Anderson Cooper recently regaled us showcasing a series of countertweets in response to the now epic covfefe tweet from the President. Cooper has been behind some of the most compelling and touching news stories of modern times. This is Cooper’s story of strive.
From a young adult struck by a series of family tragedies and wondering what to do with his life to becoming a well-respected correspondent and top-rated news anchor, Cooper has come a long way. Cooper’s is a story of strive, overcoming strife and challenges thrown every step of his way to eventually emerge a winner.
Cooper was born in 1967 in New York City to Wyatt Emory Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt. His father, Wyatt, was a writer, whereas his mother, Gloria, was an artist, fashion designer, and railroad heiress. Cooper was always in the media, right from his childhood. This was largely due to her mother’s nature of work and his Vanderbilt lineage.
As a baby, Diane Arbus photographed him for the cover of Harper’s Bazaar. He appeared as a guest on The Tonight Show with his mother. He had a brief career as a child model and appeared in several ads, including those for Macy’s, Ralph Lauren, and Calvin Klein.
Coopers’ parents were well off, and he had a privileged upbringing, but not one without a fair share of setback and tragedies.
Double Tragedies in Family
His father died during an open-heart surgery when Cooper was just 10. Cooper was closely attached to his father and his untimely death left a deep impression on Cooper’s life. A decade later, at the age of 21, Cooper saw his elder brother, aged 23, commit suicide by jumping off the 14th floor of the family’s penthouse apartment in New York. Cooper went through the horror of his jumping to his death with his mother pleading her elder son to stay put.
Tragedies of this magnitude happening to the people you love most can deeply shake and destabilize anyone, Cooper included. His brother’s suicide constantly hounded him in the mind as to what lead his brother to give up on life. Cooper sought an answer as to why some people survive and others don’t. He feared for his mother and was not sure if he was up for life’s challenges. However, Cooper’s story of strive includes persevering through the heartaches and struggles over his fears, insecurities, and inhibitions.
Schooling and Graduation: The Formative Years
Amidst constant exposure to media and being severely hit by personal tragedies, Cooper ensured he did not neglect his studies. After finishing high school, he went on to study Political Science at Yale University. During his final year of college, he traveled to Africa just to get firsthand experience with survival life skills.
He completed his graduate degree in 1989 and interned with the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for two summers. Instead of continuing with the CIA after graduation, Cooper decided to pursue his dream to become a well-respected journalist. And he decided to do it by working hard every single day but never losing his focus.
Early Days of Journalism
Cooper’s first job was that of a fact checker with the news agency, Channel One. The agency produced news program for youth and was broadcasted to many high schools across the country. He was desperate to get his foot in the door. With his dream of becoming a widely regarded news correspondent, this surely was a beginning, howsoever humble it seemed. But, within six months, Cooper realized he wasn’t going anywhere with this job.
And he did something radical. He quit his fact-checker job and decided to become a freelance journalist shooting his original stories. Borrowing a friend’s home video camera, he set out for Myanmar to get on the ground stories of the strife in Myanmar. Wearing a fake press pass but an undying passion for hard news, Cooper prepared his first story. And, he managed to sell it to Channel One.
Instead of waiting forever for the right time, Cooper decided to chart his own course. Winners don’t wait for opportunities; they create them. Channel One made Cooper a full-time correspondent, covering stories in war-ravaged countries across the world for the next two years. It was exciting, but it was a lot of pain and struggle as well, a true story of strive. It was baptism by fire—visiting unknown places, interacting with unknown people speaking unknown languages, staying in dingy places with sleep a luxury, eating whatever was available, and plunging himself in the line of fire. Cooper would often wonder if this indeed was what he strived for.
Believing & Striving in Himself
Having studied at Yale and knowing that his college mates were working with the biggest companies in plush offices around the world, and comparing this with his nomadic, vagabond life, Cooper had his share of doubts. His friends never understood his purpose in leading such a life. Cooper having faced the harshest of realities and seeing people suffer could not understand the purpose of his friends’ life either. But, at the end of the day, he believed in the work he was doing and in his mission. He was determined to succeed at this, with no thoughts of a backup career. In hindsight, Cooper thinks the tragic loss of his father and brother brought him to discover suffering up close.
After Channel One, ABC hired Cooper. He went on to become a co-anchor on its World News Now program. Subsequently, CNN hired him to anchor the show, Anderson Cooper 360o. At CNN, Cooper went on to do many reports and programs, having a very successful career. But it wasn’t a one-way street. Cooper faced failure as well for a couple of his shows that were taken off air quite early. It was depressing and frustrating, but Cooper reminded himself to strive and succeed. Perseverance, grit, and unwavering self-belief is Cooper’s hallmark, and he knew he would emerge a winner at the end.
As a journalist, Cooper’s has won many honors throughout his career. These include eight Emmys, the Edward R. Murrow Award for his coral reef report, the Peabody and National Headliner Awards for a remarkable coverage of the Indian Ocean tsunami, and the GLAAD Media Award. Cooper also found success as a writer.
Challenges on the Personal Front
Although in his later life Cooper did not face travails as serious as those he faced in his formative years, Cooper was a public personality and everything about him made news. Whether it was publicly acknowledging that he is gay or revealing he won’t inherit any of his mother’s wealth. Cooper is always in constant public glare, and he handles it with exemplary poise and grace. As a kid, Cooper was diagnosed with dyslexia. He tried to hide it initially, as any kid his age would do. Eventually, however, with the help of reading specialists and a lot of reading, he overcame it.
Fighting His Fears
Cooper also revealed a few years back that he had the fear of public speaking. Not really in a controlled newsroom environment, but when faced with an actual crowd, he would break into sweats. His solution: take the bull by the horns. He forced himself in situations where he had to speak in public. Facing the fear is the mantra for real winners in life and Cooper amply demonstrates it.
All along his incredible journey, Anderson Cooper met people doubting his abilities and discouraging him from taking bold steps. But, with a staunch belief in his abilities and owning the consequences of his actions, Cooper resolved to strive and chart his own path to glory. His is a story studded with perseverance, hard work, and never-say-die attitude that can inspire non-believers.
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