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My Mentor: Lesley Stahl

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I am definitely a living example of luck - right time, right place. In college I had heard about a part time job on the weekends at CBS News' Washington Bureau. I lunged at the chance -I should have suspected something when I found no one else had applied. But they were wrong and I was right. From the moment I walked into the bureau, it was the greatest seduction of all time. Two weeks after the Watergate break-in, I was working at CBS News. I was living in a dorm and staking out the attorney general of the United States, President Richard Nixon's closest advisors and key Senators investigating Watergate. I was living and learning in the middle of one of history's most incredible journalistic adventures.

I was hired full time, while still a full time student. Who could turn it down? I can make it work. I noticed a tiny desk in the back hallway - a little messy but so tiny it looked like something out of Alice In Wonderland. It was CBS News reporter Lesley Stahl's. When I finally met the fully grown adult woman who occupied this itty bitty desk - I got it. She was the girl in the guy's world. Gender had never occurred to me until I saw it in play. But it became irrelevant. Stahl was a workhorse, passionate, driven to find out the truth about Watergate and the White House involvement. When I was lucky (there's that word again) enough to be hired full time - I was really lucky - Lesley Stahl became my mentor.

I saw her work and, through sheer force of will, through a world that wasn't ready for her...but she was ready for it. Stahl was relentless and taught me that was really only the way to be. Stahl has gone on to become a legend in television news. She's covered the White House, campaigns, special assignments and of course now "60 Minutes." Lesley pushed me past the anxieties I had as the youngest person in the room. She would say, "you're not really a person till you're 25." In fact, she threw a coming-out party on my 25th birthday. Only problem, I couldn't make it. The Hanafi Muslims had taken over several buildings in Washington, D.C. and were holding hostages. I was pinned down by men with guns opposite the B'nai B'rith International Center in the middle of the nation's capitol. . I guess it was a very "Lesley Stahl" type of experience and so my coming out party was just a different kind of party.

Lesley taught me about drive - how if you aren't excited about getting to work everyday, get a different job. She taught me that "NO" is hello. Lesley taught me about how everyday learning something new was a gift. I watched with awe when she became the White House correspondent. Lesley was one of the toughest White House reporters ever.

The planets were aligned and Stahl and I got to work together for more than 20 years. Watergate, "CBS Morning News," the White House during Presidents Carter and Reagan and even "48 Hours," my current gig as executive producer.

I carry around two notes in my wallet and both are from Lesley. They talk about friendship, work and beating the odds. One is from as far back as the '70's (it contains language not appropriate for public consumption), but both notes remain, as she does, a great inspiration for me.


January is National Mentoring Month. Most successful people say they had mentors along the way who guided and encouraged them. The Harvard Mentoring Project has been conducting videotaped interviews and collecting written essays in which prominent people from various fields talk about their mentors. Who mentored you? --The Harvard Mentoring Project

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