OTTAWA — Barbara Walters has had many firsts in her long and illustrious career, having interviewed a “who’s who” of the most famous people in entertainment and international politics.
She has travelled the world and spoken to and asked questions of world leaders, tyrants and movie stars.
In 1973, she interviewed Israeli prime minister Golda Meir on the Today Show, and in 1977, she made journalism history by arranging the first joint interview with Egyptian president Anwar Sadat and Israeli prime minister Menacham Begin.
Last week, Walters was keynote speaker at the 2011 Negev Dinner of the Jewish National Fund (JNF) of Ottawa, held at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier Hotel. She shared with the audience some life lessons she has learned along the way, gleaned from many of her memorable interviews.
Her interview with Sadat was, said Walters, “the most important interview I have done because he changed history.” She said he never wore a bulletproof vest because he said, “I won’t die one day sooner than I am called.”
She spoke of actor Katherine Hepburn to illustrate women’s choices and “balance.” Hepburn had told her she lived life the way she wanted to because she had enough money to support herself and was not afraid to be alone. Walters said, “I have had a career, and it has been an amazing career and I have given a lot up to have a career.”
Though born Jewish, Walters said she had no religious education and her family was non-observant. “I miss it, but I do feel spiritual,” she said. “You need strength of purpose, and then whatever hand you are dealt, I hope you think that the game is worthwhile.”
Following her remarks, Walters switched roles and was interviewed by Globe and Mail political journalist Jane Taber.
Funds raised from the 2011 Negev Dinner will be used to support the Sderot Recycled Water Reservoir, enabling the people of the western Negev to solve a serious pollution problem by treating water from surrounding industries and communities for use in agricultural irrigation.
Ruth Lebovich, Judaic academic co-ordinator at the Ottawa Jewish Community School (Hillel division), was presented with the Esther and Eric Exton Educational Award, awarded to the Jewish educator who has most advanced the cause of JNF and Zionist education in Canada. This is the third time that the 30-year-old award has been presented to an Ottawa teacher.