Apr 25, 2023
CNN’s chief international anchor Christiane Amanpour is a fearless and uncompromising interviewer who has put her life in danger to give a voice to victims of war. She has been outspoken in calling out human rights abuses and is renowned for holding powerful leaders accountable. For these reasons Amanpour is the recipient of the 2023 Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage.
Before attending a luncheon to accept the award, Amanpour participated in candid conversations during a Q&A with Georgia Tech students and a fireside chat with the campus community moderated by CNN correspondent Tom Foreman.
“We’re on a university campus,” Amanpour said during the chat, “and around campuses across the United States there has been a tendency toward less openness and more canceled culture. People are shying away or not wanting to hear things that they don’t agree with. I think that’s a shame. And I think that’s a problem in terms of where else you’re going to get this opportunity. When else in your life are you going to get the opportunity to hear a whole range of things that you may or may not agree with?”
Foreman asked Amanpour for her thoughts on the widespread belief that American viewers are not interested in certain international news stories because “that’s not our fight.” Amanpour disagreed.
“I believe that our mission as journalists — once we understand what we’re doing — is actually to build that relationship between the people and the things that we’re covering,” she said. “To build the relationship between those stories, those things that are happening, and those who are watching, listening, or reading online. Then, perhaps, they will feel moved to talk to their Congressperson.”
She continued, “The reason the United States and Europe went all in for Ukraine was not because they suddenly saw the light of international law. It is because the people in all those countries, including in this country, were moved to be outraged. It was a grassroots movement that could cause the action. It’s our business to keep these stories alive and I’ve always believed if you tell these stories well, everybody will watch.”
Presenting the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage
Two of her longtime colleagues and friends, Foreman and veteran journalist Parisa Khosravi, spoke about her achievements and delivered a message from Tom Johnson, retired president of CNN.
“Almost every world leader has been interviewed by Christiane,” Johnson said. “Some of them, like President Bill Clinton, found her interview with him so tough that he complained to CNN. In recent years, the only interview that I know she has not been able to secure has been with President Putin of Russia. One Russian friend explained why Putin declined. ‘I simply think he may be afraid of her.’”
Presenting the award to Amanpour, President Ángel Cabrera, said, “Reporting isn’t her job — it’s her mission. That mission began just blocks away from our campus at CNN’s world headquarters, during the infancy of the global news network.”
Calling her “truly exceptional,” he added, “Christiane refuses to be neutral in the face of horror because, I’m quoting you now, Christiane, ‘When you’re neutral, you become an accessory.’ She has braved bombings and dodged artillery fire in her quest to shed light on the darkest corners of the world. She uses her platform to do good, to make this planet a better place, to stand up for what is right. Christiane exemplifies both the spirit of the Ivan Allen Jr. Prize and Georgia Tech’s mission to improve the human condition by living our motto of Progress and Service.”
Accepting the award, Amanpour said, “I am very moved by receiving an award for civil rights and social courage much more than getting an award for a particular story or report. Because as you grow older, you realize that there’s so much at stake, more at stake than just delivering good products.”
The Ivan Allen Jr. Prize for Social Courage honors individuals who bravely act to improve the human condition, often in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges. The award celebrates the alumnus, civic leader, and former Atlanta Mayor Ivan Allen Jr., who was instrumental in integrating Atlanta and supported federal civil rights legislation. The prize is funded in perpetuity by a grant from the Wilbur and Hilda Glenn Family Foundation, and recipients are awarded a $100,000 stipend.
Past recipients include former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn, civil rights leader and former U.S. representative John Lewis, former President Jimmy Carter and Rosalynn Carter, public health expert Anthony S. Fauci, and others. Last year, the award was presented to the first three Black students to enroll at Georgia Tech and the first Black student to graduate, Ford C. Greene, Ralph A. Long Jr., Lawrence Williams, and Ronald Yancey.