The already immensely busy Emmy-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien wishes more of the young women who attend her “PowHERful” conferences would hit her up for reference letters.

I caught up with O’Brien at her recent 2017 Twin Cities PowHERful Summit at Marriott City Center.

The summit works with a foundation co-founded by O’Brien with her husband, Brad Raymond, to give financial assistance and mentoring to young women who want to complete college. ECMC Group is one of the summit’s Twin Cities supporters.

This is Part 1 of my interview with the host of “Matter of Fact with Soledad O’Brien,” her TV show for thought-provoking conversations about important issues. There will probably be two videos, including one where we discuss the interview subject who got away, her beloved Luther Vandross.

Q: Why do you love taking your PowHERful Summits all over the country?

A: You know, it’s really fun to be with young women who have so much potential and are on the cusp of great things and to see them in all their confusion and all their anxiety and all their stress really trying to figure it out. And I love being able to gather women mostly, sometimes guys, to come and help them navigate the road ahead. I want them to know they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. There are a lot of people around them who’ve made dumb mistakes, big mistakes, and who can help them avoid some mistakes on the path to what they really want to do.

 

Q: Do any of these girls ever track you down for recommendations, reference letters?

A: Absolutely. Yes, students track me down and ask for recommendations. I wish more would. We encourage that. The bigger heartbreak for me is that a young woman wouldn’t. This is something they have done and committed to — it belongs on a résumé. This is something to talk about as you are thinking about applying to college. These are things that show your character if you are volunteering to come to a conference at 8 in the morning on a Saturday to learn how to be successful, how to underwrite your education, navigate spaces where you feel you don’t belong and stick it out when quitting might be a reasonable option.

 

Q: Are we ever going to see Brad at one of these events? I know he’s some of the money behind PowHERful.

A: More than the money, he’s the sanity behind it. The money’s good but the sanity of having someone say, “You know what, this is important. Do it.” He’s really good at that. The challenge rests with [having] four kids. So Brad’s day-to-day is 8 o’clock lacrosse practice for our twin boys [Jackson and Charlie], which he has to sit through and then at 10 o’clock he has to grab them to take them across town to a clinic they are doing. After the clinic he’s going to [take them] so they can finish up their school work. He’s going to juggle. And then our daughters are also in school. He’s going to watch a diving competition that Cecilia has, a squash competition that Sofia has. Cecilia’s going to stay at school but coming home for the weekend because she is not feeling so well. Brad is doing yeomen’s work on the personal stuff.

 

Q: Brad does more work than the average dad?

A: He’s not a babysitter; he’s that father of those children.

 

Q: It’s called parenting, I know.

A: Exactly. I don’t feel sorry for him. I am grateful that he looks at it as a shared experience. Listen, I will not lie to you, we have a ton of help. We have babysitters, I have an assistant who hops in to help, so we have zero complaining on this issue. What I appreciate is that he understands how valuable PowHERful is to me personally but as a whole to our nonprofit that we run. It’s a really important element, so he does what he can to support it. Today that means literally from 6 a.m. ’til 10 p.m. Parenting 101.

 

Q: How often do you say “Matter of Fact” to your kids?

A: I really don’t say it a lot because I think at [these ages] we’re not dealing in facts; we’re dealing in who’s in charge. So “Who’s in charge?” is something I probably quote a little bit more.

 

C.J. can be reached at cj@startribune.com and seen on Fox 9’s “Buzz.” E-mailers, please state a subject; “Hello” does not count.