"I know that in all the darkest, loneliest moments of my life, when I felt the world was against me and the winds of conventional wisdom were in my face, in those moments, God held me in the palm of His hand"
From "Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life's Challenges" 2009
ABC's Byron Pitts grew up in Baltimore as a poor, functionally illiterate, chronic stutterer.
Possibly, someone Donald Trump might call a 'loser.' But think again.
Pitts' against-all odds transformation to network news correspondent, anchor and 'Nightline' host would have seemed impossible. But today, he covers national news stories and in-depth features for the network, including "Good Morning America," "World News with Diane Sawyer," "Nightline," "This Week" and "20/20". reports for all ABC News digital properties including ABCNews.com.
Previously, he spent more than a decade at CBS News, anchoring and reporting for the 'CBS Evening News,' and '60 Minutes.' Along the way, he's won national and local Emmys and Associated Press awards for covering cataclysmic events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina.
But what kept him focused, against long odds, as he grew up? Three years ago, while making the transition from CBS News to ABC News, he told Adweek's TVNewser:
“My prayer since I was 18 was, ‘Lord, make me good enough to work at ’60 Minutes’ someday.’ Those are the exact words. … My prayers were answered. My faith constantly reminds me that God can see beyond our greatest desires for ourselves.”
I met Byron Pitts as he keynoted the College Media Association's Annual Conference in New York's Sheraton Times Square. Slight, fit, dynamic, and energetic, Pitts acknowledged thunderous applause from more than 150 aspiring journalists from across the country.
"How're you doing?" he asked.
"Fine!" said the crowd.
He chuckled and shook his head.
"Here's how you should answer the question," he said. "You're living the dream. You're not just 'fine.' You're in the greatest city in a great hotel, doing something you love and pursuing your passion. You're not just 'fine.' You ought to say LIVING THE DREAM." Let's try that again."
The crowd complies..."LIVING THE DREAM!"
Indeed, the aspiring journalists were living the dream. Pitts even gave the students his cell number, and if ever he could help them out, please call.
I felt an immediate kinship upon meeting Byron Pitts.
I overcame stuttering and temporary deafness between ages 6-10, growing up to compete in a world of seemingly diction-perfect broadcasters and reporters. I asked him what it took to overcome his stuttering.
He told me there were still phrases he stayed away from, but relaxation and breathing were also important in making sure his diction and pacing were sound.
But it's his unshakeable faith in God, and God's purposes for his life, that truly shaped his foundation and helped him overcome the impossible.
And now, he shares with others what he has learned about life, faith, and living the dream.
I asked him to be a part of Token Female's 'Five Questions With..." series. He graciously compiled:
1. Why did you fall in love with journalism? Was there a moment, or an experience, that turned the tide for you?
I believe God has a purpose for each of us. I believe mine is to be a journalist/storyteller. Because of my early struggles with literacy and speech I believe those are my gifts. As a child I understood deeply what it meant to feel voiceless. Today as a journalist I get to give voice to the voiceless.
2. You had an amazing support network in overcoming stuttering and illiteracy...your family and God. What do you say to those who need to overcome something, but have neither? And possibly, are drowning in their own bitterness?
My mother always said "If you work hard and pray hard and treat people right, good things will happen." There have been many times in life when I've gone looking for help and support and found none. But every time I look to God - He sends someone. I'm a firm believer if each of us will do the best we can, stay positive - good people will find us. And something else my grandmother taught me: "The only way God can give you more is if you open up your arms and give away what you have." So if you're feeling lonely, friendless, need help - help someone else - be a friend to someone else - comfort someone who is lonely. It's amazing how 'giving' feeds the soul.
3. You've accomplished so much. What more do you want to achieve in this life?
I recently discover my purpose beyond journalism: Encourage People. That simple. It gives me joy.
4. Every person who leads the kind of life you do needs some down time. What do you do to unwind?
I pray, talk to God and read my Bible every morning. Write down 5-things I'm grateful for each day. I love action movies, pop corn at home, gospel music and a round of golf with friends. Working out - bicycling - bring me joy
5. You and your wife Lyne have five children. Both of you have had accomplished, successful careers in broadcasting and media. How on earth did you balance raising them with your jobs?