I mentioned Barbara Walters to a class of high school students once and they had no idea who I was talking about. I couldn’t believe it! How could anyone not know such an incredibly famous icon of American journalism? She was humble, talented, and she became a part of the homes that turned on the television to see her reporting.
Anticipating a Good Show
In defense of my students, I grew up in a different time. I didn’t have satellite TV until I was in high school. There was no DVR or streaming. Even if there had been streaming, we didn’t have internet. So the build up of anticipation to a good show coming on once a week was quite different than it is now.
I knew Barbara Walters from 20/20. My mom would watch it every Friday night, and I was right by her side. I couldn’t wait for 20/20. I wanted to be Barbara Walters. She was smart and fierce in a quiet, composed way. She didn’t seek attention, didn’t dress extravagantly or act foolishly, yet all eyes were on her. You never knew what she might ask or what the response might be in return. Always, she was professional. She seemed so down to earth that it actually felt like she was in the room with you. She seemed kind, and patient, and understanding but yet not afraid to challenge someone – anyone. Conversations became powerful.
Greatest of all Time
Barbara Walters interviewed every United States president and first lady from Nixon to Obama. She also interviewed Trump and Biden before they were presidents. Other big name interviews included Fidel Castro, Monica Lewinsky, Lucille Ball, Priscilla Presley, Michael Jackson, Dolly Parton, Taylor Swift, Frank Sinatra, and Johnny Carson. Her skill was evident, but I was just a kid. I had no idea that she was a “legend” or the “greatest of all time” or a “trailblazer for women.”
Tears of Remembrance
I only saw her on a screen. She was a stranger. I don’t obsess over celebrities. I don’t have a favorite singer or actress. So I asked myself tonight, why in the world are you crying over the passing of Barbara Walters? Actual tears! Am I losing it officially at the end of a hard 2022? No, my tears are an appropriate response to a deserving person who really connected that well with her audience.
Barbara Walters did two things for me. She gave me an example of the success and meaning a life can have using the power of words to connect with others. And she gave me a dedicated, carved out time where I knew that I would be sitting in that small living room with my mom. You don’t realize the significance of things like this when you are young. But even now I can remember the way that I felt when the show would come on; happy, close to my mom, sort of grown up but mostly not.
No matter what happened during the week, no matter if there was an argument between us, I knew that Friday night I would be watching 20/20 with my mom. And it would be a time I didn’t really have to share with my siblings. It was special. It felt like it was just our time. So Barbara Walters passing reminds me of all those Friday nights. Barbara Walters is a flood of memories with my mom, and I’m grateful for all of them.
Most of us have trouble juggling. The woman who says she doesn’t is someone whom I admire but have never met.
Life sometimes brings enormous difficulties and challenges that seem just too hard to bear. But bear them you can, and bear them you will, and your life can have a purpose.
Fight the big fights.Barbara Walters