ABC News' Christiane Amanpour: Not your ordinary Christmases

The international journalist offers insights into the worlds that filled her childhood and give her a unique perspective on the Middle East

BY: Rob Kerby, Senior Editor


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the incredible teachings about justice, social justice, the incredible biblical teachings about forgiveness, about having a set of moral values about welcoming strangers and hospitality.”

Such hospitality was extended to her one memorable Christmas when she was in college and sharing a house with several other students, including John F. Kennedy Jr.

“John’s birthday just passed and he would have been 52 years old,” she muses. “I believe he would have been a great and positive force in this country. All of us who loved him and all of us who were his friends and, of course, his family you know, never stop missing him.

“Especially at Christmas, I never stop missing his friendship and his charisma and the tragic loss of an opportunity for him to display his full potentials for America and the world.

“I spent one of my Christmases away from home with John and his family, his mother and his sister – the Christmas of 1989. I was a low-level reporter at CNN. I was based here in New York. It was my last Christmas in the United States before I was sent abroad to cover the unfolding revolutions in Central Europe, do you remember the Iron Curtain coming down?

“The last revolution was in Romania and, in fact, on Christmas day, the former president of Romania, Ceausescu and his wife were executed and we watched that on television. I remember watching with John and marveling at how it was all happening.

“A couple days later I was sent as a producer into the field and I never came back. I’ve been on assignment virtually ever since. I went on to cover the Gulf War in 1990 and that was the beginning of my career as a correspondent. So, that Christmas of 1989 we spent together is special and wonderful. I will never forget it.”

Did she jump into that assignment with an advantage – having grown up there?

“I think it gives me an edge,” she says. “I think it allowed me to move freely without having to fear. It allows me to understand the culture and the nature of the place that I’m going into and to be able to look at it from a different perspective.

“I try to explain things to our viewers, things that they may not immediately grasp. I try to show different sides. I think everybody goes into whatever they do with a certain perspective from their childhood, from their upbringing, from their own experience.

“Mine is unique in that I not only grew up in a part of the world which was not always so important to the West. I believe have a slight edge. I believe I have an ability to cut through a lot of the confusion and to be able to relate and to understand.

“From my childhood, I know it’s not all about conflict and there is so much more that unites us than divides us.”

Amanpour at Luxor Temple. Photo by Shawn Baldwin, ABC News

The first part of her ABC News Primetime Special “Back to the Beginning” airs Friday night, December 21. She bills it as “the ultimate road trip" as she travels to the lands of the Bible to explore the powerful stories from Genesis to the Birth of Jesus. Using the Old Testament as a guidebook, "Back to the Beginning" peels back the layers of history and faith that has inspired billions, she says. Part two is scheduled to air a week later, Friday, December 28.

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