Lifetime Achievement Award 2014: Barbara Walters


ABC News Correspondent Barbara Walters has done scores of interviews in her 50-year career as a broadcast journalist. Three interviews--with former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, actress Katharine Hepburn and actor Christopher Reeve--had a lasting impact on her.

From Thatcher, Walter learned about looking forward. Hepburn, who compared herself to an oak tree, stressed to Walters the importance of remaining strong, while Reeve showed tremendous courage after being paralyzed.

"Whatever hand you're dealt, I hope you find that the game is worthwhile and that you feel like a great oak with branches that go right through the walls," said Walters, co-executive producer of "The View," in accepting Quinnipiac University's 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award at the University's 21st annual Fred Friendly First Amendment Award Luncheon Tuesday at the Metropolitan Club in New York. "Today, I feel like a great oak, standing here with people whom I respect and admire. I thank you for this honor. I will never retire as long as there can be days like this."

Since 1994, the School of Communications has presented the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award to honor those who have shown courage and forthrightness in preserving the rights set forth in the First Amendment. The award bears the name of the former CBS News president and champion of freedom of speech. Walters is the second person to receive the Lifetime Achievement Award. It was first awarded to Floyd Abrams in 2008.

Friendly's widow, Ruth, praising Walters for "pulverizing the glass ceiling" and for getting and nailing the best and biggest interviews. 

"Barbara has interviewed despots and dancers, mayors and murderers, scores of Hollywood stars, national and international leaders -- and eight presidents of the United States," Ruth Friendly said. "Today, it is our coup. We have Barbara Walters."

Among those who attended the luncheon were Charles Gibson, former "ABC World News" anchor; Bill Hemmer, Fox News Channel anchor; Armen Keteyian, chief investigative correspondent for CBS News; Gayle King, co-anchor of "CBS This Morning";  David Muir, "ABC World News" weekend anchor; Norah O'Donnell, co-anchor of "CBS This Morning"; Bill O'Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel's "The O'Reilly Factor"; Bill Ritter, anchor of WABC-TV and correspondent for ABC News' "20/20;" Troy Roberts, CBS "48 Hours" correspondent; Christine Romans, anchor of CNN's "Early Start," chief business correspondent and host of "Your Money"; Liz Smith, veteran gossip columnist; and Elizabeth Vargas, ABC News "20/20" anchor.

"Barbara crashed the glass ceiling and, for so many of us female journalists, paved the way for us to follow in her footsteps," O'Donnell said.

"There isn't a woman in television who wasn't inspired by Barbara Walters," King said.

A master interviewer, Walters created "The View" 17 years ago. She stepped down as one of the show's co-anchors in May. Walters' illustrious career began in 1961 as a writer and reporter for NBC's "Today" show, and she eventually became the show's first female co-host. When she joined ABC News in 1976, Walters was the first woman to co-host the network news. She also is known for her 25 years as co-host and chief correspondent for ABC News' "20/20."

Walters, who has interviewed everyone from to Egypt's Anwar Sadat to China's Jiang Zemin, has received 11 Emmy Awards. In 2013, the Television Critics Association honored her with a Career Achievement Award for her influence in covering news and information. Walters is also The New York Times best-selling author of "Audition: A Memoir."

Walters is in good company. Previous recipients of the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award in chronological order are: Dan Rather, Bill Moyers, Lesley Stahl, Ted Koppel, Tom Brokaw, Robert MacNeil, Jim Lehrer, Don Hewitt, Peter Jennings, Mike Wallace, Christiane Amanpour, Tom Bettag, Tim Russert, Bob Schieffer, Steve Kroft, Charles Gibson, Morley Safer, Gwen Ifill, David Fanning, Martha Raddatz and Scott Pelley.

"I always tell every woman in the business now that they probably ought to be giving 10 percent of their salary to Barbara," Gibson said. "She is really the person who blazed the trail." 

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