Citation for Christiane Amanpour
Christiane Amanpour. Reporter, chronicler, and humanitarian.
Arguably our most renowned international journalist, you have helped us measure the weight of each moment in history through incisive critique, hard-hitting investigation, and an empathetic eye for the personal realities behind political sagas. You listen astutely to those around you and take their insights to heart, even when it means changing your perspective. You have helped us better understand the causes and effects of war and religious strife, and the value of seeking truth above all. And you have inspired countless young people, especially women and girls, to demand a seat for themselves in the room where it happens—as journalists, activists, and leaders of every stripe.
Ironically, you never dreamed as a girl of making such demands for yourself. Your early years were spent in England and Iran—where, at the age of 20, only one thing felt certain: that you would “marry early, stay in Iran, and continue to live a relatively sheltered life.”
Fate intervened in two dramatic ways. First, the Iranian Revolution threw you and your family into the center of global politics. Facing hardship and fear for the first time, you committed yourself to do more than survive it. You decided to play a permanent role in international conflict, “not as a victim,” you said, “but as a storyteller.” The second turn of fate was your decision to take your sister’s place at a journalism college in London after she dropped out, so that your family wouldn’t forfeit the tuition. From then on, a “sheltered life” was permanently out of the picture.
You started at CNN as an entry-level assistant, with a suitcase, a bicycle, and about 100 dollars. You rose through the organization, eventually becoming the network’s leading international correspondent. Your uncompromising approach made you an audience favorite, and somewhat feared by the most powerful people in the world. When Newsweek called you “must-see TV,” it wasn’t just a slogan.
You have reported from the aftermaths of our most devastating humanitarian crises and natural disasters. And no one has been a better guide to the modern story of Iraq. You have documented the violence there, and its effects on its people and the world, for more than three decades.
On the ground during the siege of Sarajevo and the Bosnian War, you exposed the daily tragedy of life for civilians and spoke out against ethnic cleansing and human rights abuses. You stood firm in the face of criticism, saying, “There are some situations one simply cannot be neutral about, because when you are neutral, you are an accomplice.”
You’ve had private audiences with heads of state after nearly every major election, demonstration, or outbreak of violence—and even after an occasional World Cup defeat. You are courageously outspoken about human rights advocacy for women and girls, and you bring international attention to the rights of journalists. As CNN’s chief international anchor and host of the network’s flagship global affairs program “Amanpour,” you have recently brought truly global perspectives to the COVID-19 pandemic, linking science to politics and telling the story of COVID in startlingly profound and personal ways.
You have won every major television journalism award, most more than once; you took home your 12th Emmy in September. And in 2007, you were named a CBE—the highest ranking Order of the British Empire—for your services to journalism. And I am honored to award you once more.
Christiane Amanpour, for telling the stories of our world with bravery, conviction, and humanity, it is my great pleasure to present you with the 2021 Medal of Distinction.