The William D. Reimert Lecture
Leading Figure of American Broadcasting and Veteran Journalist, Walter Cronkite, Discusses Role of Media and Other Topics at Lehigh Valley Lecture
One of the world's foremost media personalities, Walter Cronkite, known especially for his journalistic integrity and influence, delivered the 2005 Reimert Lecture, "A Conversation with Walter Cronkite," at 7:00 p.m. on Sunday, November 6, 2005 in Lees Hall at Cedar Crest College.
At the event, Cronkite candidly answered questions from the audience about a broad range of topics which included the role of the media in society, political events and Cronkite's own experience as a journalist and anchorman. The event was moderated by Dr. Dorothy Gulbenkian Blaney, president of Cedar Crest College, and Dr. Joseph Blaney, immediate past director of the United Nations International School in New York City.
Walter Cronkite has covered virtually every news event during his more than 65 years in journalism - the last 54 affiliated with CBS News. He became a special correspondent for CBS News when he stepped down on March 6, 1981 after 19 years as anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News. Affectionately nicknamed "Old Iron Pants" for his unflappability under pressure, Mr. Cronkite's accomplishments -- both on-air and off -- have won him acclaim and trust from journalism colleagues and the American public alike.
Born in St. Joseph, Missouri on November 4, 1916, Mr. Cronkite began his career in journalism as a campus correspondent at The Houston Post during high school and his freshman year at college. He also worked as a sports announcer for a local radio station in Oklahoma City and joined the United Press in 1937, where he remained for eleven years.
It was as a United Press correspondent that Mr. Cronkite covered World War II -- landing with the invading Allied troops in North Africa, covering the battle of the North Atlantic in 1942, taking part in the Normandy beachhead assaults in 1944 and participating as one of the first newsmen in B-17 raids over Germany. After reporting the German surrender, Mr. Cronkite established United Press bureaus in Europe, was named United Press bureau chief in Brussels and covered the Nuremberg trials of Goering, Hess and other top Nazis. From 1946 to 1948 he was chief correspondent for United Press in Moscow.
In July 1950, Mr. Cronkite joined CBS News in Washington as a correspondent and was anchorman for their political convention and election coverage from 1952 to 1980. He assumed his duties on the CBS Evening News on April 16, 1962, which began as a fifteen-minute broadcast. On September 2, 1963, it debuted as network television's first half-hour, weeknight news broadcast with Mr. Cronkite's headline-making interview with President John F. Kennedy.
A sampling of his assignments for CBS News reads like a synopsis of American and world history – exclusive interviews with most major heads of state, including all the U.S. Presidents since Harry Truman; all aspects of the American political scene since 1952; the events surrounding the siege of the American embassy in Iran and the holding of the American hostages; this nation’s Bicentennial celebration; Watergate and the subsequent resignation of President Nixon; the assassinations and funerals of President John F. Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Senator Robert F. Kennedy; his landmark interview with Anwar Sadat and Menachem Begin; and the Vietnam War.
He came to be regarded as an authority on America’s space program, reporting on the first two decades of this country’s manned space mission from Alan Shepard’s first flight in 1961 and the Apollo moon landing in 1969 to the experimental flights of the space shuttle Enterprise in July 1977 and the fall of Skylab in July 1979.
In October, 1966, Time magazine described him as “the single most convincing and authoritative figure in television news.” A decade later, he was the only journalist to be voted among the top 10 “most influential decision-makers in America” and “most influential person” in the field of broadcasting, in five separate surveys conducted by U.S. News and World Report from 1975 through 1980, among a cross-section of American leaders.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom – our nation’s highest civilian award – was presented to him in January 1981 by President Jimmy Carter, who said, “He has reported and commented on the events of the last two decades with a skill and insight which stands out in the news world, in a way which has made the news of the world stand out for all of us.”
Throughout his career, Cronkite has been a presence of integrity as well as a staunch supporter of, among many other causes, environmental issues, education, democracy, free speech and a free press.
He co-founded The Cronkite Ward Company in 1993, which has produced more than 100 award-winning documentary hours for The Discovery Channel, PBS and other networks. In 1996, his production company, in collaboration with CBS and The Discovery Channel, produced his memoirs entitled Cronkite Remembers. The two-hour CBS special aired in May of that year, and the eight-hour series premiered later on The Discovery Channel. Also in 1996, he completed his autobiography, A Reporter’s Life, published by Knopf.
Mr. Cronkite wrote a weekly, syndicated newspaper column in 2004 which appeared in more than 186 newspapers throughout the country.
In addition to his ongoing assignments as a special correspondent for CBS, Mr. Cronkite maintains a demanding, international lecture and public appearance schedule and also hosts many public affairs and cultural programs.
An avid sailor, Mr. Cronkite enjoys free time aboard his recently acquired 64-foot yacht, “Wyntje,” sailing the waters of the northeast and the Caribbean. He is a resident of New York City.