Walters holds the door open for women

I often hear people say that Barbara Walters opened the door for women around the world. But I think she holds it open, too.

Barbara Walters courtesy of vanityfair.com

Barbara Walters courtesy of vanityfair.com

Barbara pushed her way through many difficult interviews, invading the psyche of countless celebrities, heads of state, and even accused criminals.

Her sometimes-blatant questions cut through the bull and got to the heart of what everyone really wanted to know. “Did you or did you not do that thing you are accused of doing?”

Some were honest; some lied through their teeth. But it eventually all came out anyway. But Barbara was fearless. She knew it might get her fired, but she asked the questions anyway. And we, the audience, love that.

I have watched Barbara through the years, her rise through the ranks, the way she influenced the world, and I learned something new about her this week.  Not only is she respected, but she is genuinely loved and admired by so many.

Tonight is her final television appearance (never say never!) and her friends and colleagues are honoring her 50 years as a journalist and television personality, remembering her interviews and accomplishments along the way.

But who is Barbara Walters, really? I visited biography.com to learn more about the woman so many hold in such high regard, to find out where she got her start, and the journey she took to help so many women get the recognition they deserve:

“Barbara Walters was born on September 25, 1929, in Boston, Massachusetts.

Gilda Radner, as Barbara Walters, courtesy of nbc.com

Gilda Radner, as Barbara Walters, courtesy of nbc.com.

The daughter of Dena Seletsky Walters and nightclub impresario Lou Walters, Barbara had two siblings: older sister Jacqueline, who was born developmentally disabled and died in 1985, and brother Burton, who died of pneumonia in 1932. Walters was born Jewish, though her parents weren’t practicing Jews.

In 1937, Lou Walters opened a chain of nightclubs that expanded his business from Boston, Massachusetts, to Miami Beach, Florida. As a result, Barbara attended Fieldston and Birch Wathen private schools in New York City, and graduated from Miami Beach High School in 1947. Barbara was surrounded by celebrities from an early age, which has been said to account for her relaxed manner when interviewing famous people.”

“Walters accepted a job at ABC in 1976 as the first woman co-anchor of a network evening news program. That same year, she was chosen to moderate the third and final presidential debate between challenger Jimmy Carter and incumbent President Gerald Ford. Walters also launched the first of a series of Barbara Walters Specials in 1976. The initial interview program featured President Jimmy Carter and First Lady Rosalynn Carter. She followed up the next year by arranging the first joint interview with Prime Minister Menachem Begin of Israel and President Anwar Sadat of Egypt.”

Barbara has had interviews with many famous people, including Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and Hillary Clinton. She knows what questions to ask, but what  impresses me most about this woman is how she can get people to open up in an interview. She gains their trust as though she is their best friend, and gets them to “tell it like it is.”

Maybe the week-long celebration did go a little overboard, but after the impact she had on the world, I think she deserves a little fanfare.

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