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Strength Comes from Struggle, Pitts says during King Commemorative Program

CBS News correspondent Byron Pitts was the keynote speaker at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., commemorative program January 28, 2010.

“If there’s a shortcut to success, it’s through hard work,” CBS correspondent Byron Pitts said Thursday evening in Fisher Auditorium. “Strength only comes from struggle.”

The keynote speaker for this year’s Martin Luther King, Jr., commemorative program, titled “Stepping Out on Nothing: The Future Meets the Present,” Pitts emphasized the need for faith—and people who have faith in you—to get through life’s struggles.

Pitts, known for his work as chief national correspondent for the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric and as a contributing correspondent for 60 Minutes, spoke of his own struggles through youth and into adulthood.

Raised by a single mother and illiterate until age twelve, he shared stories of life, learning, and those who were willing to “step out on nothing” for him—the people who helped him to succeed despite having nothing to gain from it.

“I believe in the power of dreams, faith, hard work, and, occasionally, stepping out on nothing,” he said.

“Dream big but plan small,” he said, stressing the need to have a dream and to work toward it. “The only way you get to where you want to go is to know where you’re going.”

Having attended Ohio Wesleyan University, Pitts spoke of an English professor who told him he was wasting his time in college, and he would be better off to quit. He also told of a professor who, that same day, reached out to him, encouraged him, and, eventually, helped him to graduate.

Voices of Joy performs at the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., commemorative program January 28, 2010

“There is a story of struggle in all our lives,” he said. “But strength only comes from struggle. See it as an opportunity to grow.”

Pitts also took questions from the audience on topics ranging from his recent work in Haiti to his feelings toward journalism and career pointers for future broadcast journalists.

The King commemorative program, presented by the African American Cultural Center, included performances by the IUP Voices of Joy choir, the African Dance Ensemble, and other IUP and community groups.

—By Megan Guza, student writer

—Photography by Keith Boyer, university photographer