Saturday, July 18, 2009

And That's the Way It Was

Last night, I came home to find out that veteran newsman Walter Cronkite had died at the age of 92. Chosen several times over as “the most trusted man in America” in viewer opinion polls, Cronkite’s long and distinguished career extending from before World War II into the 21st century.

Morley Safer, a longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent, called Cronkite “the father of television news.”

“The trust that viewers placed in him was based on the recognition of his fairness, honesty and strict objectivity … and of course his long experience as a shoe-leather reporter covering everything from local politics to World War II and its aftermath in the Soviet Union,” Safer said. “He was a giant of journalism and privately one of the funniest, happiest men I’ve ever known.”

As the anchor of the CBS Evening News from 1962 to 1981, he brought the news of countless world-changing events to millions of Americans, from the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy, and Martin Luther King to the Vietnam War, Watergate, and the Iranian hostage crisis. He ended each evening’s broadcast with his signature statement: “And that’s the way it is.”

From the perspective of a five year old in 1963, I well remember Cronkite choking up as he delivered the report of President John F. Kennedy’s death.


Walter Cronkite reports the death of JFK
November 22, 1963

His 1968 editorial declaring the United States was “mired in stalemate” in Vietnam was seen by some as a turning point in U.S. opinion of the war. He also helped broker the 1977 invitation that took Egyptian President Anwar Sadat to Jerusalem, the breakthrough to Egypt’s peace treaty with Israel.

Cronkite was also an fervent supporter of America’s space program and was on hand to report every milestone in the high-coverage sixties from the first suborbital flight to the first moon landing to covering John Glenn’s return to space in 1998. His enthusiasm was evident when he exclaimed “Look at those pictures, wow!” as Neil Armstrong stepped on the moon’s surface.

“He had a passion for human space exploration, an enthusiasm that was contagious, and the trust of his audience. He will be missed,” Neil Armstrong said.

I, like millions of others, grew up with Walter Cronkite bringing us the news, He was a nightly constant from my earliest memories to the time my son was born. His death is but another part of my childhood gone forever.

And that’s the way it was.

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