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Ann Curry: ‘They call TV a shark tank, but I believe in the greater good of what we do’

Ann Curry was genetically designed to wait.

During the U.S. occupation of Japan following World War II, her father, a young American sailor, fell in love with a native. They wanted to marry, but the Navy, convinced he was making a terrible mistake, said no. It took two full years before Bob Curry was able to return to Japan and claim his bride, Hiroe Nagase.

Moral of the story: Good things come to those who wait. For Curry, the payoff begins today, when she takes over as Matt Lauer’s new co-anchor on ‘Today.’ Five years ago, she was passed over in favor of Meredith Vieira to succeed Katie Couric.

“There was a moment when I wished they would have asked me,” says Curry, 54, who joined ‘Today’ as news anchor in 1997. “I had a period of sadness. Then you go, ‘Wait a minute, I have a great job. How can I be so ungrateful to not be present with that?’ P.S. Meredith is a great woman.

“If NBC came to me today and said, ‘Ann, we’ve changed our minds,’ I’ve already won something that’s hard to describe.”

If talking were an Olympic sport, Curry would win a gold medal. The woman is a verbal freight train, albeit with a Zen conductor. She can’t be stopped by anything short of a friendly intervention.

“Hey, I’m down to one double espresso macchiato!” says the Guam-born Navy brat. “I used to drink five or six a day, and I’d mainline Hershey’s Kisses for breakfast. I was on the ceiling, a blur.”

She’s still “Curry in a hurry.” She receives hundreds of tweets a day from her 1.08 million

followers, and she follows 736 people. Her teenage son told her “it was lame to brag,” Curry says. “A couple of Congressmen need to know that information.”

Curry has won kudos for her humanitarian reporting from genocide-ravaged countries like Sudan and Darfur. In her new role, she’ll do fewer such stories, “but I’ve been assured by people I trust that I’ll be able to report in the way I have been, and that these stories will be highlighted in an even bigger way.”

It’s all part of what Curry sees as her life mission – to help others in need. (Her mother was Buddhist, her father Presbyterian. She was raised Catholic.)

“I’ve always thought of this as a service job. I’m as idealistic as they come. They call TV a shark tank, but I believe in the greater good of what we do. I want to be worthy of it.”

Worthiness comes with a price. For Curry, the eldest of five, “it’s easy to feel too deeply when they suffer. It’s traumatic every time. I cannot get enough of it. You have to be emotionally, physically and mentally healthy. The mistake in life is not feeling too much, it’s not feeling enough. Feeling too much is a better choice.”

After yesterday’s choreographed sendoff extravaganza for Vieira, Curry has nothing prepared for her anchor debut. No worries, she says, referencing Ginger Rogers’ most famous line.

“I’ll be dancing with a partner who is Fred Astaire. I’ve just got to be able to go backwards, in heels. And I do love to dance.”

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