The people that we interviewed for this unique special are indeed remarkable individuals. It was a privilege to have an opportunity to talk with them about aspects of their lives that allowed them to overcome challenges and find success. All were very different in their backgrounds and upbringing. Yet, there was a common thread that influenced their lives: All of them stressed that it was their families that helped to guide them in their early lives.
It's my hope that their insights and perspective will give you a glimpse into lives that are filled with both triumphs and pitfalls. So often in our society we tend to neglect the wisdom and values that come from those who are much older.
Today, there is such a huge emphasis on keeping up with a younger generation and making sure that staying young remains a top priority for both men and women. Yet, there is so much to learn from those who have accomplished a great deal and have the experience to back them up. In this special, you will hear from several high-profile newsmakers and thought I would share some thoughts about three of the people that we feature in this documentary.
NBA great Bill Russell for example, says he doesn't feel comfortable being described as an icon or a legend. He simply says his greatest achievement is that, "I am my father's son. My father was my hero." When he was about 5 years old, Russell's father talked to him in very interesting way. He describes a conversation where his father said, "If you decide to be a ditch digger here in this town, find out how well you can do it. What I want for you is that after you've done it for awhile, they'll be people in New York, California and Florida talking about how well you do your job." Russell's father meant that whatever you do, find out what's essential to make it good or successful and not only excel at it, but use your imagination and see how far you can take it.
Despite his towering height, Russell is a soft-spoken and gentle man who really wants to reach out and help young people who often don't have parents or a mentor to turn to. He believes that his success as a champion basketball player is simply one chapter in his life and that his life is meaningful in so many other ways whether it's spending time with his family or working to help youngsters who have dreams of becoming basketball stars. Russell says life is full of possibilities and often thinks about his mother's advice: "You can't know love unless you love yourself."
Actress Florence Henderson, who many around the world know as Carol Brady from the hit TV series "The Brady Bunch," is a woman who embraces life with so much positive energy. She says, "I don't allow myself to have negative energy affect me. I believe in the power of positive thinking and that's what has helped get through the challenges in my life."
Henderson knows firsthand what it means to struggle and cope with very difficult circumstances. As a very young child her family had little or no money. Her father was an alcoholic and did little to help bring in money for the family. She would often go out to see a movie matinee just to escape from the sad realties of her home life. Watching wonderful musicals and happy ending movies allowed her to see the world differently.
It was at the age of about five that she decided she wanted to perform. With the help of her mother, Henderson sang for small groups and earned a little money, which was used to help feed her family. Yet, she says she never felt sorry for herself or allowed herself to become bitter. She says loved to sing and dance — and that's where she was most happy.
Henderson was always determined to find a way onto the big stage and didn't mind the hard work that went with all the auditions and performances. Many people may not know that she was a star on Broadway before television. She told me, "I believe that you have to follow your heart's desire when it comes to finding the right path in life. One must never give up on a dream and even when it seems that all doors are closed, you must still try to find one that opens."
Although she is grateful for her role as Carol Brady, it certainly doesn't define this dynamic woman. She says that she always eager to try new projects and she even directs some of her plays. Currently, she's working on a one-woman show that puts her life to music. Above all she says, "It's my faith and spiritual outlook that keeps me grounded and I believe that it's important for young people to connect with that part of themselves in order find clarity and balance in their lives." As I talked with her, I found that her calm aura and positive energy was quite uplifting. She has no plans to slow down and looks forward to performing on the stage and screen for years to come.
Astronaut Gene Cernan is an amazing man who is very humble about his astonishing triumphs in space. Cernan is often referred to as the last man to walk the Moon. That's a phrase that makes him restless, because he believes man must go back and explore the Moon in a way that hasn't been done before. He noted, "It's a little disappointing and a dubious honor to be the last man to walk on the Moon."
As commander of Apollo 17 — the last manned mission to land on the Moon — Cernan said, "The Apollo program was the greatest human endeavor" in history because people came together with the dedication and willpower to achieve something unlike anything that had ever been done, adding, "We need to get back into that Saturn V world mentality. I believe that the next generation will take us back out there where we belong."
Despite his incredible background and experience, he expresses a childlike delight when he reflects on what it was like to walk on the Moon: "It was an overwhelming experience, and I couldn't believe that I was actually looking back at the Earth from my unusual vantage point." It was in that experience, he found a spiritual moment when he watched the beauty of Earth thousands and thousands miles away — and felt sad that planet Earth had its share of armed conflicts, poverty and strife. It only served to underscore his belief that man must find a way to co-exist peacefully with his neighbors and that in his words, "God created earth as a beautiful jewel that must always be treasured."
Cernan is passionate about making sure young people understand why it's important to keep reaching for the stars: "The inspiration of our young people is truly what the future is all about." Even though he's retired from NASA, the space travel remains close to his heart. He travels the country speaking out on the value of keeping up the space program.
Despite his success, Cernan's early days with NASA took its toll on his family. His first marriage fell apart because of his relentless drive to stay with the space program. He was away a great deal of the time and his family had to manage on their own. He says he's learned some tough lessons, regrets the fallout and has now found a way to keep his family and his passion for space more balanced. He is genuinely a hero and his impact as a space pioneer will endure for generations to come.
"A Special for Young People" will also feature reflections from baseball manager extraordinaire, Tommy Lasorda; Broadway and cabaret singer, Barbara Cook; late night talk show great Ed McMahon, along with legendary Irish musician, Paddy Maloney. I hope that you enjoy this program and hopefully it will make a difference to a younger generation that might just find some "pearls of wisdom" to help them through life's adventures.
Uma Pemmaraju currently serves as anchor for FOX News Channel's (FNC) America's News Headquarters (Saturdays 12-1PM/ET). She joined the network in 1996 and is based in New York. Click here for more information on Uma Pemmaraju.