Telling Stories of Hope

Find out why Ann Curry says journalism is an act of faith and how she finds stories of hope among all the suffering.

By Ann Curry, New York, New York

As appeared in

"How do you keep doing what you do?” people ask me all the time.

It’s a good question.

Over the past two years alone, my work for NBC News has taken me to Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, India, Congo and the edge of Darfur. Why is it I feel driven to cover these stories of human suffering, including Hurricane Katrina and the Southeast Asian tsunami, when it means leaving my husband and two children behind at home?

I don’t have to. Anchoring the news on Today and Dateline NBC keeps me busy enough.

To be honest, leaving my family for days—even weeks—at a time is painful. It also hurts to see the degree to which people suffer in parts of the world.

There are days when I wonder if I’m a bit traumatized by it all. But still, when these stories happen, I feel a call, an urgency, to report them because I know I can give voice to those who need to be heard. Not only do they deserve that, but you deserve it too.

Your knowing about what’s happening in the rest of the world gives you a chance to care, and it is that empathy that offers the greatest hope. You see, I believe journalism is an act of faith in the future. That might sound strange in this day and age when so much on TV seems scandalous or frivolous. But then, I am my parents’ child, living lessons that have guided me from the beginning.

My father, Bob Curry, was a career Navy man who enlisted right out of high school. My mother was the daughter of a Japanese rice farmer. Her name was Hiroe.

They met when Dad was stationed in Japan as part of the Allied occupation forces after World War II. The war left my mom’s family without seed to grow their crop, so at 18 she found a job in the city as a streetcar conductor. My dad happened to get on her streetcar one day, and knew he had to see her again. He took that streetcar every day until he worked up the nerve to ask her on a date. They went out for noodles and fell headlong in love.

Back then the Navy frowned on marriages between American servicemen and Japanese women, and shipped my father out before a ceremony could take place. It took two years, but he managed to get sent back to Japan. He told me of taking her into his arms again, only to realize she was extremely thin. It turned out she had tuberculosis and wasn’t expected to live.

He used her healthy sister’s lung X rays to get clearance from Navy doctors, and married her anyway. Now that she was a U.S. military wife, she was able to get the care she needed. She survived to become the mother of five, of which I’m the oldest.

Dad stayed in the Navy for nearly 30 years, and so our family moved often. We lived in Guam, Japan, Hawaii, Virginia, California, until he finally retired in Ashland, Oregon, where I finished high school.

An enlisted man’s salary didn’t go far when there were five kids to raise. My parents couldn’t give us much in the way of material possessions, but they made sure we knew the importance of family and honor, character and love.

Mom was the embodiment of perseverance in the face of adversity. She’d endured bombing raids and starvation during the war, TB during the occupation and racism when she came to the U.S. At that time it was hard for people to accept her.

“Gambaru,” she used to tell me, which is Japanese for “Never ever give up, even and especially when there’s no chance of winning.” She’d been raised Buddhist, but when she needed spiritual sustenance in America, she couldn’t find a temple. She finally found the Catholic church.

She didn’t know a word of Latin and her English wasn’t good either, but that didn’t stop her. She felt close to God in church, and that’s what mattered. Besides, she had me to tell her when to stand, kneel or sit during the service.

Life as a mixed-race child in a poor family wasn’t easy. “Ann, this is good for you,” Dad would say when I complained. “Trials and tribulations make you stronger.”

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I had the good fortune to meet Ann Curry two years ago when some work chums and I went to New York City to celebrate the end of a school year. On that particular morning, she (on the Today set) came over to speak to a couple celebrating their anniversary in the city. She spoke so sincerely and compassionately to them that all five of us were impressed. She told the husband to be sure to kiss his wife a lot, and we all liked that!

This story helps me to understand how and why she is such a genuinely caring person, one who wants to give voice to those who have no voice. Also, I love the attitude of both of her parents and am adopting "gambaru" as a new mantra.