I knew it was going to be a grand affair when I heard the bagpipers. In a moment, the entire kilt-wearing Queen’s band entered Wallace hall to the rhythmic beat of drums. The day was October 23rd and I had returned to my alma mater Queen’s University for the alumni awards gala. Amongst the people being honoured was CNN’s Ali Velshi who received the Alumni Achievement Award – the highest honour bestowed by the Queen’s University Alumni Association.
Before he became the Chief Business Correspondent for CNN, Ali Velshi was a student activist at Queen’s University, mediating conversations on pertinent social issues between the administration and the student body. He graduated in 1994 with a degree in Religious Studies and began his television career in Toronto as a business anchor for CP24. By 2001, he had joined the financial news division of CNN and began his meteoric rise up the Turner media ladder. As the Queen’s community prepared to honour him, I reached out to Ali for an interview with AmmazingSeries. Inspite of the fact that his schedule was packed with speaking engagements and meetings, he agreed to talk to me.
As the day progressed, my interview seemed to be in jeopardy. The students’ excitement at having Ali Velshi in their company was evident because programs run past schedule and the allotted time for my interview passed. At the reception, whilst people surrounded Ali to discuss his award and his accomplishments, I made dodgy attempts to wink at him and pull him aside. My efforts were futile and my heart sunk to the point where I could not even bring myself to nibble on the intricately crafted hors d’oeuvres. Just as I reached for a glass of wine to drown my disappointment, Ali came by and said “I owe you an interview.” With those calming words, I retreated from the alcohol appeased, because i knew that no matter what, he was going to honour his word.
Ali is just as you see on TV; enthusiastic, keen to learn and the life of the party. He leans gently into conversations as if to pay closer attention to what is being said and laughs heartily to jokes. At half past 10 when the camera started rolling for my interview, he opened up about his life. As I listened to him, I understood why he was nominated for such a distinguished award. I also understood the pride behind his family’s resounding applause. They had escaped apartheid South Africa, via Nairobi to Canada, and tonight, one of their own was the toast of the town! The standing ovation was a sight to behold. Stay tuned for the full interview on Saturday.
You can watch Ali Velshi weekdays on CNN from 1-3pm ET, Saturdays @ 1pm ET and Sundays @ 3pm ET