WATERVILLE – Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, a renowned foreign correspondent for National Public Radio, was honored as the 59th recipient of the Lovejoy Award from Colby College on Sunday night.

Given to recognize courageous journalism, the award has been bestowed annually in memory of Colby graduate Elijah Parish Lovejoy, who was killed in 1837 for condemning slavery and is considered America’s first martyr to freedom of the press.

College President William D. Adams praised Nelson as an “undaunted chronicler of wars and revolutions” who lived up to the actions of Lovejoy.

Nelson, who is covering the Arab world for NPR, tried to define what being courageous actually means for journalists.

“Most of us try and emulate the journalistic tradition of commitment and courage that Elijah Parish Lovejoy set the standard for. But in many places, the dangers of doing so are as great now as they were during his time,” she said.

She told of being blinded by tear gas while reporting on the recent Arab Spring uprising, and of pleading with black-clad gunmen to let her go free in Iraq in 2004.

“Extreme danger inevitably leads to soul-searching about why we do what we do and whether it’s even worth it,” she said after reading off the names of colleagues who have died during the 11 years she has worked in war zones.

Still, Nelson told the crowd that it is the people she meets while reporting who are the real brave ones, referring to Arab women who knowingly risk their lives to fight for equality from repressive regimes.

“The travails I’ve faced in conflict zones seem trivial when compared to the hardships of the people I’ve had the privilege to report on,” she said. “They’ve allowed me to record their most raw moments and feelings, often in places where ‘foreigner’ is synonymous with ‘enemy.’ “

During her speech, Nelson answered her own question about the soul-searching done by journalists.

“I became a foreign correspondent because I wanted to connect Americans to the rest of the world through compelling storytelling,” she said.

“Looking back at what I’ve faced in places like the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya, I feel it’s been worth it, both for myself and those informed by my work.”

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer David Robinson can be contacted at 861-9287 or at:

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