Sachi Koto, a former CNN anchor and Reinhardt alumna, spoke to a crowd of students, faculty and staff Nov. 2 in the Falany Performing Arts Center as part of the Community Gathering Series. Her presentation included an overview of her own personal history and how it affected barriers that she overcame later on in life.
Koto mentioned the event’s sponsor, Reinhardt’s Women’s Leadership Program as a key motivator to return to speak at the school.
“I have opportunities to come back often, for this and that, but it really intrigued me, because I’m so excited and so proud that the University has a woman at the helm. I think this is going to open up a lot of different opportunities, and we saw it today, where she has the Women’s Leadership program,” Koto said.
Koto began her presentation with some historical background on her own life. She is the daughter of two Japanese-Americans, and being raised in Georgia following the events of Pearl Harbor, she faced a lot of bigotry and hatred for her cultural heritage.
“I virtually put myself in the back of the bus with the other ‘colored’ people. I accepted being second-class, but I also hated myself,” Koto recalled, adding that she remembers telling her brother that she “wanted to die,” Koto said.
She told another story of a teacher that quite literally pointed her out in front of the class during a discussion of Pearl Harbor, and repeated over and over, “those d— sneaky Japs.”
After Koto said that her mother said that the word “Jap” was impolite, the teacher sent her out to the hallway, where another teacher comforted Koto and explained that she would have to be the one to forgive her teacher, for the teacher’s child had been killed during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
Koto highlighted this moment as one that impacted her thinking as the time when she realized that she would have to be the one to forget about her teacher and her hatred.
Her father also intervened at the time and told her how lucky she was to have heritage of two countries, rather than just one.
“You should love America, because you’re an American citizen,” her father would say, Koto emphasized that this statement came from a man that spent almost three years in an American internment camp.
By high school, Koto had friends and was even homecoming queen. She explained that the nurturing of her family’s housekeeper and her father was a primary reason for this turnaround in her life.
In 1974, her career began in radio, and quickly transitioned to television in 1975. There were not many women in either field, so Koto was somewhat of a trailblazer.
She spent almost a decade working on different shows in Atlanta and in Japan, before beginning her time with CNN Headline News, a job which she continued for sixteen years.
A year before her retirement in 2005, she attended Reinhardt and graduated as the valedictorian in 2004 with a B.A. in Communication.
As her presentation wrapped up, Koto encouraged students to pursue and refine their communication skills, citing a study that highlighted the importance of these skills in career advancement. Public speaking has become the focus of Koto’s career after she retired from television.
The fifth and final installment of Reinhardt’s Community Gathering series for the semester is scheduled for Nov. 16 and will be held in FPAC at 1 p.m. The speaker will be Rev. Ted Goshorn, who will be leading a Thanksgiving service.
Written By: Thomas May. Photo By: Thomas May