My coworker Alan has a story he likes to tell about me and my unrelenting inquisitiveness. He says that when we first met, he thought my name was Doris and he thought I was so annoying because I kept asking him questions like “So where did you work before here?” “Where did you work before that?” “Have you worked in TV before?” “Did you ever work in newspapers?” He says that he initially thought he wouldn’t like me very much because I was so nosy. Of course, that went out the window – he’s practically my work spouse.
Anyway. I simply have an intense interest in how people have come to end up in the jobs they are so obviously made for. So I of course perked up when I saw that WaPo’s Howard Kurtz did a vignette about CBS News’ Byron Pitts:
“When I was your age,” he told them, “I couldn’t read.”
That was no exaggeration. When Pitts was 12, officials at Baltimore’s Archbishop Curley High School summoned his mother to report that tests had determined her son was “functionally illiterate.” She broke into tears.
“It was humiliating. It was awful,” Pitts says. “You sort of live your life in disguise. . . . When you live in the ‘hood, you have to wear a mask.” Pitts didn’t even consider his inability to read his biggest problem; he was far more upset over his constant stuttering.
How Pitts overcame that inauspicious start to excel in a profession built on writing and speaking is as good a story as any that he has covered. To this day, at a public event he will fight to get one of the first copies of a press release because he needs time to digest it. He says his wife can finish a book three or four times as fast as he can.
“I’m not ashamed of my reading difficulties, but I’m aware of my slowness,” says Pitts, 46.
I love stories like these. You know, we all know that we are continually surprised by how horrible people can be and how they can act. But I think its less known how amazing people can be and how far and gracefully they can overcome.