THE BLOG

NBC's Brian Williams: Changing the World for the Better

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Several weeks ago Brian

Williams profiled the children of the Afghan Child Education and Care

Organization (AFCECO) and its founder Andeisha Farid in Kabul, Afghanistan for NBC Nightly News’ segment Making a Difference (video).

Brian is anchor and

managing editor of the NBC Nightly News

based in New York.  Last week, his show, including

the segment Making a Difference, had

9.5 million viewers.  The show spikes up

to 11 million viewers frequently.

I had interviewed the

orphanage’s founder Andeisha of Kabul in New York in September and have followed

her progress carefully.  I knew immediately

that Brian’s focus would have an enormous impact on her good work.

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As founder of Orphans International Worldwide, I am familiar

with running homes for children around the world – and the difficult task of

raising the fund necessary to do so.

What I did not grasp

about the piece on Making a Difference was

what an enormous difference it would

make – with so many contributions that flooded over the Internet to fund the

kids there from Brian’s generous viewers. 

He thanked them the following week (video).

I wanted to speak with

Brian about how good that must make him feel – and how this sense of

responsibility must now shape his life – so I asked him to call me, and he did.  Brian told me:

I was

really revved to do a piece on this orphanage in Afghanistan.  I wanted it to be seen by as many people as

possible – and luckily it was.  I was so

grateful – we raised much more for those children than we had thought possible.

I do

pieces on different topics.  We were in

Kabul when there was a huge loss of life at the U.N. and I wanted to do a story

after that which was ‘nice and hopeful.’ 

We had one day to do this feature piece, and it all just came together.

Sitting

there in our rental house in Kabul, I realized I had a personal enough relationship

with our viewers – who I felt could be very generous – to ask them to help

these kids.  And they did! 

The

cultural differences and similarities in the orphanage were enormous.  Little girls are little girls anywhere in the

world.  Thank God I have parented two

children, so it was the most natural of moments.

Switching

glasses with them, seeing them draw stars and hearts…  The children were so tactile, kind, loving,

affectionate, and gracious. 

I saw a

picture of Paul Stevers there on the wall, the founder of CharityHelp International

in the U.S. that provides a bridge between child sponsors and the children

there.

The kids

had a politeness, and order, a discipline – not like in Annie, but an attitude of accepting real responsibility – the way I

was raised.  It was so real.

On his blog, Brian had

posted the following after his viewers had been so generous:

I want to

say thank you -- and to express my ongoing appreciation at the amazing

generosity of our viewers.  We did a

follow-up on the orphanage in Afghanistan.

I was only

home from work for a few hours when we learned they had already received 500

e-mails from Nightly News viewers -- many of them offering donations and

pledges to sponsor a child. 

It is

immensely gratifying, and I’m beyond words in expressing my thanks and appreciation

on behalf of the lovely children we met over there.

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Brian Williams received individualized cards

from each of the children in Kabul.

“Although some are

one-time gifts, our experience tells us that many of the child sponsors will

continue to give for the next few years so the benefits of Brian’s efforts are

very substantial and will enable AFCECO to care for many more children,” Paul

Stevers, founder of CharityHelp

International
, told me.

CharityHelp

International is the Internet bridge that connects the children to child

sponsors around the world.  Orphans

International Worldwide, the charity I founded, relies on CharityHelp to fund

our kids in Haiti, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka.

“Security is an enormous

issue in Kabul,” Brian told me.  “In

Kabul, importance is measured by the size of your gate and the number of guns

you have.  I hope the orphanage there will

be able to spend more on security,” Brian added.

Clearly, the segment Making a Difference is making a

difference.  From one night a week, the

segment now airs up to five times a week.

“It was my wife’s idea,

honestly,” Brian shared.  “With the

economy sinking, she said, ‘Someone, somewhere is doing spectacular acts of

kindness – go capture them!’  And we

did,” Brian told me.

Making a Difference features mostly ordinary people, although it

has begun to also focus on celebrities using their visibility to also help

humanity.

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Quintessential thought leaders

and global citizen Brian Williams on the streets of Kabul.

Brian replaced Tom

Brokaw, one of his mentors, in 2004.  Previously,

Brian was the network’s chief White House correspondent and host of The News with Brian Williams on CNBC and

MSNBC.

After studying at

college, Brian took an internship with the administration of President Jimmy

Carter.  He holds an honorary doctor of

humane letters degree from one of my favorite schools, Bates College, and an

honorary Doctor of Journalism degree from Ohio State University.

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NBC Night News anchor Brian Williams

frequently reports from Afghanistan.

Brian is the most

honored network evening news anchor.  He

has received four Edward R. Murrow awards, his fifth Emmy award, the

DuPont-Columbia University award and the industry's highest honor, the George

Foster Peabody award.

Most were given for his

work in New Orleans while covering Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, and all

were awarded to Brian in only his second year on the job.

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Brian Williams of NBC Nightly

News with Afghani children in Kabul.

Brian was the first and

only network evening news anchor to report from New Orleans before Hurricane

Katrina hit and was the only network news anchor to report from the Superdome

during the storm. He remained in New Orleans to report on the aftermath and

destruction of Hurricane Katrina.

In 2006, Brian joined

Bono, traveling to three countries in Africa — Nigeria, Mali, and Ghana — to

report on the major issues facing the continent, including HIV/AIDS, poverty,

disease, and crushing debt.

In 1994, Brian was named

NBC News Chief White House correspondent. Accompanying President Clinton aboard

Air Force One, Brian circled the world several times, covering virtually every

foreign and domestic trip by the President until 1996.

On perhaps one of the

most historic trips of the Clinton presidency, Brian was the only television

news correspondent to accompany three U.S. presidents — Clinton, Bush, and

Carter — to Yitzhak Rabin's funeral in Israel.

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Brian is a member of the

Council on Foreign Relations in New York, and is also a member of the Board of

Directors of the Congressional Medal of Honor Foundation.  He has lectured at Columbia University School

of Journalism and the Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library in Austin,

Texas.

In 2007, Brian was

listed among Time Magazine’s 100 Most

Influential People in The World
.  He

lives in New Canaan, Connecticut, with his wife, Jane Stoddard Williams.

There is a reason “When

breaking news happens, America turns to NBC

Nightly News with Brian Williams.


America trusts Brian the way we once trusted Walter Cronkite.

“Walter Cronkite was the

architect for what this show has become,” Brian told me.  “Walter’s level of professionalism is what I

strive for every day.”

“I have been luckier

than most two have had two North Stars to follow – Walter Cronkite and Tom

Brokaw,” Brian admitted.

Like Walter and Tom, Brian

is the quintessential thought leaders and global citizen – and has thousands of

fans on Facebook

from around the world to prove it.

Today Brian Williams has

an enormous power – and a parallel responsibility – to help humanity.

Luckily for all of us, he

knows this well – and is highly focused on doing all that he can in his

position to change our world for the better.