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Still Dreaming Big

Diane Sawyer answers our questions about dreams, faith and advice.

Diane Sawyer

Guideposts: What was it like meeting Catherine Marshall when you were 17?
Diane Sawyer: It was a seismic wake-up call for everybody around. Catherine was a Junior Miss pageant judge that year. She seemed almost disappointed at how we contestants expressed our ambitions.

She challenged us to take whatever each of us had and start thinking beyond our limited horizons. She dared us to dream big. She hated waste, most of all, waste of human capacity. She wanted to shake us up and say, “There’s so much more you can do!” She could see the way the world could be and the way your life could be.

GP: How did she encourage you to develop your faith?
DS: I had never met a person who lived and worked her faith like that. It wasn’t simply about what she wanted to do. It was about faith animating her for what she thought was exciting about the world, and that was a huge difference for me. She wasn’t about shutting doors and excluding people. She was about, “What will we learn today about the world that we didn’t know before?”

GP: What kind of advice would you give to someone like you today?
DS: To be positive, to be kind. So much gets done in joy and laughter. So much gets done when you make your arms as big as the world. Life can be hard—too hard for us not to be kind to one another. I read that the word “smile” came from the verb “to wonder.” When we smile, there’s wonder and awe.

GP: How do you do that in the world we live in?
DS: At this moment, with so much anger around, it’s very hard to say. But we’ve got to try to understand one another. I think we owe it to the world and ourselves to understand Islam.

It’s sometimes hard to remember that terrorism comes from just a handful of people. It’s not the religion. It’s the handful of people inside a religion who don’t represent its peaceful heart. We are all guests on a tiny little planet and we all happened to be invited here at the same time.

GP: Catherine exhorted you to dream big. How does that work?
DS: Find a place where you feel that what you’re doing gives you joy and at the same time is helping others. If you can wake up each day and say, there is going to be such excitement, and at the same time say, you have done some good for someone—that’s it for me.

Heaven knows I’m so blessed by the doors that have opened and the options I’ve had. But, really, there just has to be one thing, one thing that moves you. That’s what you need.

GP: Is there a big dream that you would still like to fulfill?
DS: I have always loved human interest stories—stories of people in their everyday lives. I have thought how great it would be to branch out and begin to document all these amazing stories of hope from people around the world! A real passion for me is to present stories of real people so that others can gain courage and hope in their own lives.

GP: How do you find stories like that?
DS: It’s important to listen carefully. It’s important to hear from different people. When viewers talk about Good Morning America they say they want to hear something for their souls. Something that says, “go and live this day to the fullest.” Something that tells them they’re not alone in the world.

GP: It’s a bit like a daily devotional.
DS: That’s a beautiful way to put it. Take the “devoted” elements of people’s lives and set them apart as an example of hope to others. Many people would think that it’s wealth, power or influence that gives us meaning in life. I believe what gives us meaning are the incredible stories of faith from everyday people in everyday life.

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