Friday, July 17, 2009

And That's the Way It Is . . .

The most trusted man in America has signed off for the last time. Walter Cronkite (1916-2009) has left us.

We all knew that this day was coming. Walter Cronkite had been seriously ill for sometime. But like so many we know personally who have moved on, a part of us simply can’t believe it. From my early twenties until he retired from the CBS Evening News, I was one of millions who had to watch the “real” news as reported by this incredibly humble and thorough reporter. He was a reporter’s reporter honored by his associates and his so-called competitors.

Bob Scheiffer, on the CBS Evening News with Katie Courac remembered Walter mentioning that the Beatles first visit to US television was not on the Ed Sullivan show as so many think, but on the CBS Evening News With Walter Cronkite. “If there’s some credit in history for that, I want it!” Walter said with a huge smile and laugh. Some have referred to him as America’s minister, priest and rabbi because of his absolute integrity and his warm appreciation for humanity. Up to the moment of his passing, he continued to receive volumes of mail. Many continued to want from him what was really going on in the news.

My personal recollections of Walter Cronkite’s reporting and emotional connections to his viewers included the assassination of President Kennedy. As a minister at the time, I was on a call to a congregant in a rest home. As I walked in the door the television, and Walter Cronkite were announcing the news. My mind immediately went to my own family. My son, David, was the same age as John John, the President’s son. I wept because somehow that made the event closer to my reality.

On the occasion of our first landing on the moon I was in New York City on a business trip. Again, it was Walter Cronkite I turned to for the news. His genuine excitement reached through the TV to all of us. His emotion, freely shared, reached us as well. Here was a man of deep feeling. He rarely let it though in his reporting, but when he did, you knew it was real. On the side, I realized that I had just won a bet with my Mother made years before that we would have space travel including the moon within ten years. The prize was a $100 US Savings bond.

Walter covered the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago during which the Viet Nam anti war riots broke out. I watched for an honest report of the news behind the news. Walter ultimately had to express his opinion that the war, at best was a stalemate. Finally, President Johnson recognized, “If I’ve lost Walter Cronkite, I’ve lost the war.” Not long thereafter he indicated he would not run for re-election.

I will miss this man, even though he has not been in the news so much lately. I have so many memories of . . .

That’s the way it is!

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