By Willa Frej:
Lara Setrakian flew in directly from Dubai today to lead a master’s tea in Ezra Stiles, organized by the International Students Organization, during which she discussed “Five Things I’ve Learned as a Foreign Correspondent.” Based in Dubai, she works for both Bloomberg Television and ABC news covering business, politics, and news across the Middle East.
She seems to enjoy classifying in groups of five; she began today’s presentation with a brief discourse on five words that guide her through her career and her life – empathy, sincerity, hustle, humility, and respect.
Keeping these in mind, she delved right into her five pieces of advice. First: “perception can count as much as intention.” Lara explained that she has struggled with her dual identity while living in the Middle East, what she referred to as “an Eastern face with a Western attitude.” The key, according to her, is to anticipate these foreign perceptions and proceed with humility and respect.
Second: “fear is amplified with distance.” Lara encouraged the audience, however, to be aware of bravery that is derived from reducing this distance and approaching the unfamiliar.
Third: “it’s not who you know or what you know, it’s how hard you work.” This advice reflects Lara’s start as a journalist; she comes from a family of Armenian immigrants. Her perseverance landed her a summer internship shadowing a CBS war reporter on 60 Minutes in high school, and her passion for journalism led her to Harvard, where she forsake good grades to run a radio station.
Fourth: “you miss one hundred percent of the shots that you don’t take, and some that you do.” Lara actually stole this piece of advice from Wayne Gretzky, but she has applied this to her life and her career; it reinvigorates her and reconnects her to her mission of informing and creating globally minded citizens.
Finally, Lara’s personal favorite: “people are better than you think.” While it is natural to assume the worst of people, Lara prefers to remain optimistic, trusting her finely-honed instincts to stop her from crossing the fine line into naiveté. She reminded her audience that her goal is to serve her viewers, and her passion for journalism stems from her positive experiences with these viewers.
The overwhelming zeal Lara expressed for her career is indeed rare. She marveled at a certain state of “purity” she felt she’d attained—a feeling that came from doing what she knew she was meant to do in life. This is only natural, she reasoned, seeing as journalism is a meritocracy, and she, a meritorious journalist—attributing the greatest part of her success to her honesty. She proceeded to open a notebook filled with her musings to read a quote to the audience: “the truth should win, no matter who else loses.”
A free spirit unconcerned with negative press or network expectations, Lara views herself as a “freestyle swimmer” who chases stories worth viewers’ time. This attitude led to her designation as one of Foreign Policy’s ‘Twitterati 100;” her passion for informing her fellow citizens as often and as accurately as possible is truly inspiring. We can only hope that Lara’s five points of wisdom will inspire many others to continue to make viral these frank discussions about the conflicts that plague the globe.
Willa Frej ’13 is in Pierson College. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.