English major Kim Ammiano went one-on-one with top newsmakers, many on campus as guests of The Drew Forum, sponsored by the Laurie Foundation. Photo by Bill Cardoni.
English major Kimberly Ammiano went one-on-one with top newsmakers, many on campus as guests of The Drew Forum, sponsored by the Laurie Foundation. Photo by Bill Cardoni.

 

Kimberly Ammiano ’13 looks back at her favorite Acorn interviews.

What led me to sit down at Drew with so many bold-faced names, from Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations, to my most recent, former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice? You might say The Acorn’s news editor my first year had an overabundance of confidence in me. Before I head off to Columbia’s Graduate School of Journalism, Drew Today asked me to list my top interviews:

#1 Condoleezza Rice

From the second it began, I knew the interview with Ms. Rice would prove to be one of the most memorable. For my first question, I asked how growing up in racially segregated Birmingham, Ala., shaped the person she is today. I was stunned by her response: “I lost my best kindergarten friend in the bombings of the Birmingham church,” she said, her eyes welling up. By Rice’s own account, she will never run for president. While she feels the United States is ready for a female president, she assured me it would never be her. “I love policy, not politics. I don’t have the right DNA,” she said, laughing. “When I worked alongside President Bush, he would be up all night working. I like to go to bed.”

#2 Anderson Cooper

I’m in sweatpants, straightening my hair well in advance of the big interview with the CNN anchor when my phone rings. “ANDERSON IS HERE RIGHT NOW. YOU DON’T HAVE TIME FOR ANYTHING. RUN. I DON’T CARE IF YOU’RE IN PAJAMAS,” boomed the voice on the other end of the line. I had just three minutes to ask Cooper one question. “What advice do you have for aspiring journalists,” I asked, shaking as I looked one of my idols in the eye. From that moment on, I’ve carried with me his response: Find your passion, dive in head first, stick to the facts and don’t be afraid to outhustle anyone.

#3 Tom Brokaw

As someone who lost a loved one at the World Trade Center on 9/11, I was anxious to ask Brokaw what reporting on that day was like for a veteran journalist. “It was all a blur. It happened so fast, but I immediately knew we were at war and any second now, it was going to be my job to go on air and tell the public that. It was the single hardest thing I’ve done thus far in my career,” he said. Afterward, it hit home for me that journalism is much more than ‘reporting the news.’ It’s being an authority figure, someone people can trust, a steady presence to rely on during times of crisis.

#4 Arianna Huffington

Know how every little boy in the world wants to be Derek Jeter when he grows up? That’s how I’ve always felt about Huffington Post founder Arianna Huffington. As a media mogul and advocate for women’s rights, she represents the culmination of my professional desires. After she dished about her black flats, I was impressed by her thoughts ranging from the limitations on access to the American Dream to the connection she makes between success and recharging. According to Huffington, a good leader is simply a well-rested one.

#5 Robert Gates

I don’t think I’ve ever been more nervous in my life. I had no idea what to expect from the former secretary of defense and director of the CIA. I was intrigued by what he said about there being no “do-overs” in national security, and that as a nation, we must work together to make decisions that will influence the nation in positive ways, even after heartbreak and loss. It’s now time to turn our attention away from large-scale attacks on U.S. soil, he says. They are no longer our main concern. Instead, it is time to monitor self-radicalized terrorists. They are now the threat.

#6 Gerry Adams

The walls were lined with CIA agents—every one of them eyeing me, a first-year student only two months in, intent as I took my seat. After anxiously settling in, I found Adams, the Sinn Féin president, highly capable of creating a lasting impression. After saying he had “no opinions” about former British Prime Minister Tony Blair speaking at the Drew Forum just days earlier, he shared his opinion about singing in the shower. “There is no better relief for anyone who has been through trials and tribulations than belting out a melody,” he said. “Sing at least five songs a day.” Given the intense topics we were discussing, that was the last thing I expected to hear.—Kimberly Ammiano ’13