» By TIFFANY HALL – thall29@my.apsu.edu

A person of great inspiration with a huge audience base, this year’s speaker at the annual Unity Celebration was Byron Pitts, a “60 Minutes” correspondent. The Clement auditorium was full of students, faculty, and the public for his speech on Monday, Feb. 20.

Pitts’ speech was not about the importance of being a news anchor, but about how people can achieve their goals through spiritual and mental power.

Pitts knows the struggles and hardships everyday people have to overcome. As a child he had a severe stutter that impaired his learning. At the age of 12, Pitts was found to be illiterate. His mother was told he needed to be institutionalized. Pitt described his mother as a typical southern woman: very determined.

After graduating 343 out of 346 in his all male Catholic High School, he went on to graduate 10th in his class at Ohio Wesleyan University. While there, retaking the English class he failed his first semester, he was told he did not belong and it would be best to drop out. While in the process for dropping out, he met a stranger who changed his life.

“She told me that before I left, to sleep on it and come talk to her in the morning. I did and she turned out to be a first year English professor. She helped me with English and get a start in life,” Pitts said.

She is now considered part of his family, and they have had several summer vacations at Martha’s Vineyard.

Since then, Pitts has interviewed six presidents, traveled to 49 countries, watched 51 people die and witnessed two executions.

“I make my living by covering death and I’ve made peace with that,” Pitts said.

He said his most impactful story thus far was Sept. 11.

Pitts said he has seen the worst and best of people. The terrorist attacks on Sept. 11 brought out some of the best in the people of America.

“Whites were helping blacks, Latinos were helping Italians – people were helping people.”

Pitts’ advice for APSU students is it does not matter what college you attend, or where you are from.

What matters is you are passionate and you do not minimize any experience.

Pitts’ book, “Step Out on Nothing,” was the common reading for this year’s freshmen class. Some students in attendance were required to be present for credit towards their APSU1000 class.

“I would have been here anyway,” said freshman Scott Murphy. “Reading the book and seeing the man in person are really two different things. Admitting his struggle and seeing where he is now gives all college students hope.

Jordan Davis, a junior Professional Writing major, said she was invited and was glad she came.

Rebeccah Bush, sophomore, said Pitts seemed like a very honest and real man.

Bush also said the most important thing Pitts said is having a life plan.

“Make a one year plan, a five year plan, and even a 10 year plan. Visualize where you want to be and be specific. Every dream has an address,” Pitts said. TAS