Anderson Cooper was born in New York City in 1967. His dad was writer Wyatt Emory Cooper and his mom is designer Gloria Vanderbilt. Her great-great grandfather was Cornelius Vanderbilt who became very wealthy building businesses in railroads and shipping in America.
Anderson went to Yale University and got a political science degree. He hadn’t taken journalism but he loved the news and telling stories, so he decided to pursue his passion.
He tried to get a job answering phones at ABC News but didn’t get hired. He got a behind-the-scenes job at a small news agency that shared stories with high school students but he wanted to be in front of the camera. So he got a video camera, made a press pass, and travelled by himself to places like Vietnam, Bosnia, Rwanda and Somalia. Many times he was in danger and right in the middle of wars as they happened. He would capture what was going on, send the footage back and it was put on the air. This was the start of his journey as a broadcaster.
You would think that someone with his family connections would have used them. But he didn’t. He went out and made his own path. His own mistakes and his own successes.
He said, “When I was younger, I talked to the adults around me that I respected most about how they got where they were, and none of them plotted a course they could have predicted, so it seemed like a waste of time to plan too long-term. Since then, I’ve always gone on my instincts.”
After several years he became a reporter for ABC News and eventually ended up on CNN. He was often the face we would see on the ground in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, in Haiti after the earthquake and in Sri Lanka after the tsunami. His authenticity and empathy bring in viewers and people who wish to share their heartbreak.
Anderson said, “You can’t stop the suffering, you can’t stop terrible things from happening, but you can bear witness. The least us reporters can do is go there and tell their stories.”
Before he became a household name, he didn’t know where he would end up or how he would get there. But he knew what he liked to spend his time doing. And he went out and found a way to do it.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
This is what Anderson did and what we should all strive to do. Blaze a trail rather than follow a path left behind from someone else’s journey.