ON CAREER BEGINNINGS: I wanted to study journalism because I remember watching Nightline at our condo in Greenbelt and thinking, “This looks like the best job anyone could have.” My mother was a news hound, so we always had C-SPAN on, and she watched news on a loop on Sunday mornings. I had the sense that connecting people to the wider world, and telling stories that removed the differences between people, was a noble thing to do. When I got out of school, there were no jobs. I sent out probably 400 resumes and cover letters, agonizing. Not a single bite. I had an internship lined up and they called and said, “We unionized over the summer; we can’t hire you.” Finally, my father’s ex-girlfriend’s friend had a fiancé at the time who was working at a production company, and they were kind enough to give me a job.
ON THINKING BIGGER: I was a kid who hadn’t really traveled or seen much of the world. Then a friend told me about the Fulbright scholarship, and I decided to apply. Another friend said to me, “That’s not for people like us. That’s for fancy people who go to Princeton and Yale.” I said, “The worst they can do is tell me no.” When I got the Fulbright letter, I felt like it was a window into a whole different world. But from a personal standpoint, it was a difficult decision, because my grandmother was very sick. At the same time, I was also working at ABC, and was on track to cover the presidential campaign and be an off-air reporter, which was my dream. So I went to my grandmother and said, “First of all, I finally got my dream job, and second of all, you’re sick. I can’t leave.” My grandmother, who was still smoking despite her cancer, looked at me between drags and said, “First of all, no one turns down a Fulbright. And second of all, McDonald’s is always hiring. I’m done with this conversation; this is boring.” So I went.