At, 52, Amanpour has spent most of her life outside of the United States.
Born to a British mother and Iranian father, she was raised in privilege in both places. But after the Islamic revolution, her family stopped returning to Iran, and, at age 20, Amanpour found herself looking for direction. It was then she first came to live in America to attend the University of Rhode Island.
After graduating in 1983, Amanpour made her way to Atlanta to work for the then-fledgling CNN. Jeanne Moos, a CNN veteran, remembered meeting her when she was but a junior writer who'd paid for her own way to attend the 1984 Democratic Convention in San Francisco in exchange for CNN getting her a floor pass.
"Even then you could tell she wasn't going to stay anyone's assistant for too long," said Moos, now a video columnist based in New York. "I saw ambition and smarts and go-getter qualities."
And more than a touch of star power. After convention hours, Moos said Amanpour invited her along to go dancing and play pool with "a college friend and his family." The friend turned out to be the late John F. Kennedy Jr. and the First Democratic Family.
Moos often teased Amanpour that she'd never make it in television in this country because of her British accent — another sore point with Washington insiders who privately wonder when she talks about the Tea Party in the lead-up to the interim elections this fall if some viewers won't assume she's just come from one.
But Moos dared anyone to underestimate Amanpour: "She didn't just make it in television. She became the most famous correspondent in the world."
Amanpour's career skyrocketed during the first Gulf War when the world was glued to CNN and she had a reliable spot doing stand-ups from the roof of the Dhahran International Hotel in Saudi Arabia. From then on her forte became covering war, terror, disease, disaster, and human rights violations. From Bosnia and Kosovo, her reports uncovered atrocities and argued for U.S. military intervention. At times she was criticized for setting a tone better suited to the partisan head of an NGO than a chief foreign correspondent.
Amanpour's admirers point to all her reporting awards and honors — enough to plaster the walls of her ABC offices in Washington and New York — as evidence of her ability to drill down fairly on any story.
At Tuesday's lunch, Karen Billings, an education software company executive who spotted Amanpour on the dais, said she was looking forward to watching her Sunday mornings but admitted it would be difficult getting used to her in a pantsuit "sitting behind a desk.
"Mostly," said Billings, 63, "I picture Christiane Amanpour wearing all that gear with bombs going off behind her."
"I asked if I could wear my safari suit," Amanpour said with self-mocking. "I'm not sure that it's going to fly."