26 Jan Nicholas Kristof�s Inspiring Path

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A Path Appears_Kristof_Wudunn_Cover_3DWe are a society of planners and organizers. As creative beings, we use our best assumptions to look forward to create a life and career structure; a logical path to follow that incorporates our best thinking at the time.

That was the case for Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and journalist Nicholas Kristof, the co-author of A Path Appears: Transforming Lives, Creating Opportunity (Knopf) along with his wife, the writer and business executive Sheryl WuDunn. A Path Appears has also been made into a three-part PBS series beginning tonight on PBS stations nationwide.

A Path Appears is clear-eyed about the challenges ahead, and the fact that we, as a nation and world, can do better in the area of oppression and human rights violations. But the overarching themes of the book are of optimism and hope; that most of humanity is drawn to help others and will rise to the occasion when they understand the issues.

Kristof and WuDunn are passionate about the journalistic causes of human rights abuses and social injustices, and together received a Pulitzer Prize in 1990 for their reporting on the student democracy movement in China and the Tiananmen Massacre. In 2006, Kristof was awarded a second Pulitzer for his graphic, deeply reported columns on the war and genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan. But this wasn’t always Kristof’s primary journalistic focus. His first job for the New York Times was covering international economics and exchange rates.

But as Kristof explains in our short video interview, often our lives present unanticipated detours that disrupt expectations and plans, leading to unexpected places�and unexpected lives.

I would not have predicted that I would be covering these kind of stories, but once you report on them, they haunt you, and itâ��s very hard to forget about them,” he said.

�I�ve written a lot about sex trafficking and that just happened accidentally because way back in 1996, I went to Cambodia for what I thought would be one story on that issue and interviewed some young girls who had been kidnapped and were locked up for the sale of their virginity. And this struck me as the same as 19th century slavery except that these kids were going to be dead of AIDS by the age of 20. It is very hard to spend a day with these kids and interview them and get to know them and then go back to writing about exchange rates. They haunt you. The same with Darfur, the same with disease, poverty, so many of these other issues. The people haunt you, the issues haunt you and you want to fight back with whatever tool you have, and in my case, my tool is my keyboard.�

Recognizing the pivot moment–when a life experience opens the door to an altogether different and exciting path–can be a huge challenge. For anyone, even for professional writers and storytellers who are risk takers by the very nature of their chosen profession, it can be hard to trade the relative safety of the road theyâ��re already traveling for the unknown trail that suddenly beckons. But as Kristof and WuDunn have found, the unexpected path can also bring beauty, hope and great personal satisfaction.

I�m a huge admirer of his work and his relentless zeal to foster a greater culture of empathy, especially here in the United States. But I�m also personally inspired by Kristof�s recognition of that pivotal moment in his career where he instinctively knew to take a new direction with his writing and journalistic focus, away from his then-beat of exchange rates and economics, to a different and ultimately truer destiny. It was a moment where he allowed himself to listen to his heart, and in Kristof�s case, find his calling as a writer and communicator about issues that he found impossible to leave behind.

The PBS series A Path Appears, produced for Independent Lens, airs Jan 26, Feb 2, Feb 9, 2015 at 10PM on PBS stations. For more information, visit The Path Appears website.

Related Video

Watch the full interview with Nicholas Kristof, recorded in partnership Astral Road Media and PBS at the 2014 Miami Book Fair International.

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