Lesley Stahl, one of America’s most accomplished journalists, is celebrating 26 seasons with 60 Minutes. She has supported Literacy Partners yearly since attending our gala in 2001. Lesley Stahl tells the story of traveling to Europe with her parents when she was in ninth grade: she had lugged her copy of War and Peace with her and spent the entire trip buried in her book. “It’s the only time my father ever got angry with me,” she says. “Here he was showing me the wonders of Europe; he was so frustrated.” Stahl fell in love with Jane Eyre and the Little Women books in junior high. “We didn’t watch television at night, ever, and when you went to bed you read,” says the 12-time Emmy-winning TV journalist.
Stahl is widely regarded for her global investigative reporting, from the controversies surrounding Guantanamo Bay prison to the Middle East, and, as a former Face the Nation host, for her interviews with world leaders including Boris Yeltsin, George H.W. Bush, and Yasser Arafat.
She attended her first Literacy Partners gala in 2001 at the invitation of her friend Liz Smith, and has never stopped supporting the organization. “Every year at the gala, men and who had benefited from the organization get up and speak. It’s always the best part of the evening,” Stahl says. “They talk so personally about how they were 30 or 40 and couldn’t read, and then how much reading has changed their lives. Their stories are uplifting and hopeful and always make you weep. It grabs your heart. I knew from the first gala this was an organization I wanted to contribute to.”
Worlds collided when, in 2015, Stahl reported a 60 Minutes segment about Alive 55+ & Kickin’!, a group of older adults who were fulfilling their lifelong goal of singing on stage. She was amazed to discover that one of the performers was Literacy Partners student Matthew Brown. At 75, Brown had overcome a lifetime of addiction and illiteracy. He spoke at the 2015 gala about his life and dreams of becoming a singer—–and then he brought down the house with his rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.”
Stahl had no idea that for years she was helping Matthew, her interview subject, pursue his dream of writing his life story.
Photo credit: Dave Lauridsen