When I was a little boy, I used sit in front of the TV and imitate Walter Cronkite saying “that’s the way it is” at the end of his broadcasts.
He retired from the CBS Evening News in 1981. I was only 5 years old at the time. Since then, I’ve learned so much more about his life and career. He covered the Kennedy assassination, Watergate, and the moon landing.
Following his death on Friday, it occurred to me that not a single news anchor has come close to commanding the kind of respect that Walter Cronkite earned. His credibility and ability to keep his opinions out of the anchor chair were second to none. Perhaps Tom Brokaw came close, but he wasn’t quite the same.
That opinion-free newscast is rare today, but Walter Cronkite himself could not help but share his opinion in a 1968 special broadcast about the Vietnam War.
Here’s an excerpt:
To say that we are closer to victory today is to believe, in the face of the evidence, the optimists who have been wrong in the past. … But it is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out then will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could.
He was truly a visionary. Those words could have easily been said one year ago, let alone 41 years ago. Indeed, after eight years, the Iraq war is coming to a end, an effort achieved through negotiation of the Security Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq.
I hope that Walter Cronkite — wherever he is — knows that as a little boy, I idolized him, and that I am doing the best I can over here. That’s the way it is, and that’s the way it always will be.