At all the campuses of CCBC, it is a core value that we celebrate diversity. We share our similarities and celebrate our differences, and the month of February is no exception. In honor of celebrating Black History Month, an annual event in conjunction with the President’s office, Multicultural Affairs, and the Office of Student Life present to both faculty and students the President’s Distinguished African American lecture within the Student Life Spotlight Speaker Series. This year Byron Pitts of ABC News was the keynote speaker.
Dr. Sandra Kurtinitis, President of CCBC, stated in her introduction of Byron Pitts, “This is an important part of CCBC’s celebration of Black History Month. This lecture is designed to pay tribute to the life, the talents, the achievements, and the history of the African American people, by showcasing the specific talents, and impressive achievements of one African American who has achieved greatness or fame in a specific field. So how special it is for us then today to have right here on one of our campuses, our special speaker, Mr. Byron Pitts.”
“My mother always said, every dream has an address, you can’t get to where you want to go unless you know where that place is, and the moment you see it, only then it is possible.” Pitts continues, “I am an optimistic person by nature, and I think optimism is a choice you have to make; it seems to me in this life that we have very few choices that we can make freely on our own, and I think choosing to be optimistic is one of those, and that’s why I like the phrase, ‘Count it all joy.’ ”
Byron Pitts, recently named Chief National Correspondent for ABC News, was also a Contributing Correspondent to CBS’ 60 Minutes, previously worked at CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, and is the author of his book, Step Out On Nothing. Byron Pitts speaks about, and tells the story of his life, and how several notable individuals in his life would “Step Out On Nothing,” to encourage and empower him through, determination, and perseverance, to excel to become a multiple Emmy award-winning journalist, and who has become one of the most highly respected, informative, and effective journalists in the news world today.
However, it had not always been an easy journey to where he has arrived today. Born in Baltimore, Md. to a single mother in a working class neighborhood, Pitts struggled severely in school. In the early years of his life, he was plagued by many obstacles. Pitts dealt with illiteracy until the age of 12, and in middle school it had been suggested to his mother, through testing the school had conducted, that her son may be “mentally retarded,”(Byron’s words). She said “Test him again,” and once again the staff came to the same conclusion. But this diagnosis could not have been further from the truth. Pitts also dealt with a vocal impairment of stuttering up until his junior year at college, an issue that with the help of his roommate would soon be remedied. Pitts had attended Baltimore’s Archbishop Curly Catholic High School, learned to read effectively, and then moved on to attend Ohio Wesleyan University. Pitts graduated in 1982 with a BA in Journalism and Speech Communication.
Pitts found inspiration for the title of his book attending a women’s sermon on one Sunday morning, and the Pastor stated, “Step out on nothing. And for people of faith, the suggestion was in difficult moments and struggle, we all have struggle. Step out on your faith,” Pitts explained. Non-believers may say you’re stepping out on nothing. But for those who believe in a force greater than themselves, it’s the notion you step out on your faith, and it will sustain you through your difficult moments.”
Speaking with students and faculty members on campus, both seemed to have very similar views on Mr. Pitts’s inspirational and eloquent speech. Anna Stephens, a student at CCBC Essex said, “I really enjoyed Byron Pitts speech, to me it was extremely motivational, and convinced me to never give up on my dreams no matter how far-fetched they may be. He faced many obstacles in his life, but that’s what motivated him to be successful.”
Dr. Larry Coleman, Director of Multicultural Affairs at CCBC, who had initially invited Mr. Pitts to speak stated, “I thought he was a great speaker, he was very personable, and has established a nice rapport with the students. He had a high level of confidence in his abilities to become successful, and attributed his achievements, much to his faith, and to the support of his mother, as well as other members of the academic community. I think this resonates with the students here at CCBC in the sense that they need support; they need someone to help build their confidence, and to let them know that they are capable of tremendous achievements.”
Throughout his career, Byron Pitts has travelled to 49 countries, has interviewed the last 6 Presidents of the United States, both in, and out of office, covered 3 wars, and at last count, has unfortunately, seen 39 people die, 2 executions, one of which was Timothy McVeigh. He was also the lead correspondent at ground zero immediately following the September 11th attacks on the World Trade Centers, just to name a few.
After Mr. Pitts’s speech, Dr. Kurtinitis noted that, “I am very proud to host the President’s African American Lecture Series each year. At CCBC, the multiple levels of diversity within our college community reflect the diverse communities that we serve. We believe that celebrating our differences actually strengthens our sense of community rather than dilutes it. Byron Pitts proved an especially powerful presenter as his personal story is both triumphant and uplifting, wrapped with a mantra of believe in a power greater than yourself, a faith so strong that anything is possible.”
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