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CNN LIVE EVENT/SPECIAL
The Person Who Changed My Life. Aired 8-10p ET
Aired January 24, 2016 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:00] ANNOUNCER: The following is a CNN Special Presentation.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: If we asked you the name of the one person who's had the biggest impact on your life, who would you choose?
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: tonight, we'll find out how some of our colleagues here at CNN answer that question and we'll ask you, too.
COOPER: This is "The Person Who Changed My Life."
Maybe it's someone close to you, a family member or friend.
PEREIRA: Or maybe it's someone who out of the blue stopped you in your tracks and turned your life around. We asked some of the familiar faces here at CNN which one person truly changed their life. Tonight, we're going to share their stories including yours and mine.
COOPER: Yeah. And for a lot of us, I know it was for me, it was a tough question to answer. Happily, we're able to arrange a reunion for a few and several including Michaela dug out some old photos and dusty VHS tapes for her story. Some of those hairstyles though ...
PEREIRA: Please, no.
COOPER: ... pretty memorable. For Michaela, in order to reconnect with the person who changed her life, she had to take a little trip. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA: I spent almost 10 years here in Victoria. And so, every time I come back, it definitely feels like home. Growing up as an adopted child, I always sort of felt somewhat random, and as I was growing up trying to figure out who I was, part of that was also what I wanted to be. I always tell people T.V. happened to me by accident.
Moyra Rodger was a producer at Check T.V. When I met her, she was producing a campaign, a PSA called "Imagine A World Without Contrast" and they needed ethnic and diverse looking people.
MOYRA RODGER, CEO MAGNIFY DIGITAL INC.: So we put out an open call for the residents of victoria to come to the studio, get in front of the camera and just see how they feel, for us to take a look and see how they were reacting.
PEREIRA: So I answered the open casting call, went down to the local T.V. Station and ended up being cast in this campaign.
RODGER: And I can't describe what happened to the atmosphere when she walked in. And I thought, wow, there's something really extraordinary about this person. So following the taping of the PSA, my dad had already sort of ingrained in all of us that if somebody gave you an opportunity, you should always show gratitude and thank them, follow up with a thank you card or maybe a gift, so i did.
I was a bit of a crafty person and i decided that I would decoupage a terracotta plant pot for her, wrote a thank you card and took it to the T.V. Station for Moyra. She followed that up when she received my gift with a phone call and invited me out for lunch. It was at that lunch she said something so profound to me that it changed my life.
RODGER: Hey, pal, how are you? When is the last time you were here? It's been a while.
PEREIRA: Been a while.
RODGER: How are you?
RODGER: You're hungry?
PEREIRA: I think, you bet. It is so great being back here. I can't believe that we're intend to one. When you and I came for lunch -- that's why I brought you here. You know that this is why I chose this spot for lunch.
PEREIRA: You remember that too?
RODGER: Yeah, we had lunch on the patio.
PEREIRA: You looked me dead in the eye and said, "You need to seriously consider a career in television." The voyage your suggestion sent me on. Think about that time in this city. There was nobody that looked like me on T.V.
RODGER: Here we go.
PEREIRA: My color, my size, my ethnicity, my last name, my big old curly hair. None of that was an impediment to you.
RODGER: It was a big old curly hair.
PEREIRA: It was kind of -- to you, it was kind of like, why wouldn't you? And I remember being so terrified but you had such confidence, you were so resolute, that I couldn't not believe you.
RODGER: Yeah, something really special happened way back in that studio all those years ago.
PEREIRA: So you can see why it was easy for me to figure out who influenced my life.
RODGER: Well, I'm still very flattered and humbled and think that does ...
PEREIRA: You're not going to take it, are you?
RODGER: Well, I've certainly been a champion for you and always will be. I also feel kind of protective of you, so I will go that far as to acknowledge that. I'll take it.
PEREIRA: You know what I was thinking after we kill our salads and calamari? What say you if we go and see if we could find Gord at check?
RODGER: That'll be great.
PEREIRA: Gordie Tupper was my co-host at my very first T.V. gig. It was on a show called "CHEK Around" at the local T.V. station where Moyra worked. It was because of Moyra's belief in me and her suggestion that I audition for the show that I met Gord and fell in love with television.
[20:05:06] GORDIE TUPPER, WEATHER/COMMUNITY REPORTER AND HOST OF CHEK AROUND: Michaela.
RODGER: Hi, Honey.
PEREIRA: I think you'd like to say hello to ...
RODGER: We haven't seen each other in, like, forever.
TUPPER: At least a week. No, it's been years.
RODGER: It's been years.
PEREIRA: Wow. Look at this. Moy, it looks exactly the same.
RODGER: Oh, my gosh.
PEREIRA: Are you ready, Gord? Watch this.
May I be the first to welcome you to ...
TUPPER: Oh, wow.
PEREIRA: Look at Oh Farm's Day 2.
TUPPER: Yeah, still here.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Michaela Pereira's hair today was fashioned by ...
PEREIRA: This was our office.
Born to be wild.
TUPPER: This is not the common person we run to.
PEREIRA: OK. So watching all of that old tape ....
TUPPER: I love this.
PEREIRA: ... is crazy.
TUPPER: And, you know, if I was the type of person to cry, I would have.
PEREIRA: No, you do.
TUPPER: I mean, no, seriously, it was like -- I haven't seen those for 20 years.
PEREIRA: That is so crazy to think about that because it started with the promo.
PEREIRA: That's where we worked together.
RODGER: But it wasn't long after you were looking for a new co-host.
TUPPER: Yeah, and when we got to the end of the list, and I said, well, that's it, we have not found a person, I don't know what we're going to do. Nick, our camera guy, he said one more person's been added to the list, it's this girl, Michaela Pereira. After two minutes of talking to you, you know, I just looked at nick, and he looked at me and we said, there we go.
Oh, turn around up there to the -- oh.
PEREIRA: All right. This morning another high-ranking Democrat -- It is so rare to see someone else believe so much in another person. This was a woman who believed in me when I didn't believe in myself. And there was nothing in it for her.
The truly inspiring among us, the true heroes in life, they don't do it for selfish motives and they rarely want their recognition. So it would make sense that she doesn't want any recognition.
There she is. Hey. Hi, pal.
PEREIRA: How are you? Welcome to CNN and New York. How are you?
PEREIRA: One piece of advice you've given to me that has been invaluable, be yourself. RODGER: I don't think you know how to do it any other way.
PEREIRA: Maybe now, yes, but think about a 20-something-year-old kid who didn't go to communications school or broadcast journalism school, just came up learning on the job. And is surrounded by a whole lot of people who don't look like her, who didn't start out like her, and when you kind of got in front of me and waved that flag, like hold up, be yourself, it changed the game for me. Being myself has been the only thing I could do that I could bring to the table that I knew that I could do with 1,000 percent authenticity, so thank you for that. And I wanted to give you this little gift.
RODGER: Is it a decoupage pot?
PEREIRA: No, it's an upgraded version of a decoupage pot.
RODGER: Oh my gosh. That's beautiful.
PEREIRA: Because you -- the flowers in it, you have continued to nurture my career the way a flower grows. You know, and I just cannot thank you enough for all that you've done for me and continue to do for me and the friendship and mentorship you've provided me.
RODGER: Oh, Michaela, that's beautiful. Thank you so much.
PEREIRA: Here's an elegant vase to put your flowers in to say thank you, baby. I love you.
RODGER: I love you, too.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Wow, it was tough for her to accept how much she impacted you.
PEREIRA: I had to talk her into doing this piece. She recognizes this is a two-way street, we've been there to support each other through the years. Over 20 years we've known each other. But I don't think she realized fully how much she lit the flame in me.
COOPER: Yeah, well, thanks for sharing that. Incredible.
Throughout the evening, we're asking you the same question, who's the one man or woman you'd choose as the person who changed your life? Think about it and we hope you'll share it using #mylifechanger on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook. Up next, Dr. Sanjay Gupta.
PEREIRA: I can't wait to hear that. It's going to be great.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Karin isn't just the woman who changed my life.
KARIN MURASZKO, UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN, PROFESSOR, NEUROSURGERY: Sanjay. GUPTA: yes, Ma'am? She's changed thousands.
[20:11:47] COOPER: Welcome back, you know Dr. Sanjay Gupta is our chief medical correspondent. And of course, he's also a practices neurosurgeon. It was a long road to get there, years of medical school, exams, internship, residency and all of it led to Sanjay meeting the person who changed his life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURASZKO: My job is going to be to take off all of this bone here and some of the bone back here.
GUPTA: OK. So it isn't hard to see why this woman is high impact. I mean, right now she's on rating on the brain of this 2-year-old boy. She's training a team of surgeons. And nearly 25 years after we first met, Dr. Karin Muraszko is still teaching me about the wonders of the brain.
MURASZKO: So our job is to kind of recapitulate what should have happened in nature.
GUPTA: And yes, she's doing all this from a wheelchair. I remember the first time I met her, we were walking down the hall and just talking and she wore a brace on her leg. I didn't know how fast to walk. I didn't know if i should walk more slowly, but I didn't want to be disrespectful so I was kind of lingering along. And I'll never forget, at some point she looked at me and said, "Why are you walking so slow? Let's go." That set the tone for us right from the beginning.
GUPTA: You see, Karin isn't just the person who changed my life.
GUPTA: Yes, Ma'am? She's changed thousands, most of them her patients.
MURASZKO: Everything's gone very well so far.
UNIDENTIFED FEMALE: Thanks Dr. Muraszko.
MURASZKO: OK. All right, guys. Take care.
GUPTA: There is no doctor I have ever met that can truly understand the experience of her patients like Karin.
MURASZKO: This kid has two frontal frame now.
GUPTA: Born with spina bifida, a malformation of her spinal cord, expectations were not high for Karin as a little girl, to put it gently. MURASZKO: My grandmother and mother used to have these philosophical conversations about what would be good for me. And my grandmother would say to my mother, "Don't push her so much. You know, a handicapped girl, the most she's ever going to do is sell pencils on a corner or be able to maybe help out in the library." And my mom would say, "No, no, no. That's not true. You never know what kids can do."
GUPTA: But even her own mother couldn't have predicted how quickly Karin would excel on the conventional playground of men.
There's this great picture of you. I think at Columbia.
MURASZKO: It's Columbia, I just graduated from medical school.
GUPTA: You're easy to pick out in that picture.
GUPTA: It's all men.
MURASZKO: All men in gray and blue suits. And what you can't tell in the photograph because it's black and white. I'm in a red and white suit at the apex of the triangle, sitting in the front row.
GUPTA: How did they treat you?
MURASZKO: You know, I think that they treated me, at times, fairly. And some people were just great mentors. Some of my mentors were, I think, damn proud of the fact that they could take someone who didn't look like the mold of a neurosurgeon and make them into a neurosurgeon.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: I present you, Karin Muraszko, the 2015 distinguished service award winner.
GUPTA: Karin didn't just break the mold. She shattered it. Today, Karin has been given one of the highest awards from the Congress of Neurological Surgeons not just for her work in the United States, but around the world.
[20:15:05] MURASZKO: Thanks very much. Well, appreciate it.
GUPTA: Like here in Guatemala, where she is volunteering her time to the neediest of patients.
MURASZKO: To be able to take a scalpel to another human being and leave them with a scar, you have to have an awful lot of faith in the fact that you are going to be able to do something good for them.
Things went really well.
But if you truly believe that and never constantly ask yourself, am I doing the right thing, "Oh, you're in trouble."
GUPTA: Tell me about when you guys first met. It was a blind date?
SCOTT VAN SWERINGEN, KARIN'S HUSBAND: Blind date.
GUPTA: First blind date that either of you had ever been on?
MURASZKO: He never had a blind date before then.
GUPTA: Karin is also a wife to husband, Scott, and a mother to Paxton and Alexandria. Two amazing children they adopted from Russia. As I sat with them, the question I kept asking myself, how does a person with such genuine humility, who shattered all those molds, who redefined the rules also become the first woman chair of Neurosurgery in the entire country?
MURASZKO: Oh, lord. I never aspired to be that. I'll be very honest. I was the last person standing. This is absolutely truth.
GUPTA: Come on.
MURASZKO: No, it's true. It's true. I -- OK.
GUPTA: Karin, the modesty is in the -- I mean ...
MURASZKO: It's the truth. It's the honest truth.
JAMES WOODSCROFT, FORMER DEAN UNIVERSITY OF MICHIGAN MEDICAL SCHOOL: It's not the truth. So she wasn't the last man standing. She was the first woman standing.
GUPTA: I like that. That's great.
Before I got to medical school I didn't really understand the value of mentorship, I think. And I think a lot of people who -- if you were to ask them how important is a mentor and they told you not that important, it probably means they never had a great mentor.
Karin always told me the things I needed to hear not just what I wanted to hear.
MURASZKO: My job is to be a little bit like your mom and your dad and remind you about what also you are, which is a doctor who took an oath, who cares still deeply about his patients, who recognizes that not an insignificant part of who he is is that physician, that surgeon.
GUPTA: What I heard Karin say throughout my residency is I don't care who you are. The person who is working in the hospital, patient, colleague, whoever it may be, everyone matters equally and infinitely. And I don't think there's a more powerful message in terms of shaping who I am and shaping a lot of people that she's trained.
I love you.
This all was a great reminder of how necessary it is to take the time to tell people how much they changed your life. MURASZKO: It took you 25 years to get here. Do you realize that? One of your hardest one interviews.
GUPTA: It probably is. You don't like to be interviewed.
GUPTA: Is this weird for you?
MURASZKO: Yeah. Extremely weird.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: What an amazing, amazing woman. I mean it's clear how she changed your life. Was there a moment that changed her life?
GUPTA: Yeah, I think there really was for her. She was 5 years old. She had this spinal deformity so she needed these big operations so she's this youngster who's basically spending her childhood in the hospital. And everyone's sort of given up on her, her parents, her grandmother. They don't think she's really going to amount to anything.
COOPER: Right. Her grandmother said the most she can do is sell pencils on the corner.
GUPTA: Doctor coming in one night, he's in scrubs, brings his wife along. She's in a fur coat. They're going to go out to Broadway, they're in New York City. The doctor introduces Karin to his wife and says, "I want you to meet the other woman, the woman I've been spending my days with."
She said it was the first time she really felt empathy I think from a doctor, and felt that she was valued in some way. So somebody who really cared about her and she said that moment really sparked her interest in medicine and all that she's become.
COOPER: Wow. What's your relationship like now?
GUPTA: It's really strong. You know, it's interesting, I think we all need this type of person in our lives who -- she knows me really, really well and we've literally spent days on end together. I mean, no breaks. 24 hours in an operating room talking, operating, getting to know one another, just everything about one another. But I can still call her, and I do, often, and you know what it is, Anderson, you probably have this, hopefully you do, it's a person who tells me what I need to hear.
COOPER: Right. She's very honest with you.
GUPTA: And she does it -- she's a diplomat. She can do it in a way that doesn't totally crush me, but I need to hear these things sometimes.
GUPTA: And more so than my parents, more so than my wife.
GUPTA: They're going to tell me great things and probably things I'd like hearing. Sometimes you need that person who tells you what you need to hear.
COOPER: Just incredible, incredible woman. Thanks for sharing her. Amazing. She should let everyone know Sanjay shared great photos and a great article online at cnn.com/lifechangers.
Coming up, Erin Burnett, you might even recognize the person who changed her life.
[20:23:20] PEREIRA: Welcome back. So, Erin Burnett took a bit of a different approach in order to meet the person who eventually changed her life. She sent what she calls a stalker letter to her idol. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Two minutes. Two minutes until the big show. Two minutes until micropilot one. Standby.
ERIN BURNETT, CNN ANCHOR: I didn't have a plan. I didn't have a plan of I'm going to go into television, this is way I'm going to go about it. If I look at my life, there was one person that really changed things for me.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: 10 seconds.
BURNETT: I do have these thoughts that my life really has come full circle.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: Music, mike, cue. Pilots run.
BURNETT: New tonight, Hillary Clinton comes out swinging against Donald Trump. I started out as an analyst at Goldman Sachs. I knew pretty early on that when I did the game of what do you want to be five years, 10 years from now, that you and I didn't know the answer to that question, I knew I didn't want to be a banker at Goldman Sachs.
One morning I'd stayed up all night working on, doing what we called a pitch book for a pharmaceutical company and so I'd had one of those all-nighters that were very common for investment banking analysts and I went home and my sister called me and said you got to see this article in "The New York Times". It was an article about Willow Bay.
She used to be the face of Estee Lauder. She went to business school, so she was beautiful and incredibly accomplished and successful.
[20:25:02] Then all of a sudden she ends up with this amazing job at "Moneyline News Hour" at CNN.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: This is a CNN Special Report. "The Microsoft Decision".
WILLOW BAY, CNN ANCHOR: I'm Willow Bay.
UNIDENTIFED MALE: And I'm ...
BURNETT: So when this article came out in "The New York Times", my brother-in-law and sister said, "You should write Willow a letter."
BAY: I was new to this job, and I get this letter from a young analyst at Goldman, an analyst at Goldman saying, I want to come work on your show.
Right now, we will focus on Wall Street. Right now, we will focus on Wall Street.
BURNETT: OK. Here's the thing about the letter. It's an honest letter. It admits I was a stalker. It's very nerdy. It's a very nerdy letter.
BAY: You know, I don't remember anything other than being impressed with Erin, impressed with how bold she was, impressed with how ambitious she was, impressed with how willing she was to just plain do the work to pursue this dream of hers.
BURNETT: Willow called me. I went in to meet her. And that was the moment that changed my life.
The job that she hired me for was to be her assistant. So I was going to do assistant tasks. What she really wanted me to do was research for her for the show. I think without question, what I did on "Moneyline" has made he better on what I do now.
Those basic things that I learned really paved the way for me to be able to do it myself and to be able to hit the ground running when I actually had the opportunity to be a reporter, myself.
I'm Erin Burnett covering the Solomon Smith Party Transportation Conference in Miami. 2002 was another tough year for mergers. I was lucky and Willow was coming to New York and she agreed to come to CNN to see me.
BAY: There you are.
BURNETT: And it turns out I still have that letter.
BAY: Is that the letter?
BURNETT: This is the letter.
BAY: You found it?
BURNETT: Miss Willow Bay.
BAY: Oh my gosh. Let me see.
I noticed the recent "The New York Times" article about your new position at the "Moneyline News Hour" followed your career. This is the part I read. I'm a financial analyst in the investment banking division of Goldman Sachs. Ding-ding. I continued to be intrigued by a career in business journalism.
BURNETT: So this started off -- luckily this is what you read. Because here's what I remembered. I noticed the recent "The New York Times" about your new position. It caught by attention because I followed your career since you appeared in the Estee Lauder ads that used to be in front of "The New York Times" magazines. I'm fascinated by your background and specifically by your decision to enter business broadcast journalism.
So I laugh because I remember thinking, should I put that reference to the Estee Lauder ads in there? She's going to think I'm a stalker. That's why I call it a stalker letter.
Even when I was doing things at CNBC and NBC, I always knew I had Willow to thank for it. But somehow coming back to CNN really brought it home, this whole trajectory of my life that's ended with this amazing opportunity where I'm so happy has been all because of her.
BAY: Honestly, there was never a doubt when Erin stepped foot in that office that she was going to be successful. I don't say that lightly. It was just very clear about her.
BURNETT: When I returned to CNN, it wasn't just coming back to CNN to do a show. It was a show during the same time of "Moneyline", our show's at 7:00, her show's at 6:00 but it was just an incredible overlap. It was as if the world really came full circle.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA: Later, Anderson has a really moving tribute to his father.
But first, my morning pal, Chris Cuomo. If you think you can guess who Chris says most changed his life, you might be in for a surprise.
[20:30:26] COOPER: Welcome back. Chris Cuomo didn't have to look far to find the person who changed his life. Now the name may sound familiar, Chris wasn't only looking to the past but to the future.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Family is everything. A simple lesson has taken on even deeper meaning since we lost the man who thought it to me, my pop.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Ladies and gentlemen, the governor of New York, Mario Cuomo.
CHRIS CUOMO: To me, he wasn't the governor, he was a father.
MARIO CUOMO, 52ND GOVERNOR OF NEW YORK: And what about Christopher?
CHRIS CUOMO: He was always teaching about giving back.
MARIO CUOMO: It's right to give to people and to the world.
CHRIS CUOMO: But his biggest lesson is what this piece is all about.
My father would often say to me, spend time with your kids. Don't bring your work home with you the way I did.
To be a good parent, for me and Christina, that means raising our jewels, Bella, Mario and Carolina. Raising the girls can be a joy and a chore, but the biggest challenge for me has been figuring out the dynamic of making a man. It may be the hardest thing I've ever done.
A lot of men, a lot of people realize their mistakes sometimes but don't want people to know.
I know because I was one of those people's struggling. Trying to balance what I thought was right with what was actually right for my son, and the answer came from the person who changed my life, Mario.
My son helped make me change in a way that made me who I am right now in this chair as much as any formative experience in my life. I'm not embarrassed to say that my relationship with my son was not how I wanted it. I wasn't doing the best for him. It wasn't making him the best that he could. If you had to raise your voice with your kid every time you wanted to do anything.
That is good. Are you really getting it right? Hold on once.
Being intense and insistent works as a journalist but it was not working for me as a father. Even as a baby.
Come over here.
My little man literally ran the other way. Who knows what's going through his head. He's not motivated by the same things. He's not scared by the same things. He is sensitive to things that I am not.
MARIO CUOMO, CHRIS CUOMO'S SON: Don't do that.
CHRIS CUOMO: Don't do what? I won't do it.
Mario is who he is even at this young age, five, seven, nine now that he is.
[20:35:03] And he's always been completely sure of telling me that he doesn't like what I was doing.
Sure, he knew I loved him, but we round up in frequent standoffs that were kind of funny but really frustrating. I'm this 220 pound monster and I have this 40 pound kid looking at me and refuse to do what I'd say and I'd be like, where is the fear? You should have fear. And then once I did see flashes of fear in his eye, I didn't like it. Just because that worked for me as a kid growing up, that was our dynamic. I didn't want it to be his, but it's all I knew.
It's almost impossible to compare how I was for me and pop with me and my kids. Times were different. My mom ran the house.
MATILDA CUOMO, CHRIS CUOMO'S MOTHER: I think you were like a different person who used to come home from Albany, you just was so happy to see him that you behaved yourself. It was very nice for me.
CHRIS CUOMO: Mama reminded me that I was more than a handful as a kid. And I was forgetting two things. Strength is not just toughness but sweetness especially for boys.
MATILDA CUOMO: A father has to give time and his love, the love and affection that they need more than you can believe a boy, especially a boy. They don't show it, you know, but it's -- they're just as much as a girl, they want to know that you care for them.
CHRIS CUOMO: So, what's the plan today?
MARIO CUOMO: Fishing?
CHRIS CUOMO: Fishing. The second thing was the key. She said Mario will be your best teacher, listen to him, let him show you how to be. So I stopped insisting and started listening.
MARIO CUOMO: Hot day.
CHRIS CUOMO: One, two, three. Look for the rope.
MARIO CUOMO: Oh.
CHRIS CUOMO: Good job, buddy. Don't run the wheel in case I need you. Sure enough, I realized my son and I were seeing the same things. Stay right behind the guy in front of you. This is what just in our own way. So if I say how much do you like something, and you say one out of 10, that means you don't like it, do you understand that?
MARIO CUOMO: No. Daddy, one is the worst. Two is the second worst. Five, 50/50. nine, second to best. Ten is the best.
CHRIS CUOMO: Now what do I do? I do reach out to people who know better? I've reach out to clinician. I reach out to people who do it for a living, who understand kids. Some book learning, some intuition from mom, the example of my wife, it all helped, but the best teacher around up being my little man.
It was really hard for me to change what I thought was right and what I knew and how it was. And he helped me do it.
MARIO CUOMO: You catch something?
CHRIS COUMO: No.
MARIO CUOMO: Oh.
CHRIS CUOMO: I used to get angry a lot more than I do now, right?
MARIO CUOMO: Yeah. CHRIS CUOMO: I would say, I'm sorry, I stink, I'm trying too be better, right?
MARIO CUOMO: Yeah.
CHRIS CUOMO: How do you think you helped me become a better daddy?
MARIO CUOMO: You always were a good daddy.
CHRIS CUOMO: It doesn't matter if he knows how much I changed, how much I learned from being with him. As long as you want to stay, we'll stay.
That little man taught me that if I let go and let somebody else have their way a little bit, I wind up happier and I wanted more satisfied that. No, I'm not saying it's all smiles and laughs, but now, we find a way through whatever life brings. Look at that grass fish. I think we'll always be buddies?
MARIO CUOMO: Even when you're not on earth anymore, you'll still be my buddy. Always.
CHRIS CUOMO: Now I know when he says that, he's thinking about grandpa being gone. So am I. It would be amazing for me to watch pop with Mario now. Mario.
MARIO CUOMO: Yes?
CHRIS CUOMO: Right here. I think pop would respect the effort I made to be better for my family. He put inside of us what we need to stay together and stay true to what matters most, and that's all I want from my kids. Two Marios changed my life, I suppose, and my hope and prayer is that what mattered most about the one who is gone will live on in me, my girls, and the son who carries his name.
MARIO CUOMO: No, no, no.
CHRIS CUOMO: Do you understand why it was important to name you after grandpa?
MARIO CUOMO: No.
CHRIS CUOMO: Because grandpa's gone, right? But his name lives on.
MARIO CUOMO: He's not gone. He's still in my heart.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Next, Ashleigh Banfield heads to Winnipeg, Canada to introduce us to the no-nonsense person who changed her life.
ASHLEIGH BANFILED, CNN ANCHOR: She's the boss, she's the glue, she's the mom, she's the friend, she's the mentor. She's pretty much every role.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) [20:43:09] PEREIRA: Good to have you back with us. A reminder, you can watch all of tonight's stories online at cnn.com/lifechangers. And while you're there, be sure to take a look at the photo galleries that we put together. They are really, really special. Now, on to the person our Ashleigh Banfield credits with, well, pretty much everything.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ASHLEIGH BANFIELD, CNN HOST: My mother's name is Suzsy Lount.
SUZSY LOUNT, ASHLEIGH BANFIELD'S MOTHER: Isn't that wonderful for a fire at the lake? So, how many pounds of fish total?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: 10.
BANFIELD: And this is our family brunch at her lakefront house near my hometown in Canada.
LOUNT: This is the traditional way we cook our fish. It is bacon dripping.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Time out.
BANFIELD: And she's the boss. She's the glue. She's the mom. She's the friend. She's the mentor. She's pretty much every role.
Certainly more roles than she ever expected. My mom, just out of college, married John Banfield in 1959. He was from an upper class family and seemed destined to a promising career as an architect.
LOUNT: I envisioned being a wife, being a mother. Everything looked perfect.
BANFIELD: But it was not perfect. Dad struggled with some alcoholism, but back then, people didn't talk about it. The disease had such a tight grip on dad that he went bankrupt twice. I was too young to understand, but my mom did.
LOUNT: We don't have any money. We don't have any money. Don't spend any money. Well, the children need socks, the children need shirts, the children need, you know, whatever.
[20:45:03] Well, don't spend any money.
BANFIELD: To pinch pennies, she bought day-old bread, meat and produce from the back of the store.
LOUNT: Everybody was moving up and I was moving down. I was terrified. I was terrified.
BANFIELD: Nonetheless, mom entered the cutthroat male-dominated world of real estate back in 1970.
LOUNT: Those days, ambition in a woman was a bad thing.
BANFIELD: Didn't matter. He turn out mom was really good. How good?
LOUNT: I became the breadwinner.
BANFIELD: Was that uncomfortable for dad?
LOUNT: You know, I think by the time the role reversal took place, your father, I think he'd sort of given up.
BANFIELD: Mom, on the other hand, soon opened her own company with my aunt and a friend.
LOUNT: And we were laughed at by quite a few people because women just didn't do that. They ought to be at home with their children.
BANFIELD: What started out as a way to keep the family afloat became a lesson about independence. Mom's style of mentoring was simple. Tough love. No complaining, no excuses.
Mom taught by example. As she bought and sold homes in Winnipeg's Toneiest neighborhoods.
LOUNT: We were unbelievably successful for three women that had no business training at all.
BANFIELD: So successful that I was off to a fancy private school. But it wasn't long before my adolescent rebellion began.
LOUNT: She was full of fire, full of beings.
BANFIELD: That is when the trouble began and mom hauled me in to see the headmaster, a place you do not want to be, and between the two of them, they read me the riot act.
Mom nipped that rebellious brat in the bud. In that moment, I had to ask myself a question, what do I want my future to look like?
I think a trajectory began there. After college, I started at CJBNTV. I'm Ashleigh Banfield, your host for the last edition of the summer show. It was a teeny tiny station in the sticks. Rick, can you tell me a little bit about how you got involved in Duck Carving and how long ago?
RICK: Well, I've been at it for five years now.
BANFIELD: Over time, I graduated to bigger stations in Canada, local news in the U.S., and then American networks.
But along the way, I went from Rising Star to have-been when I was demoted or fired and not just once.
Each time, mom offered a shoulder to cry on and maybe more importantly, blunt words if I sounded like giving up. "Move it, don't complain, get to work."
LOUNT: Those words have followed them all the way along in their life, tough it out. To have all my four children around the table right now is extremely special for me.
BANFIELD: I often think about the impact that she's had on me, as a professional, as a person.
LOUNT: Love you all.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love you too, grandma.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Love you, too grandma.
BANFIELD: She may not look it, but mom is now 77. I can never actually think about losing mom. I just, I can't. I don't know. I don't know who I'd call. I don't know what I would do. There's no one like her.
LOUNT: OK, gang.
BANFIELD: There is really no one else. Have I thanked you properly?
LOUNT: I think I'm going to cry. You know, sweetheart, you have -- just sitting here today with you, I'm so proud of you. I'm so proud of you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA: Coming up, my girl, Brooke Baldwin, wants you to meet the guy she says has made her a better person. And Anderson Cooper, we know you've been waiting for this one. You certainly will not be disappointed.
[20:53:10] COOPER: Welcome back to the "The Person Who Changed My Life".
PEREIRA: It's a question that we're asking you as well and we hope that you're sharing your answers using #MyLifeChanger on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
COOPER: All right. Let's go now to Brooke Baldwin, who did she choose? Well, the answer requires a trip back to middle school.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: It was the fall of 1991. With one of the best guitar riffs of all-time, Nirvana became the "Kings of Grunge".
The governor of Arkansas made his move.
BILL CLINTON, FORMER ANKANSAS GOVERNOR: I proudly announce my candidacy.
BALDWIN: And I was in middle school. Such a southern gentleman.
BOBY RASHAD JONES, BROOKE BALDWIN'S FRIEND: That's how we do it.
BALDWIN: It was also the year I met one of the most inspiring people I know. Bobby Rashad Jones.
Do you remember your locker combination?
JONES: I do not.
BALDWIN: Same noise. We were in the seventh grade here at the Westminster Schools in our hometown of Atlanta, Georgia.
Whoever wants to go back to seventh grade in your lifetime? Not me but I remember Rashad and we pretty quickly clicked.
JONES: Brooke was very outgoing and she was very welcoming and very compassionate toward the new students and she always was.
BALDWIN: Rashad and I had a lot of things in common. He was a starting linebacker. I was the captain of the cheerleaders. And our parents had the same rule, education first.
JONES: Education is the one thing that you can gain in life that no one can take from you.
BALDWIN: We're in a golf cart because this campus has grown so much since even we've been here. What were your jams you were listening to senior year?
JONES: Quad City DJs.
BALDWIN: Quad City DJs, so so that.
JONES: Bass all-stars.
[20:55:00] BALDWIN: We bonded over music. I introduced Rashad to Pearl Jam's heavy Seattle sound. And he opened my eyes to the dirty south beats of Atlanta rap.
And then he taught me about outcast. It was this music education for me with Rashad, but that was just the beginning of this long, long friendship that, you know, that's gone so beyond that. So far beyond that.
Two decades ago, Rashad and I sat on these same steps. Our talks about boys and basketball soon developed into discussions about much deeper issues like race.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Orenthal James Simpson not guilty of the crime of murder.
JONES: I'll never forget the O.J. Simpson trial. It was the first time I had real conversations about race at this school. When I was here at Westminster, when I first came in seventh grade, it was a culture shock that first semester.
BALDWIN: There were four black kids in the class?
JONES: There was like four, five black boys in the class and I want to say like three other girls, so it was very small. BALDWIN: Rashad and I came from different worlds.
I think that was one of the reasons why early on, just how you have certain people when you're younger who expose you to a totally different perspective and a way of life. It really resonated with me in high school in particular
He's taught me to always be open to other points of view, to tell the stories of people who may not always be heard.
I'm actually in the middle of police. And to be fair.
JONES: When you interviewed people during the Ferguson and Baltimore riots, you did your best to empathize and that's why the conversations were very real.
BALDWIN: But I think the only reason that I've been able to fully do that, one of the reasons is because of what you've taught me.
Rashad was recruited by more than a dozen college football teams, but he turned them down to attend the U.S. Naval Academy.
JONES: I will tell you that I've never been so proud to be a part of something so much bigger than myself.
BALDWIN: On graduation day, exuberance.
JONES: I kind of lost my mind.
BALDWIN: Even bear hugging his commander in chief. Rashad rose through the ranks to become a lieutenant commander in the U.S. navy.
This was the first terrorist attack on the United States from ISIS. Now our worlds are converging again.
Secretary of Defense yesterday -- I'm reporting on a world at war. He is fighting in one.
JONES: Captain's going to be off the ship this morning from a --
BALDWIN: Right now, Rashad is stationed in the Middle East as the executive officer on the U.S. as NTO actively engaged in the war on terror.
I am incredibly proud and not at all surprised.
All right. So, I'm cheerleading, football. Here's the football. I've often wondered what makes a real friend. Someone who keeps you honest, somebody who keeps you in check. I've found that and so much more in Rashad.
He without even probably realizing what he was doing was teaching me. Rashad helped teach me and still does how to be a better human being. How lucky am I?
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: Earlier this month, Brooke had one of her regular phone dates scheduled with Rashad and when she didn't hear from him, she sent him a text, still didn't hear back and turns out there was a reason. Rashad's ship had been called to rescue the 10 sailors who were recently captured and briefly detained by Iran.
PEREIRA: Brooke writes about it in an article that you will find on our website. It is a terrific read.
Now we turn to another great story, your remarkable family. You've just finished a book and a documentary. You did it along with your mom, Gloria Vanderbilt.
But for this project, I think it's so interesting, you've chosen to do a very touching essay about the relationship with your father and the lasting effect that he's had on your life.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: I was 10 years old when my father died and even though I didn't know him for very long, he changed my life in ways that no one else has.
My dad's name was Wyatt Cooper. He was just 50 when he died. I used to think that was old but now that I'm 48, 50 seems pretty young.
I recently found a scrapbook my dad kept when he was a boy. Gum wrappers and old newspaper articles. The flotsam and jetsam of small- town life in the 1930s.
[21:00:03] My had dad was always been interested in movies. His scrapbook is filled with pictures of actors and ticket stubs for films he went to see as a child.
He went to UCLA and worked as an actor for years mostly on stage and television. That's him in a cheesy movie with Mario Lanza called "The Seven Hills Of Rome."
COOPER: He also wrote screen plays and magazine articles. When he married my mom in 1963, he moved to New York. When my brother and I were born, we became the center of his world. I know he considered us his greatest achievements.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I all my life wanted very much to have children and quite specifically I wanted to have sons. So I think I could reverse the roles and they become the recipients of the kind of fathering that I had wanted and hoped for.
COOPER: I've always looked a lot like my dad. That's one of the reasons I think I felt so connected to him. There was something about the way he talked with me, even when I was very little, that made a huge impact.
He was always open and honest with my brother and me. He really listened to what we had to say. He gave me the sense that I had value. My ideas mattered. That instilled in me a confidence I don't think I would have otherwise had.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We talk a great deal about moral and character values but also they ask me questions like, Anderson, my youngest son asked, how much does a stockman make? Because that's what we would like to be now. You know. Whether he wants to be a stuntman or policeman.
COOPER: My brother and I were included on nearly everything he and my mom did. People came to dinner, we sat at the table and were part of the conversation. That's me welcoming Charlie Chaplain to our house when I was just 5 years old.
When you grow up secure in the love of a parent, it gives you a foundation that can carry you through all sorts of events in your life. That feeling of security and confidence, I still carry that with me today.
When someone dies, you think you'll never forget anything about them, but overtime, memories fade. I can't remember what my dad smelled like or the sound he made when he came through the front door.
But there are things I'll never forget. Laying with my head on his stomach as we watched TV together. I remember the rise and fall of his breath. The beat of his heart.
I remember him typing on his old typewriter late into the night. I remember that feeling of having a father, being loved, and feeling safe.
A person can change your life by the thing this say and do, what they teach you, but they can also change your life by leaving, by their absence. And my dad's death changed me in ways that I'm just now starting to understand.
COOPER: I remember New Year's eve, 1977. I watched the ball drop in Times Square on television.
COOPER: My dad was in the hospital. I knew he was really sick. I was really scared what the New Year would bring. He died just five days later. January 5th, while undergoing a heart operation.
I'm not sure I understood the finality of his death at the time, but I began to retreat into myself. I became less outgoing, more introverted. I also became much more independent.
COOPER: I began working to earn money, began learning in earnest how to take care of myself. Loss changes you, particularly when you lose a parent at a young age. The world suddenly seems a much different place. More dangerous.
The person I was before my father's death, the person I was meant to be, was far more open, more interesting than the person I'd become. I wish it wasn't so, but the self-reliance I learned has also served me well.
I often wonder what my father would think of me, what he would say to me, what advice he would give. I close my eyes and try to imagine him watching me on television or calling me on the phone to discuss a story I've written. I know he would be proud, but I wish I could hear him tell me so.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My relationships with my sons is quite extraordinary, and I think extraordinarily close, and we understand each other in the most extraordinary kind of way.
[21:05:05]COOPER: I heard his voice for the first time since I was 10 years old when a 1975 radio interview he gave was restored by the Clock Tower Radio and put on their website.
COOPER: I wish he'd been able to hold on just a little bit longer. I do feel lucky I had my dad for as long as I did. His death changed me, but his life changed me more. For that, I'm forever grateful.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: My feelings about what I want my sons to be, I certainly want them to be, let's say, a better man than I. My sons are very aware that I have certain expectations of them. That is that they will behave with honor and with dignity.
MICHAELA PEREIRA, CNN ANCHOR: It's so remarkable how much you look like your father.
COOPER: I know. Yes, I know, it's kind of cool.
PEREIRA: Can you tell me about hearing his voice? That, to me, was really powerful.
COOPER: It was really strange. I mean, it sounded nothing like I thought I remembered him, and so that was -- that was a strange experience to, you know, to hear this voice. If I didn't know it was my dad, I would not have recognized it.
PEREIRA: All of those pictures. All of those memories.
PEREIRA: So profound. I feel like I know you a little better now. Thanks for sharing. That was beautiful.
PEREIRA: Up next, Don Lemon, he visits the preacher who encouraged him to chase his dreams.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DON LEMON, CNN ANCHOR: Do you know how much I listen to you?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: No.
LEMON: You are the voice in my head.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
PEREIRA: Welcome back. Now we turn to Don Lemon's choice, Bishop T.D. Jakes. It's a perfect example of how sometimes one person can change your life in an instant even if you don't know them.
[21:10:07]LEMON (voice-over): It might sound strange, maybe even impossible, but the person who changed my life is someone I've never even met.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Hallelujah, hallelujah, hallelujah.
LEMON: Through the power of his voice and his message, Bishop T.D. Jakes pulled me out of a crisis more than a decade ago. I wouldn't be where I am today if I hadn't heard his words.
BISHOP T.D. JAKES: I hear it in my spirit. Somebody say, I hear it in my spirit. You should hear things in your spirit that contradict what you hear with your natural ear. You got to be willing to be criticized because you are hearing on a level that other people don't hear.
And you are seeing on a level that they don't see and you are building for things that they don't even understand because it hasn't appeared yet, but it's -- you all hear what I'm saying.
LEMON (on camera): Do you know how much I listen to you?
JAKES: No, I'm shocked.
LEMON: You are the voice in my head. You are the voice in my head. In many ways, you've changed my life.
JAKES: Wow. When I got the letter that you could have picked anybody as a hero, as a mentor, and that you chose me, I was like, I thought it was a joke. But what I am so grateful for is that I could say anything that made anybody's life better, you know?
That I could do something that other people would find useful because I grew up not thinking that I had anything at all to offer to anybody.
LEMON (voice-over): This is a story about dreams. For as long as I can remember, my dream was to be a journalist so I worked my way up, all the way to NBC News in New York City.
(on camera): It was very exciting, but I was never at home. So I took a chance. I believe in taking chances. I took a chance from a big network gig and I went to Chicago to become a local news anchor.
They told me when I came there I would do the big stories and specials and that I'd be the anchor then I ended up knocking on people's doors and doing local -- how do you feel about that your child is dead?
And I said, I don't want to do this. I took a stand for myself and I got suspended and almost got fired. So I went to this really low place and I had to reach and find something to keep me alive, and at that low point, I found T.D. Jakes.
JAKES: Look at your neighbor and say, neighbor -- you don't have to believe -- in my dream.
LEMON: The sermon that resonates with me that saved my life. I could probably repeat it by heart.
BLAKES: You probably do it better than I do.
LEMON: But it's called "My Dream."
BLAKES: All of you who have a dream that's bigger than you, all of you who have a dream and looks like people don't want to get with the program, I want you to say it, hey, neighbor.
LEMON: Hey, neighbor.
BLAKES: You don't have to believe -- in my dream.
LEMON: You don't have to believe in my dream.
LEMON: And I do that in the gym. I look at people on the next machine.
LEMON: Or I'll be running.
BLAKES: They're going to lock us both up.
LEMON: They just look at me and laugh. And I keep moving.
BLAKES: Look at your neighbor and say, I don't have time to wait. I don't have time for you to figure out who I really am, what I really meant. Understand my true heart, take into account how I was raised, where I came from or what I've been through. By the time you get through adding all of that, I'll be an old man and be dead. LEMON: That was all I needed to hear. He had me right there. So my dream wasn't to go to a poor mother's house and say, how do you feel that your kid is dead?
My dream was to make people in the world better through my work. You have to be fearless. How you do it, I think you just do it one step at a time.
When I'm going -- when I went through what I went through in Chicago, as I would run on that path, I would just say, one foot in front of the other.
BLAKES: You thought I wasn't going to survive? Please. Let me --
LEMON (voice-over): Listening to T.J. Jakes, I came to realize that I had the power to change my situation.
BLAKES: I can deal with presidents and ambassadors because I got something. I'm not intimidated by any man because I got something.
LEMON: That we all have the power to control our own lives.
(on camera): The difference between negativity and positivity is just that.
LEMON: You helped flip that switch for me. How do you do that?
[21:15:01]BLAKES: Well, I think if there's something unique about me, I have been down, I have been broke, I have been depressed, I have been suicidal, I've had my car repossessed. I know what it is not to have all my utilities on. I know what it is to need to use my neighbor's phone.
So when you've seen life from down under and you finally get up over where you can talk, the fuel that pushes me comes from where I came from, not where I'm going to.
LEMON (voice-over): After I came to CNN, I interviewed Bishop Jakes about his work, his books, and the news of the day, but I never told him how much he inspires me or what he means to my life.
(on camera): Most of my adult life, the father figure that I've had in my head is you.
BLAKES: That's amazing to me.
LEMON: So, thank you for the tough love, the inspiration, for understanding me when I didn't even know you, and now that I know you, for understanding me even more.
BLAKES: To know that I am helping you gives my life meaning. My destiny is to help you reach yours. And the one thing that I know for sure, when you started talking a moment ago, I heard your heart speak and hearts don't lie. Hearts really don't lie. LEMON: When someone changes your being and the way you look at the world and life, that's invaluable.
PEREIRA: You took us to church -- of course, it does. What I find so amazing about this is that the person who changed your life is somebody you'd never met.
LEMON: Never met.
PEREIRA: Did other people at the church, did they feel they had that same connection with him?
LEMON: He does that. He makes you feel like he's speaking just to you and that's the power. That's why he is who he is. That's why he's T.D. Jakes. But, you know, I felt -- he's the friend in my head, the mentor in my head and exactly what I needed, so I love him. I loved him from afar. Now that I know him I --
PEREIRA: He's always with you. That's the great thing. Isn't that good? Right there.
LEMON: I can watch him on the computer or go see him at his church.
PEREIRA: Thanks so much for opening up and sharing that with us, Don.
LEMON: Thank you, and thank you, Bishop Jakes.
PEREIRA: If you'd like to find the entire sermon that inspired Don, you'll find it at CNN.com/lifechangers.
Up next up, Carol Costello. She said her mentor was a lot like Lou Grant.
COOPER: Like so many people in this business, Carol Costello has moved from one local station to another working for ten different news directors. One of them a little rough around the edges perhaps saw something special in her.
CAROL COSTELLO, CNN ANCHOR: Good morning. I'm Carol Costello. Thank you so much for joining me.
I've always wanted to be TV reporter since I was 12 years old. I cannot tell you the sense of excitement. Really easy to feel the hope and the love. Take a look at all those people.
I watched Mary Tyler Moore. She worked in the news business, and I loved her. She was independent. She was strong. She was sassy. She was everything that I wanted to be. (voice-over): Maybe it was a little of Mary's spunk that gave me the courage to cold-call a legendary news director I never met.
I was 21 working as a reporter in Akron, Ohio. I needed some guidance. I needed to work in a bigger market. So I took a big risk.
(on camera): Ron Belik at the time worked in Cleveland, so I called him one day out of the blue and he daned to talk to me.
RON BELIK: Somebody came and drove through town and said I'm in town, could I talk to you? I said, why not? The guy driving the 13A bus may be a better talent than, you know, the anchor you have on the air right now.
COSTELLO: We just struck up a great conversation and it got to be a relationship and I called him every two weeks for the next I would say, for the next three years and those phone calls consisted of advice, encouragement.
(voice-over): I needed it. I was struggling. My confidence was shot after I was fired from TV 23 in Akron.
(on camera): And I said to him, I don't think I'm ever going to make it in journalism and he told me to be patient. He just gave me the courage to continue.
BELIK: How you doing?
COSTELLO: I'm good.
BELIK: Good seeing you.
COSTELLO (voice-over): Ron was right. My patience paid off. When he became the news director here at WSYX in Columbus, he hired me.
(on camera): Do you remember where your office was?
BELIK: Yes. It was over there, I think.
COSTELLO: I've always wondered, though, does the fact that you took my call meant the world to me, did you realize that?
BELIK: No. What I got out of our conversations was that you got what the business was all about. This is somebody that has got more meat on the bone than most of the people that I talk to.
COSTELLO: What was my role?
BELIK: I thought you were one of my best reporters and so I always wanted you to be covering stuff that I thought was some of the most important things in a community, and at that particular time, the city had somewhat of a crime problem. COSTELLO: And sometimes you just don't care. That's exactly how violent kids are living their whole entire lives. The best advice that Ron ever gave me was finding that nugget of information that makes me different from every other reporter on the air.
(voice-over): But Ron's advice was often harsh. He didn't mince words.
(on camera): I would bring scripts to you and you would look at them and you'd say, this is a piece of (inaudible).
BELIK: Yes. Because it was, right? I'm not politically correct, but I'm -- but I care, no matter how rough, hard, obnoxious I was. It wasn't mean-spirited. It was dammit, I want you to be good because I know you can be good.
COSTELLO: She was telling me she has a crappy newscast one day, she was hiding behind a computer and you threw an apple at her.
I liked his bluntness because I always knew where I stood with Ron.
(voice-over): Ron certainly had his share of haters. He was the news director at ten stations across the country, but there are others just like me who appreciated his candor and the way he pushed us to succeed.
[21:25:08]Joe Johns and I work now at CNN, but more than 30 years ago Joe worked for Ron in Charlotte.
JOE JOHNS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Ron Bilek was the greatest learning experience I could have ever had in this business. It was like a master's in television without having to pay tuition.
I can't say that I enjoyed it 100 percent because it was so tough, but I'm very thankful for it because even to this day, in sticky situations, I know how to do it and I think of Ron Bilek.
COSTELLO: That's exactly how I feel.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I knew you used to work here.
COSTELLO (on camera): I did. He hired me her.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Alicia. I've heard your name before.
COSTELLO: He's a legend.
(voice-over): While Ron had a knack for coaching on-air talent, he was always happy to stay behind the scenes. It took a lot of convincing to get him to do this interview.
(on camera): What was your hesitation?
BELIK: I'm extremely shy. I don't think I look good as you guys know. There are no pictures of me.
COSTELLO: That's kind of odd, Ron.
BELIK: I'm kind of an odd guy, you know?
COSTELLO: Were you surprised that you were the person that made the most impact in my life?
BELIK: Yes. I was taken back. I thought it should be a parent or a priest or --
COSTELLO: See, that probably says something pathetic about me.
BELIK: I was going to say, yes, I sit back and say, whoa.
COSTELLO: Exactly what is wrong with her?
BELIK: My God.
COSTELLO: But I'm a career-oriented person and I always have been, right? You taught me how to do television.
(voice-over): That was me. Young and energetic. Ron helped me channel that enthusiasm into success.
(on camera): Thank you so much for stopping by. Really appreciate it.
BELIK: I'm at the gym when you're on the air.
COSTELLO: So you're forced to watch me.
BELIK: Well, yes.
COSTELLO: What am I doing right? What am I doing wrong?
BELIK: I wanted to tell you, stop saying I appreciate you being with me. That says you're shocked that they would be willing to be with you.
COSTELLO: I can take anything. I've been fired three times. I always bounce back. I credit Ron with giving me the toughness to survive.
(voice-over): So I think I did become my own version of Mary Tyler Moore.
COSTELLO: I had to ask myself, who was my Lou Grant? Ron was.
(on camera): Because Lou was gruff, he didn't quite know how to talk to people, but he was lovable in a weird kind of way and that's Ron Bilek. Thank you, Ron.
COOPER: One last reminder, we'd like to know the person who had the biggest impact on your life. We're checking out your posts on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Use #mylifechanger.
When we come back, Poppy Harlow was driven to follow in her father's footsteps. She inherited a lot from the person who changed her life.
PEREIRA: You know Poppy Harlow as one of the weekend anchors here on CNN. Here's a little something you may not know. Poppy really hates to fly. But to tell you the story of the person who changed her life, she didn't think twice about doing it.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You were so central to his being.
POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: At trial, he used to call home every night and read to you.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: He adored you. He just adored you.
HARLOW: Thank you.
I'm going to the childhood home where I grew up with my mom and dad in Minneapolis. When I got this assignment, he just immediately came to my mind, of course, my dad. Of course, who changed me? Him.
When I tell people my dad died at 49, they say, I'm so sorry. You were so young. I say to them, I had more of a dad in 15 years than a lot of kids ever get.
MARY HARLOW, POPPY'S MOTHER: He managed to pack 100 years of living in 50 years. He was just kind of a wild man. He had lots of energy.
POPPY HARLOW (on camera): What in him do you see in me?
MARY HARLOW: You were both dedicated workers. You were just, you know, ever since you were a little girl, you were just a hard-driving little charger. It was a challenge to pry -- it is a challenge still to pry you away from your work and it was a challenge to pry your dad away from his work, too.
POPPY HARLOW (voice-over): My dad was a trial lawyer. He loved it. The work was all-consuming. He prioritized us. Family. Managed to hold on to the most important things in life.
(on camera): Every morning he'd wake up 4:30, 5:00 a.m., drive me to skating practice and he would go to work. Didn't matter what he had going on, how tired he was, he was always there for me.
MARY HARLOW: This is the picture of your third birthday party.
POPPY HARLOW: He's still in his suit.
MARY HARLOW: He's still in his suit. POPPY HARLOW: Like he just ran in the house.
MARY HARLOW: That's right. He ran across three airports and kept saying to the people who were with him, I got to make it home for Poppy's birthday, I got to make it home for her birthday.
POPPY HARLOW: He took me to the office a lot, right?
MARY HARLOW: He did. That's a picture you made one Saturday morning at the office. He saw every piano recital you did, every skating show. He was a wonderful father. He was really your model. You're your father's daughter, without a doubt.
POPPY HARLOW: This is Columbia where I went to college, it's where my dad went to school and I wanted to follow in his footsteps and be like him. I even found my college application essay that I wrote about him.
I learned what nobility really means from watching my father struggle so hard to live, never complaining, never lashing out in his pain, and always thanking everyone for their help.
In the end my father taught me the answer to a question I had never posed, how to die. My father died with dignity and love knowing he had left nothing undone.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Welcome back to St. Paul.
POPPY HARLOW: Thanks.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: In Minneapolis.
POPPY HARLOW: You guys all look the same.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Of course, we do.
POPPY HARLOW (voice-over): My dad's partners at the law firm were like a second family to us, especially after he died.
TOM HATCH, FORMER JIM HARLOW LAW PARTNER: You say about everybody, well, there's no one like him. You can't even get anything close to Jim, seriously.
MIKE CIRESI, FORMER JIM HARLOW LAW PARTNER: In those days, you just sort of put your heads down and plowed forward. Jim was different. He actually made the time to make sure he was there for you.
JAN CONLON, FORMER JIM HARLOW LAW PARTNER: He knew when he was spending time with you to devote 100 percent to it and he knew when he was working to devote 100 percent to it.
HATCH: Watching you today, he would have been -- it would have been incessant. He would have been in the office, did you see Poppy last night?
CONLON: We would have had a CNN TV channel on in every room in the office.
[21:35:05]POPPY HARLOW: Every day I want to make him proud because he did so much for me. His death spurred me to want to do better. His death made me want to achieve.
I remember going into my freshman year of high school nine days after he died and the school said, well, you don't need to come, you can take some time off, but I just wanted to dive in.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Does it feel smaller?
POPPY HARLOW: It doesn't feel smaller. I feel a little bit older.
(voice-over): Frank Sachs (ph) was my high school college counselor.
FRANK SACHS, HIGH SCHOOL COLLEGE COUNSELOR: I have a copy of my recommendation that I wrote for you when you applied to college. I said you had real inner strength. Self-discipline. That you had overcome tragedy, because, you know, your dad had just died. That's actually when we connected. Can I give you a hug?
POPPY HARLOW (on camera): I'll never forget the day that I found out I got into Columbia. I jumped around my house and I was so thrilled.
MARY HARLOW: Almost identical. Yours from 2000 and dad's from 1965. Yes, you, made your dad proud.
POPPY HARLOW: I wanted to be a lawyer just like my dad. I was so set on being like him that I forgot for a while to be my version of him.
MARY HARLOW: Girls who lose a father young tend to do extremely well, tend to be very ambitious because they're trying to offer this as a gift to their father who's gone. And you definitely did that, and you're still working hard just like he did.
POPPY HARLOW: What would he tell me at 33 years old?
MARY HARLOW: Relax and enjoy life a little more. Life is short and precious.
POPPY HARLOW: e lived 49 years, but my goodness, he had more fun than probably 100 people in 100 lifetimes.
(voice-over): To live in the moment, that may be the core lesson my dad has left behind for me and it's still one I'm trying to learn.
(on camera): I still live a lot for what I need to accomplish. It's a good reminder to me just to maybe focus me again on what matters because he was only 16 years older than I am now when he died.
MARY HARLOW: Quite a legacy, big guy. Quite a legacy. We're so happy that he lives on in you.
POPPY HARLOW (voice-over): A total original, witty, honest, and kind. My dad was my cornerstone and the person who changed my life.
PEREIRA: What's the best advice Poppy's ever been given? She and our other anchors answer some intriguing questions like that in the video extras you can watch now at CNN.com/lifechangers.
Still ahead, my other morning pal, Alisyn Camerota. She says it took a real friend to tell her something she didn't want to hear.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: You'd be like, you need to straighten your room. I was like, why? You were like, pick up your clothes.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Sometimes it takes a close friend to see what you can't see then to call you on it. For Alisyn Camerota, apparently this has something to do with a guy she once dated. Take a look.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): My wedding, 14 years ago, a day that for many years I thought would never happen.
My story begins on the crime show "America's Most Wanted" when I was 26 years old.
(on camera): What did you think when you started reading in the paper that he was a serial killer?
(voice-over): No, I didn't fall in love with a serial killer, and, no, the person who changed my life was not a fugitive. She was fellow crime reporter, Maria Villalobos.
(on camera): Maria was this 32-year-old married woman. I was in my 20s. The idea I would become great friends with some what I considered to be an old married lady at the time seemed impossible.
MARIA VILLALOBOS, FRIEND AND FORMER COLLEAGUE: I met her when she was 26, very cool, life progressing fast for her. Dating lots of guys.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Though we were in different life stages, Maria and I did become best friends and started spending almost all of our free time together.
CAMEROTA: I soon started vacationing with Maria and her husband.
VILLALOBOS: Alisyn and Matt looking at the map.
CAMEROTA: Even following them on one trip all the way to London. It was during that time with Matt and Maria that I started feeling something was missing in my own life. I had relationships, but I did not have what they had, my own family and commitment. And I had no idea how to get it.
(on camera): My parents got divorced when I was 8, so I wasn't around a lot of happily married people. And to have Matt and Maria who were, you know, six years older than me, I just saw how they worked together and I had never seen anything like that.
(voice-over): Maria and I reunited recently in Boston at the aptly named Mamma Maria, one of the many places I'd crashed their dinner date almost 20 years ago.
VILLALOBOS: I remember. You had just gotten a cell phone.
CAMEROTA (on camera): I had?
VILLALOBOS: And you were always on it checking boyfriends calling you. How was your new year last night?
VILLALOBOS: She would bring over every boyfriend to meet us. She really wanted the seal of approval from us and we would always sometimes tease them and say to the boyfriends, like, we better not get too close because someone else is going to be coming. We'd all laugh.
MATT DANILOWICZ, MARIA'S HUSBAND: She typically had about three or four guys she was spinning around at any given time, but I think I've come to learn with the wisdom of some years that actually for women, that's not the ideal situation.
CAMEROTA: Everything throughout my 20s felt like I'd been sort of repeating, possibly not productive patterns in my life love.
[21:45:06]I had just turned 30 years old and I felt like I don't know what I'm doing with my life. It felt very empty.
VILLALOBOS: That's when my Mama Maria's advice came in and I had to, like, start cutting you off at the knees.
CAMEROTA: I remember that. You'd be like, you need to straighten your room. I was like, why? You were like, pick up your clothes off the floor.
VILLALOBOS: Right. When I would tell you, you need to cook for your boyfriends, make them dinner, need to make them cookies, you probably thought you're being so sexist. I wasn't --
CAMEROTA: I didn't think sexist. I thought old-fashioned.
VILLALOBOS: What I was trying to say was take your mind off yourself and put it to someone else, let them know that you care about them, give them of your time. I always thought that you pretended that you didn't like them. Like, you didn't need them and I was like, that's not working for you.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): Like a football coach, Maria began videotaping my bad plays. Documenting my selfish behavior and playing it back for me. Like this time when I was complaining about my life right in front of my boyfriend.
VILLALOBOS: And you walk in the door, it's New Year's day, and here's what you do.
VILLALOBOS: She wasn't as giving. The concept of giving of your time to go buy someone a present, or bake them cookies or make them dinner. It was very foreign to her.
CAMEROTA: I started to follow Maria's advice. I never baked any cookies, but I didn't start thinking about other people's feelings and letting them know I cared.
(on camera): After about three, four years in Boston, Matt got a job far away in Madison, Wisconsin, and I was really bereft and upset because I thought I was not going to be able to figure it all out without Maria.
VILLALOBOS: I was like, I'm going to leave. You're going to feel that hole, the hole I left, with other people, with new people. And you're going to get married.
When she met Tim, things became quiet. There was no drama. It was easy. The wedding makes me very emotional because her mother came up to me when I least expected it and said, like, the most beautiful thing to me.
She said, Maria, you changed my daughter, and it was one of the nicest things that anybody has ever said to me.
CAMEROTA (voice-over): When I thought about what really changed my life the most, it was getting married and having kids. And then I had to think, who helped facilitate that and the answer was Maria.
VILLALOBOS: I think that you had it in you all the time, you just needed a little tweaking at the beginning, but it's like, it's such an honor to see you so happy.
CAMEROTA: Sometimes you just need a little tweaking and, of course, a dear friend to tell you that. I credit Maria with helping me find my way to a happy marriage and three children who allow me to love unconditionally every single day.
(on camera): She was just so loving and supportive. I really don't know what I would have done without her in my life.
COOPER: It's so interesting because a lot of the advice was sort of old-fashioned advice, you could say. CAMEROTA: Yes. I used to call Maria my grandmother because she does have home-spun old-fashioned advice, but what I think she was really trying to say was just give something to other people. Stop being so selfish.
So she uses food illustrations for me because she know food gets my attention. Basically, she was saying, stop thinking about yourself so much.
COOPER: And are there other things now you go to her for advice for?
CAMEROTA: Yes. All the time. She's great for, like, a baby christening gift if I need a suggestion, a bar mitzvah if I need a suggestion, wedding gift, also if I'm having any sort of interpersonal problem with a friend or a co-worker.
What's great about Maria is she never gives you just a pat answer. She goes like this, OK, I got it. She tells you the answer. It's really helpful.
COOPER: It's great to have her. I should call her.
CAMEROTA: Yes, she would love that, actually.
COOPER: All right, Alisyn, thanks so much.
CAMEROTA: My pleasure.
COOPER: Up next, Wolf Blitzer, to show you who changed his life, we had to dig into the CNN archives back to when Wolf looked like this.
COOPER: We've seen some really moving and inspirational stories tonight about family members and friends and mentors. We want to wrap it up with Wolf Blitzer. He's been part of our CNN family for 25 years now.
PEREIRA: Coincidentally, though, the person who change his life once worked right down the hall.
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM" (voice-over): After years of reporting live for CNN, I like to think I have finally gotten the hang of it. But for me, it wasn't always easy, 25 years ago, I was the new kid on the block, a reporter who was new to television.
And in a little over my head. My career on air started by happenstance. I was a print reporter and author in Washington, working in a building right next door to CNN.
BERNARD SHAW, FORMER CNN ANCHOR: Middle Eastern stories were a staple in our daily news coverage. And you would come out of your office, walk across the alley, through a side door, and you'd be reporting.
BLITZER: If that wasn't nerve-racking enough, the man interviewing me was Bernard Shaw, CNN's principal anchor who in those days was already a legend.
Bernie grew up in Chicago. After attending college there, he joined the Marine Corps where he became interested in journalism. After leaving the service, Bernie went back to his hometown and began his career.
[21:55:11]After Chicago, he landed the White House beat, reporting for CBS and ABC News. By the time he arrived at CNN in 1980, he was already one of the most prominent reporters and anchors in the country. Little did I know when I would watch him back then he would become both a mentor and a friend.
(on camera): I knew that he brought a tremendous amount of depth to covering news from a television perspective that I certainly didn't have. And I sort of relied on him.
To gain some insights, I watched him closely to see how he was doing it, what he was doing.
I really didn't understand the difference between writing for a newspaper or a magazine as opposed to writing for television.
SHAW: You were an excellent writer. Still are, by the way. My charge was to assist you to be a better reporter in a visual medium.
BLITZER: I started on May 8, 1990 and on August 1, 1990, only a few weeks later, Saddam Hussein invades Kuwait.
SHAW: Baptism by fire.
BLITZER (voice-over): The first gulf war put CNN on the map, and me, well, in front of it. As the network's new Pentagon correspondent, I watch Bernie along with my colleagues Peter Arnett and John Holman reporting from Baghdad in the lead-up to the war.
After interviewing Saddam Hussein in the past, Bernie returned there for another interview. When that fell through, he chose to stay. And then the bombs began falling.
(on camera): The first thing that went through my mind, I hope they are going to be OK because I knew that this air campaign, the bombs were coming in big time.
BLITZER: You really were scared for your life.
SHAW: Yes, very much so. In war, one moment you're alive. The next moment, you're dead. BLITZER (voice-over): Watching Bernie during those days of crisis taught me a lot about how to do my job better, what we do as a team sport. What we didn't know at the time was how big a toll it took on Bernie.
(voice-over): I only found out recently that he came back from Baghdad with some post-traumatic stress, and that he was suffering.
SHAW: There were times when I could be walking down the street and hear a sound and I would jump. There would be times when I would go into a mild depression when I thought about everything that had happened and that could have happened in a negative sense.
BLITZER: Bernie never told us, because for him, the news always came first. He taught me about the balance between showing emotion on air and being in control to better help viewers understand what's happening.
SHAW: That story was almost too emotional for me. It required a lot of self-control.
BLITZER (on camera): During the commercial breaks, you know, I said to him, I remember vividly saying, Bernie, this is not easy, is it? And I remember watching you and learning from you. I said, he really knows how to convey the moment to the American people.
SHAW: Always remember that less is more and less is better.
BLITZER (voice-over): When Bernie retired in 2001, I never thought I'd take his seat in the anchor chair.
(on camera): One thing I always remembered was how generous you were to reporters like me.
SHAW: Far be it for me to, because of egotistical reasons, actually tell the viewers what you have to report.
BLITZER: You would always compliment me at the end of that report. Nice work, Wolf. Good job. Strong report. And my parents who were watching would always say something like, that Bernie Shaw is such a nice man. He complimented you so nicely.
(voice-over): Because of our schedules, Bernie and I don't get to see each other as much as we once did. But when we do, time melts away, and I always walk away having learned something.
SHAW: Your demeanor is showing through throughout that debate.
BLITZER: That's just what happens with a mentor. And there isn't a day that goes by that I don't think about the doors he opened for me and for so many others.
COOPER: It is so great to see Bernie Shaw.
PEREIRA: He looks great.
COOPER: He really does.
PEREIRA: We end with an important part of our very own history. There's certainly a lot more about the people we all chose on our web site. Be sure to take a look. That's it for us. I'm Michaela Pereira.
COOPER: I'm Anderson Cooper. Thanks for watching. Have a great night.