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Byron  Pitts

Byron Pitts

Emmy Award-Winning Co-Anchor of ABC's Nightline & Best-Selling Author

Biography

Byron Pitts is an award-winning journalist who has covered some of the most horrific and dangerous news stories in the world, from Sept. 11 to Hurricane Katrina to the Boston Marathon to wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Add to that, an even harder childhood. But despite all these experiences, he remains an optimist by choice. It’s his superpower, he says. Read More >

That amazing attitude, which he contributes to his mother who taught him that strength only comes through struggle, as well as deep faith, has led him to incredible success in his profession and as a human being.

But it wasn’t always that way. Byron was functionally illiterate until around 12 years old and had a stutter—both that made him an easy target for bullies. Fortunately, his family matched his discomfort with love and support, he says. Instead of falling apart, it made him hyper-focused on success in his chosen field—journalism.

And what a career it has been. Byron was named co-anchor of ABC News’ Nightline in 2014. He has covered national news stories and in-depth features for the network, reporting across the news division, including Good Morning AmericaWorld News Tonight with David MuirThis Week and 20/20.

He is a multiple Emmy award-winning journalist and news veteran with over 20 years of experience. He’s known for his thoughtful storytelling, on-the-ground reporting and in-depth interviews. After less than 24 hours at ABC News, Byron immediately joined the network’s live special coverage of the Boston Marathon bombing investigation. Since then, Byron has gone on to report live from Baltimore, Dallas and Baton Rouge, La., during each city’s riots and protests. He also co-anchored a special edition of Nightline with Juju Chang from Los Angeles looking back on the city 25 years after the riots that broke out following the Rodney King verdict.

During the 2016 election, Byron was a key part of the network’s coverage, from the Republican and Democratic National Conventions and the first presidential debates to seven hours of live election night coverage. In the 30 days leading up to the election, Byron traveled around the country for Inside the Final 30, a daily docu-series produced by Nightline, to speak with voters as they were coming to their final decisions about who should be the nation’s next President. It took viewers behind the scenes on the campaign trail and focused on the issues that matter most to Americans as well as revisited key moments that shaped the direction of the race.

Prior to joining ABC News, Byron spent 15 years at CBS News where he served as Chief National Correspondent for The CBS Evening News, a 60 Minutes correspondent and won an Emmy for his coverage of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. He was named the National Association of Black Journalists Journalist of the Year in 2002. His 2009 memoir, Step Out on Nothing: How Faith and Family Helped Me Conquer Life’s Challenges chronicled his journey overcoming illiteracy and a stutter to become a journalist. In 2017, Byron profiled six young adults that overcame hardship with hope in his book Be the One.

Byron began his career at WNCT-TV in Greenville, N.C., where he covered local news and served as weekend sports anchor. He graduated from Ohio Wesleyan University in 1982, where he studied journalism and speech communication. Byron is a native of Baltimore and currently lives in New York City.

Byron’s always-look-on-the bright-side-of-life attitude, plus his in-depth experience and talent as a storyteller, journalist and researcher has made him an in-demand speaker. He motivates, inspires and informs and delivers a powerful message of believing in yourself and your dreams, and overcoming great obstacles on your way to success. Read Less ^

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Speech Topics

No Excuses: How to Incorporate DEI at Your Organization

Throughout his career, Byron Pitts has never been known to be silent. If he sees something wrong, he addresses it. And when it came to diversity, equity and inclusion of off-air talent at ABC where he is co-anchor of Nightline, he knew he had to do something about it. Byron worked with the management of the broadcast company to address the problem. The result was the creation of a DEI advisory council for ABC’s parent company—the Walt Disney Company—to help change the culture across all of its brands. Byron leads the group. In this keynote, Byron shares his story, what DEI looks like and how to achieve it. He truly believes it’s something everyone needs to fight for. When speaking about the legacy of the late Civil Rights Icon John Lewis, Pitts said it best. “John Lewis knew success and setbacks because he believed so deeply in America, fought so courageously. We have no excuse to do any less, wherever we stand.”

Education: The Most Powerful Weapon

For famed journalist Byron Pitts, his proudest moment wasn’t when he won any of his many awards Instead, it was the first time Byron, who was functionally illiterate until the age of 12, was able to read a note sent home from school to his mom. They both cried tears of joy. That is how much education meant to his family. His mother knew it could change the trajectory of his life. And it’s something that he still deeply believes in today. In this inspiring presentation, Byron motivates students and educators, alike, to believe in their dreams, the transformative power of education for themselves, their families and communities, and that the American dream still can come true, when you open your mind and heart to learning.

The Impact of Illiteracy on Healthcare

Award-winning journalist Byron Pitts knows what it is like to be functionally illiterate. He struggled with reading until he was 12, when his mom learned that Byron needed help. Through those years, he labored to keep up at school and life—everything was more challenging. He’s not alone. According to the National Center for the Study of Adult Learning and Literacy, over 40% of American adults lack proficiency in literacy—reading below the equivalent of a sixth-grade level. Studies have also shown the relationship between low literacy and adverse health outcomes. Patients with low literacy tend to have less health-related knowledge, receive less preventive care, have poorer control of their chronic illnesses, are hospitalized more frequently than other patients and have a higher mortality rate. In this talk, Byron shares his personal struggles with literacy and offers solutions on how healthcare practitioners can recognize the problem  and help those who are struggling to read in order to get the best quality care.

Step Out on Nothing: Overcoming Insurmountable Hardships

It was August 25, 2006, Byron Pitts’ first on-camera studio open for the CBS News broadcast 60 Minutes. Executive Producer Jeff Fager poked his head into the dressing room. “Good luck, Brotha! You've come a long way to get here. You've earned it." …If only he knew. Though growing up with separated parents and a mother who consistently worked two jobs to make ends meet was tough, many thought Byron Pitts’ biggest misfortune was that he suffered from a debilitating stutter. But Byron was keeping an even more embarrassing secret: He was also functionally illiterate. For a kid from inner-city Baltimore, it was a recipe for failure. Pitts turned struggle into strength and overcame both of his impediments. Along the way, a few key people "stepped out on nothing" to make a difference for him. From a challenged youth to a reporting career that has covered 9/11 and Iraq, Pitts's triumphant and uplifting story will resonate with anyone who has felt like giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable hardships. In this inspiring keynote address, Byron Pitts chronicles his astonishing story of overcoming a childhood filled with obstacles to achieve enormous success in life and the people who helped him along the way.

Embrace the Suck

While working as a war correspondent in Afghanistan, award-winning journalist Byron Pitts learned a new expression from members of the military: Embrace the suck. What it means, he says, is that when things are tough—even horrendous—not only should you accept the difficulties but also make the best of them. Since that time, this philosophy has served Byron well and can do the same for you. In this keynote, Byron shares the story of his mom’s journey with dementia and cancer and how his family “embraced the suck” while caring for her. It’s a story of hope and lessons that you can apply if you are a caregiver for anyone you love.

On the Frontlines

When it comes to covering national and international affairs, from elections to riots to wars, award-winning journalist Byron Pitts has just about seen and done all. A consummate reporter, he has taken his skills as a journalist to the highest level. In this fascinating keynote, Byron talks about current national events and the politics of today from an observer’s point of view. He’ll share some of his favorite stories from his career, and discuss what’s happening now and why you need to care about it. If you’ve dreamed of becoming a journalist or want an insider’s view of American politics or national affairs, this talk is for you.

What Faith Has Meant in My Life

What’s Byron Pitts’ secret to success? For this award-winning journalist, it’s his faith. He is unabashedly Christian and proud of it, although he deeply respects other faiths. It has helped in good times and bad and has been fundamental to who he is. In fact, he calls it his “secret sauce.” In this inspiring keynote, Byron shares his personal story of faith, the important role it has played in his life and how it sustains him. Byron’s triumphant and uplifting story of faith will resonate with anyone who has felt like giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable hardships.