September of 2006, Lemon spoke in front of a sold out audience Thursday, Feb. 21 about overcoming his personal struggles growing up as a gay black man. The speech, which began at 6 p.m., was held inside the Ferguson Center Theatre as a part of The University of Alabama’s “Through the Doors” celebration, a year-long commemoration in honor of the 50th anniversary of desegregation at the university.

Lemon was introduced by Lauren Scoggan, a student from the University Ferg Programs. Scoggan provided a brief summary of Lemon’s career success, which includes winning three Emmys as well as an Edward R. Murrow Award for his coverage of the Washington, D.C. snipers.

But success did not always come so easily for Lemon. Quoting excerpts from his memoir, “Transparent,” Lemon talked about the racial divide growing up in Port Allen, La. as well as his sexual orientation during times when he feared that he wouldn’t make it.

“My upbringing in Louisiana shaped who I am in many ways,” he said. “It gave me an early life full of very hard, very painful lessons.”

Although he had to overcome his fears as a gay black man, Lemon did not use them as motivation to get to where he is now. He merely believed in himself even when no one else did.

“Nobody has to believe in your dreams but you!” he said. “And you can believe that.”

While Lemon discussed his own personal journey, his true purpose was to use his experiences to encourage others in fulfilling their own dreams. He told the audience to not worry about failing or other’s people opinions.

“I’m here to tell you that you no longer have to live in fear,” he said. “I am living proof that you can overcome whatever it is that you think is holding you back from making it.”

Lemon made it a point from the start to not just speak to the audience, but to engage with them as well. With every thoughtful point he made came a joke that triggered a roar of laughter from his listeners every time.

“It was great,” sophomore Kaitlin McLhinney said about the speech. “I wasn’t expecting it to go that way, but the advice he had – it was simple, but it got his point across a lot, so I feel that could help everyone that came to see it.”

Despite having overcome many adversaries to achieve his goals, Lemon remains humble about where he is now.

“Although I dreamt of success, never in a million years did I ever think that I would actually have the platform or the position of power that I have now,” a visibly emotional Lemon said. “Every day, I am so grateful I am on the verge of tears.”

With hard work and a good attitude, anyone can achieve their goals, he said.

“It may not play out exactly as you imagined it,” he said. “It may not happen as soon as you want it to happen, but it will happen.”

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