Byron Pitts Talks Family, Faith, Dreams in MLK Commemoration Speech
Monday afternoon, NC State University held its annual Martin Luther King, Jr. commemoration to honor the beloved civil rights leader. The keynote speaker, ABC Nightline co-anchor Byron Pitts, intimately gave insight to his humble beginnings, growing up in east Baltimore and the struggles of striving toward an unbelievable dream.
“If your dreams only include you, your dreams aren’t big enough,”
The national TV personality discussed vividly his upbringing in the heart of one of America’s toughest cities and the treasured moments spent in his family’s hometown of Friendship, North Carolina.
At a young age, Pitt’s was faced with seemingly insurmountable challenges ranging from learning disabilities to a severe speech impediment. Given his dream of being a journalist, odds such as being illiterate until the age of 12 and a stuttering problem marked his youth with setbacks and frustration.
“I was a freshman college student on academic probation, yet me and my mother prayed that I would be on 60 minutes one day,” he said in the 30 minute speech which used stories from his past to illustrate the keys to achieving ones dream.
He explained that his faith and the strong support system of his family are largely responsible for his success.
“I’m Baptist, my mother was Baptist,” he said. “Faith has definitely sustained me through some of the most difficult times of my life.”
Pitts’ first break working for a major network came in 1997 when he became a CBS 24-hours news correspondent with CBS. Through the course of his impressive career he has received many accolades including multiple Emmys and being named the “National Association of Black Journalists”, journalist of the year.
He obtained his current position at ABC in April of 2013. He says that all of his success started with a dream.
“Every dream has an address,” said Pitts. “Once you know where you’re going, you can get there.”
He explained how he’d visited the 60 Minutes studios 15 years before he finally got the job. “I would go and walk around the place,” he said. “I was measuring for the drapes and deciding which office would be mine.”
Today, Pitts says he enjoys opportunities to share his story with people of all ages, and informed the audience of the obstacles and success of one special pen-pal, Pilar. Pilar was a little girl he met during a visit to a school in Baltimore. That day, he said, she asked one question that left a lasting impression on him: ‘Where do you go, where do you hide when the world hurts too much?’
Similar to Pitts, Pilar was diagnosed with learning disorders; her mother also abandoned her at the age of 10. Pitts remains in touch with her and has become a close mentor. Through Pilar’s hard work and encountering the right people, she is now a high school senior whom will attend college in the fall.
Pilar’s story and others brought to life a MLK commemoration message centered around the power of endless hope and big dreams.