tv Tavis Smiley PBS April 27, 2011 12:00am-12:30am PDT
tavis: good evening from new york. i'm tavis smiley. tonight a conversation with the "cbs evening news" anchor, katie couric. speculation of her future plans is a hot topic of the media world. reports indicate she may be pursuing a daytime talk vehicle. the veteran journalist also is out with a new text called "the best advice i ever got." we're glad you have joined us. a conversation with katie couric coming up right now. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james. >> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer. nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and remove
obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. [captioning made possible by kcet public television] tavis: please welcome katie couric to this program. she is, of course, the anchor for the "cbs evening news" and a contributor for "60 minutes." this friday she will be anchoring cbs's coverage to have royal wedding from london. her book is called "the best advice i ever got." katie couric, i'm honored to have you on this program. >> thank you, tavis. i'm honored to be here. tavis: i love this book.
>> i'm so happy you do. i hope a lot of other people do. as you know, all my pleads go to scholarship america. i thought that was a nice way to pay it forward since the whole genesis of this book was a graduation speech. now hopefully a lot of kids who couldn't otherwise afford to go to college will be able to do so if people purchase it. tavis: i know you came on for my invitation to talk about the text. i promise i will spend the overwhelming majority -- underline that phrase. the overwhelming majority talking about the book but you may have heard, you made a little news today. >> yes, i heard that. i heard that. i made it so i did hear it. tavis: you made a little news. what do you want to tell me about this decision? it is official now. >> yeah, yeah. listen. i think it was pretty much -- tavis: the worst kept secret. >> it was clear and it was sort of, i didn't mean to be coy. i just didn't want to jump the gun on any kind of announcement and i wanted to be respectful of
my successor at the evening news but i will be stepping down as anchor and managing editor. my contract ends at the end of may. tavis: so what is next? error i'm not sure. i'm still kind of mulling my opportunities for the future. i'm really excited about the future and i absolutely loved anchoring the "cbs evening news." i have been working with some incredible people for the past five years who i respect and admire very much including my executive producer rick caplain who is just the consummate news man and my other associates but i think that i'm excited about the future and about doing something that is a little more in my wheelhouse. while it was such a privilege to sit in that chair that once was occupied by walter cronkite, you know, it is a pretty confining
venue and i think i'm looking forward to doing what i think i do best, which is interacting with people. interviewing people. having more extended conversations. tavis: sounds like a daytime talk show. >> that's something i've been looking at. i haven't decided completely that's what i would like to pursue but it certainly does seem like that might be a really good venue for my particular skill set. tavis: you're not trying to be coy again? >> i'm not trying to be coy, tavis. i'm saying outright that is something i'm considering. that might be exciting for me. tavis: top of the list or on the list? >> i would say top of the list. tavis: i've known you for a few years and have always been honored to consider myself as one of your large group of friends. you asked me to write a piece for the book. >> yours is excellent. don't get all modest on me, tavis.
tavis wrote about sort of success scars and we entitled your essay "failing better" you quoted samuel beckett. you pointed out that everyone who is a success has failed repeatedly and you have to figure out how to look at failure in a different way. you even talk about michael jordan, which i have quoted on a number of shows. i mention your essay and talk about how many shots he has missed and games he has lost and winning points he has failed to get and at the end of it the nike anchdnch, he says i'm a success. tavis: we'll talk about the cbs thing. >> i thought we were making that move. tavis: you were trying tmake that.
just for a second and then back to the book. i've only known you to be pretty authentic and upfront and direct and honest. when you said to me that you actually loved anchoring the "cbs evening news." can you deconstruct that more me? because i think you were in the chair, not me. just on the outside looking in. i've looked at the way -- things that were cede said about you. the times that you were mall treated, i thought. the sexism i thought you were treated with on a number of occasions. did you mean to say you loved it? >> yeah, because i always look at the work itself and how i spend my days. i got to go to egypt and cover the uprising there. i covered the earthquake in haiti. i covered one of the most historic presidential campaigns in our nation's history. you know, i covered countless
primaries and you know, so i think when i look back at all the amazing stories i've done in the past five years, you know, that's what i really love doing. and i really took the responsibility of rain coring the -- of rain coring the evening news very seriously. early on, that was tough and i talk about that a little bit. getting back to the book. you know, i think when i really just focused on the work itself and the job i had to do every day and i feel really, really proud of our team's work and the body of work that i was able to sort of be at the helm of for the past five years. tavis: you made history, and i'm glad you did. a lot of people are glad you did it is a first woman to anchor solo an evening newscast. in retrospect, was it worth it? >> definitely. tavis, you know, i think you get
to a certain level in the public eye and criticism is inevitable. i think so you have to put it in perspective kind of as your mom and dad would say, probably consider the source and what motivates certain people and i think you just to have kind of dig deep and have sort of belief in yourself and have the self-confidence you need to forge ahead. as a result, you know, i took a few punches early on, but you know, it actually, i don't mean to sound trite, but it is character building but i think how you deal with that really is the measure of a man or woman and i feel incredibly proud of not only what i was able to accomplish and the work that i did day in and day out, but that i didn't quit. i kept going. i put my blinders on and focused on the job at hand and i think my work really speaks for itself. tavis: are you leaving better or bitter? >> better.
i think better. i'm not really a bitter person by nature. i think at 54 it is a stretch to call anybody -- tavis: we were talking about your work, we talked about the fact that you made the decision to leave cbs now. tell me about the royal wedding coverage. you're on your way to london for the big wedding. >> yeah. tavis: you got an exclusive with david cameron? >> yeah, i'm excited about that. i've interviewed tony blair on a couple of occasions and gordon brown as well and now i'll be interviewing the new prime minister. it is very interesting. he has done a lot of fairly controversial things dealing with the economy in great britain. i'm looking forward to doing that. i'll be doing it at downing street. that will be fun. it is a big event. big events are fun and goodness knows we could use a little happy news given the kind of
year we have had had with tucson, egypt, libya and japan. you know, some people may think it is frivolous, but it is historic and sort of -- it is such a visual kind of spectacle, i think it will be fun to preside over it in my own little way. tavis: what is not trite or simple, you're interviewing the husband of gabby giffords? >> yeah, i did that already. did that last week in houston, prior to his launch on friday. i have to tell you, i'm so impressed by him. he is so incredibly, you know when somebody just emanates goodness? he is so incredibly strong and stoic and steadfast. and you can understand why he's her rock and she might be his rock as well, by the way. i just know more about how he is reacting to the situation. and he is a very, very
impressive person. tavis: you know stories and cover stories and write stories. how cool is the story that she will be there to watch? >> yeah, she is. he confirmed that with me during the interview we did last week. tavis: how cool is that? >> very cool and exciting. such an important milestone. he said to me, tavis, i think while he was making his decision on whether to go, he kept hearing from the doctors and everyone that she is going to have setbacks. it will get worse before it gets better. he said he kept waiting and worrying about these setbacks and they just haven't happened and i think she is doing remarkably well. i asked if some of the stories about her recovery have been overstated and i think people do want a fairy tale ending. people are so impatient. they want her to walk out of that rehabilitation center and be back to norm. he said the one thing he has learned about during this whole process is patience. she has some issues with motor
skills on her right side because she was shot through her left hemisphere of her brain and she has some language retrieval issues. it takes her a long time to speak. she can, so she is relearning that. some doctors think it is, you know, you would rather be shot through your right hemisphere because that doesn't affect speech as much but he said your right hemisphere affects your personality and ability to read social cues, your interaxe and who you are. he said the other things can be learned but gabby is still completely intact who she is as a person. so you know, it is really quite an amazing story. tavis: i promised we would spend a lot of time on the book. let's get back to "the best advice i ever got." as i said earlier, i love the book and couldn't wait to read
it. i just love great advice myself. i love being challenged by idea that can helped a strans things that i care about. -- helped a strans things that i care about. what is it is you think makes the timing of this book so -- >> i think there is a lot of fear and anxiety about the future on the part of parents for their children. and on the part of young people for their futures and if they are going to be able to have the quality of life that has been enjoyed by their parent or better than their parents depending on their socioeconomic level and i think that it is a scary time, you know, with unemployment and with global competition and i think -- i love the essays in this book because i felt like everyone who contributed, and there were about 116, you know, they really spoke from their heart and i think there was something just very real and genuine because
they wanted -- they were reaching out and trying to give a helping hand to young people and they talked a lot about that what i learned in their lives and what has been helpful and -- and to them as they have gone through their trials and tribulations. so i think so -- i just think that -- i think hopefully it will be helpful and inspiring and not just for people who are graduating college. i found i loved reading them. i think all of us need to re-evaluate our lives and take stock and kind of reassess our situations as we go along. i hate the word journey , but our journey. tavis: that is what it is. you see these names of persons. they are all accomplished americans and so many different areas of human endeavor. last night on this program, your friend, michael bloomberg.
mayor bloomberg, like i know him, michael. and i asked him a question, about how does one of his stature, means, economic and otherwise, could be running a city that is going through such a difficult time and connect with everyday people? how do you develop empathy for everyday people who are struggling when you're a billionaire. he gave his answer. it was a good answer. he gave the answer. i raise that to ask whether or not the advice offered by these personalities is advice that can be adhered to, can be reveled in by everyday people who are not at this lefrl? >> oh, definitely because you know, i think there are level s of accomplishment that really run the gamut. not everybody is a multimillionaire in this book like mike bloomberg, who is one of the most fill an thopic people in the country. he could be doing something totally different but he clearly cares about other people. i think that is a great
testament to his level of compassion. i also had a lot of people who were not as well known like jacqueline who started the anchcrnchunchmnch everyone nnch fund. these are not people who are financially successful. tavis: you're on pbs right now. not cbs. pbs. >> all different kidse of areas. -- kind of areas. general petraeus contributed something. i should probably look at the list myself but there are a lot of sort of ux you know, people, some of them, michelle kwan who is an olympic skater obviously and she is getting her masters at tmpunchfnchtnchsnch. i just saw at tnchunchfnchtnchsnch.
meryl streep, za caria talked about being an immigrant. i hope these people have achieved a certain level of success. i think they are incredibly generous people in offering to talk about what they faced along the bay. tavis: as these es says came through, you were reading them, did you detective a consistency through all of this advice? >> well, i don't think we divided it up. i think there is definitely some links to these essays. i think a lot of people did talk quite frankly about failure and how they had to get up and michelle kwan talked about how she had to learn how to fall, for example, as she was training to be an olympic skater and others talked about the importance of resilience. i talk a lot about how i had to be resilient after the death of my husband when he was 42 and we had two little girls, 2 and 6
when jay died. and so resilience, i think is a theme. hard work and tenacity is a theme. it is not being afraid of failure. you know, sort of carrying your courage around in your pocket like your cell phone. i think so my new particulars, that's from a william blake poem that my minister at my church talked about how you live your days is how you live your life. that's a quote. he talked about going through life and living it in minute particulars and just the small acts of kindness that add up and really are the threads that create your moral fiber. we talked about that and others talked about being committed to something greater than yourself. there are themes and they seem to fall into their categories which i think worked out really well. tavis: you mention jay, your late husband.
every time i think of jay, i fondly remember -- i met you through jay. i knew jay first. we were doing commentary together almost every night on nbc. >> on o.j. simpson. tavis: through jay i got to meet katie couric. i always think of the great conversations he and i would have off camera all the time. since you raised his name. i know you never closed on the death of a loved one like you close on a house. since you continues to do work in his name, was there some advice that jay gave you that you have found yourself going back to time and time again over the years to navigate forward with your two girls without jay? >> you know, i don't know if there is any advice he gave me except for sort of the example he set for me as a person of extraordinary integrity and you know, i think jay was a very honorable person. there was sort of an old world civility and gentlemanliness
about jay as you probably remember. jay just embodied everything that i look for in another human being. he was an incredibly diligent and hard worker. he used to prepare so much for those television peerningses talking about the legal aspects whether it was timothy mcveigh or o.j. simpson. what i admired so much about jay, because he was an incredibly kind person, but i also -- dan abrams who is a lawyer. dan and a friend of mine and when jay died, dan wrote me a note saying he was such an original thinker. so many people often got on and regurgitated what had been on the wires. jay was a very -- had a very, very criff and original mind. so -- creative and original mind. he was a lot of things. any specific advice, you know, actually, i would have to tell you one thing. when he was so sick, he said to
me, you know, nothing really matters except your friends and your family or your family and your friends in that order. i think what he was saying to me is, you know, it is fine to be on this hamster wheel, you know running and running, trying to, you know, grab the brass ring or whatever you define as success, but your relationships, that's really all that matters when it is all said and done. tavis: yeah. a lot of this advice. i know the story well of course. it was your speech. you see katie couric on 25 appearances. you know the case western connection to the book. you mentioned them about a zillion times. >> i can't help it. that is how the whole thing started, tavis. tavis: this is a book that is not just going to be read by young people but it is great for young people as they start their
lives after college. i ask you how it is that you remain hopeful about the world that these young people and your daughters are going to inhabit because the world is a really scary place. you need some good advice to navigate. what do you see hopeful about the world? >> well, i sort of believe in the inherent good orns people and the good ns of our country. i think these are challenging times but we have seen challenging times before. i sound like a politician now. i do believe there are extraordinaryly talented people in this country. they all have gifts. everyone has a certain gift. i think we have a responsibility to make sure those gift consist blossom in people that are less fortunate than we are who may not have the advantage of the educational opportunities that you and i have had. i don't know. i'm basically, as i said in my introduction.
jay used to say i was born on a sunny day i am a glass half full person. i believe in the promise of young people. you look at the incredible things that have had in our country term -- happened in our country in terms of technology and all the things that have been invented and how our lives have changed. really, tavis, in a thano second, the way we consume information, that has opened up a world of possibilities for people so i feel like i do feel hopeful because it is just too depressing. the alternative is too depressing . tavis: were you surprised alof these major players said yes to your invitation? >> i think they were inspired to do so because of the scholarship aspect. nothing is a bigger turnoff when people ask you to contribute to a book that they are putting together -- tavis: for profit.
>> i've been asked to do that a lot in my life. i always think if i do that, i'm going to put it in my own book unless it is going to charity or to something sorts of bigger than somebody's bank account, i think it is not sort of that appealing, but i think because of this, it was and you know, i've been in television for 32 years now and actually have some real relationships. i am not going to be like we're super tight with these people in the book but i think there is some mutual respect and affection that i have for many of the people who are included here and i feel so privileged and so honored that i have been able to interact with some of these enormously accomplished people. tavis: you're being very modest. the first thing i thought when i saw the book and the names, there are a lot of people who respect the contributions and the work of katie couric. it is called "the best advice i ever got". lessons from extraordinary
lives. katie couric is living an extraordinary life. you have always been nothing but good to me and i'm honored to have you on this program and i wish you only the best in the coming years. >> thank you, tavis. i feel the same way about you. tavis: i appreciate that. >> the mutual admiration society. tavis: we love each other. that's it from new york. thanks for tuning in. until next time, keep the faith. >> for more information on today's show, visit tavis smiley at pbs.org. tavis: hi. i'm tavis smiley. join me next time with open society foundation founder george soros. that's next time. we will see you then. >> all i know is his name is james, and he needs extra help with his reading. >> i'm james.
>> yes. >> to everyone making a difference -- >> thank you. >> you help us all live better. >> nationwide insurance supports tavis smiley. with every question and every answer, nationwide insurance is proud to join tavis in working to improve financial literacy and removing obstacles to economic empowerment one conversation at a time. nationwide is on your side. >> and by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. thank you. >> be more.