‘Every difficult moment is a teachable moment’

Erin Orsini

“You’re too slow.”

“No you can’t.”

“You’re not good enough.”

Those were the words Byron Pitts, contributing correspondent to CBS’ “60 Minutes” and chief national correspondent for “The CBS Evening News with Katie Couric,” heard while growing up.

Pitts spoke to a crowded room in Timken Great Hall at the University Centers at Kent State Stark last night. He shared his journey about personal obstacles of being illiterate until he was 12 and having a stuttering problem until he was 20.

“I was raised to believe that there’s no such thing as stumbling blocks in this life; only steppingstones,” he said. “Every difficult moment is a teachable moment.”

Pitts, a native of Baltimore, came from a single-parent household where he learned the concept of family early on in life.

He said he regards his mother, Clarice, as well as coaches, teachers, friends and even strangers as the individuals who planted seeds of kindness in his life.

Athletics carried Pitts onto Ohio Wesleyan, where he excelled on the football team. The classroom was another story.

During his freshman year in college, Pitts was told that he wasn’t “Ohio Wesleyan material” and almost dropped out of school.

However, Pitts remained enrolled in school, and with the help of others, he went on to receive two national Emmys, six regional Emmys, four Associated Press Awards and a National Association of Black Journalists Award.

His coverage on the Sept. 11 attacks also earned him an Emmy.

Pitts didn’t achieve these things on his own, though.

One late night during college, Pitts’ roommate noticed that Pitts never really participated in discussions. Pitts then told his roommate he had a stuttering problem.

From that day on, Pitts’ roommate gave him a new word from the dictionary every day. Pitts was to say the word, spell it out and then use it in a sentence.

These were the people who stepped out for nothing; people who had nothing to gain by helping Pitts get to where he is today, and he acknowledged that.

Pitts also asked the audience to step out for nothing and read to children in the community and donate books.

“People need to recognize the power of words because they can change lives,” he said.

When Pitts looks back on his journey, he remembers it’s all about having faith.

“I am an optimist by choice,” he said. “So I tend to look at everything and find some glimmer of hope in it. The easiest way to get where you want to go is knowing how you’re going to get there.”

Sophomore history major Glen Kreisher took more than extra credit points away with him after Pitts’ speech.

“I think you can gain a lot of inspiration from his story,” he said. “When he was 12, he was unable to read. Now, when you hear the guy talk right, he is very fluent and intelligent. That is just amazing.”

Pitts’ message of hardship spoke to the entire audience.

“I know struggle, but struggle has many different names,” he said. “People can get past that – there’s joy on the other side of struggle.”

Contact regional campuses reporter Erin Orsini at [email protected].