Saturday, July 18, 2009
A Baby Boomer Remembers Walter Cronkite
Walter Cronkite- A Profile in Character and Professionalism
Several role models have guided me throughout the many chapters of my life. One, has just died and I promise not to forget the incredible newsman and the many years of support and truth he gave to our nation.
His was the voice of compassion announcing the shooting of JFK, his death, and the shocking killing of Lee Harvey Oswald. In the first announcement he took his glasses off and his eyes misted up. Steady, solid, sticking to the facts he was the anchor that pulled us all together in this time of national tragedy and tumult. He was the voice most of America trusted.
When the first man, Neil Armstrong, walked on the moon, in the summer of 1969, Walter Cronkite in his honest coverage reflected the awe and unabashed glee that we all felt as all of the other tumultuous social problems we experienced were forgotten in that magical moment of the Apollo flight.
According to so many sources Walter was the consummate professional seeking verification of names, how to pronounce them, all facts and total objectivity in reporting stories. He withheld bias and told it as he heard it.
In his 19 years at CBS, he became a mentor for many young news people ascending the steep ladder. He treated them with respect, wit and taught them all of the steps for becoming successful, thorough and credible. In fact many journalists pay tribute to Mr. Cronkite as the reason for embarking upon a career in broadcasting.
Walter Cronkite had enthusiasm- enthusiasm that was so contagious that most of his viewers connected with him . He had all of the traits that should be the benchmark for television news anchors. Humility, objectivity, passion, reverence for facts that held up and respect. He became the voice of America and a voice that we trusted so much. Once in his career, only once, he ventured an opinion after touring Vietnam, hosting a documentary on the TET offensive and realizing the futility of the battle. He knew we could not win and that so many lives were being lost with no end in sight. For the first time he made his views public to the nation. 40 years ago, on February 27, 1968, at the end of his fabled daily news broadcast when he made a few remarks that this baby boomer will never forget. It was so out of character for this veteran newsman to venture his own personal opinion. He made it clear that "the bloody experience of Vietnam is to end in stalemate." His moral convictions were so strong and the trust in him so high that when President Johnson heard of this and other comments he said, "That's it. If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost middle America." Later, in January of 2006 he shared that his statements on Vietnam was his proudest moment.
When the most trusted man in America, stepped down from his anchor position at CBS in 1981, I cried. His was the face, his was the voice that I wanted to hear. He was the one and the only one that I trusted to tell it like it was. I knew that I would never, ever be able to connect as much as I did with the man who literally defined the role of TV news anchor.
It did sadden me that news of his death at the age of 92 did not take center stage. He was the reporter who "never let us down" and was a broadcasting icon that stole a piece of my heart.
In this age of anomie and unrest it is sweet to have a memory of a role model that set really high standards for professionalism but also touched and influenced so many lives.
Here's hoping that some of you younger folks will take the time to learn more about Mr. Cronkite.