Lisa Ling, an American journalist and host of CNN’s This is Life with Lisa Ling, spoke Tuesday night in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center Ballroom about her humanitarian efforts around the world.
The event, hosted by USC Speakers Committee and co-sponsored by the USC Service Student Assembly, USC Political Student Assembly, USC Special Events Committee, Asian Pacific American Student Assembly and Women’s Student Assembly, also featured a question and answer session and a meet and greet.
Ling introduced herself as a fellow Trojan, who attended USC in the early ’90s but “didn’t quite make it to graduation.” Because she entered the professional sphere at a young age, reporting for Channel One News, Ling said she became enraptured by the stories she collected on her job assignments and elected to find her education by visiting different countries instead.
“Some of these stories made me a better person,” Ling said. “My hope is that you take these stories back to your dorm, and that they make you a better person.”
Reporting from distant places, Ling was faced with some harsh realities as a 21-year-old reporter, such as witnessing young, Afghan boys holding RPG guns larger than their frame. Ling said she was haunted by these images, but the questions that arose spurred her passion for field experience even more.
“I got to travel and immerse myself in different cultures and engage with different young people,” Ling said. “That’s why I didn’t graduate from USC — it’s because I was traveling. I think traveling is the best education. If there’s one takeaway here tonight, it’s to travel … I’m convinced that you are better, smarter, more marketable as a job candidate if you travel.”
From there, Ling entered the daytime talk show arena, becoming a host on the ABC’s The View in the early 2000s. She quickly realized, however, that her position was just to draw out the younger demographic. While Ling wanted to share her knowledge about globalization and drug wars, her efforts were quickly curtailed at business meetings.
“The executives said, ‘Lisa, nice try, but no one in the United States cares about what’s happening in the world,” Ling said. “But I didn’t really believe that. I felt like there was this incredible world I needed to explore.”
Ling left the show in 2002, and later joined the National Geographic channel, where she decided to spotlight places such as North Korea, a country in which her sister, Laura Ling, who is also a journalist, was imprisoned. Ling also set out to highlight the one-child policy in China, where the preference for male children has created an imbalance of males to females in the country.
In recent years, Ling has covered domestic issues, such as the mass incarceration problem in the United States. According to Ling, one in 12 black men will see prison walls at some point in their lives, often a result of minor charges such as drug possession, and are frequently forced into criminal activity because of financial hardship. After release, it can be hard for former convicts to find jobs due to company policy, she said.
“We say that we are a country that offers second chances to people, but I often wonder, ‘Are we really?’” Ling said.
Ling closed with a recitation from a poem, which implored audience members to affect change in their communities. She also cited a quote from Oprah, urging students to open their eyes to the injustices of the world.
“Oprah said, ‘Now that you know, you can’t pretend that you don’t,’” Ling said.