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Walter Leland Cronkite, Jr. (4 November 1916 – 17 July 2009) was an American broadcast journalist, best known as the anchorman for The CBS Evening News for 19 years (1962–1981).
- And that's the way it is. ...[reads date]. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News; good night.
- His nightly sign-off line on CBS News (1962 - 1981)
- I regret that, in our attempt to establish some standards, we didn't make them stick. We couldn't find a way to pass them on to another generation, really.
- Newseum interview (1996), accessed 2009-07-21
CBS Evening News
On the JFK Assassination (1963)
- Here is a bulletin from CBS News: in Dallas, Texas, three shots were fired at President Kennedy's motorcade in downtown Dallas. The first reports say that President Kennedy has been seriously wounded by this shooting.
- Cronkite's first news flash on the shooting at 1:40 P.M. EST, interrupting As the World Turns. It is an audio-only report over the "CBS News Bulletin" slide on the screen.
- More details just arrived. These details about the same as previously: President Kennedy shot today just as his motorcade left downtown Dallas; Mrs. Kennedy jumped up and grabbed Mr. Kennedy, she called 'Oh, no!'; the motorcade sped on. United Press says that the wounds for President Kennedy perhaps could be fatal.
- From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official: President Kennedy died at 1 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago. [pause as Cronkite fights back tears, then regains his composure] Vice President Johnson has left the hospital in Dallas, but we do not know to where he has proceeded; presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th President of the United States...
On the Tet Offensive (1968)
- 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. To suggest we are on the edge of defeat is to yield to unreasonable pessimism. To say that we are mired in stalemate seems the only realistic, yet unsatisfactory, conclusion. On the off chance that military and political analysts are right, in the next few months we must test the enemy's intentions, in case this is indeed his last big gasp before negotiations. 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. This is Walter Cronkite; good night.
On Chet Huntley's retirement (1970)
- Since he came out of the west to team with David Brinkley back in 1956, Chet Huntley has been our competitor — and what a competitor! — but he also is a colleague and a good friend. Tonight, over on that other network, as we say, he's saying good night to David for the last time on their evening newscast, returning to his native Montana to build a resort, and, I suspect, perhaps to get involved in politics. As he leaves the daily broadcast scene, a giant departs the stage. For journalism and for ourselves, we hate to see him go, but that's the way it is: Friday, July 31, 1970. Goodbye, Chet.
Chet Huntley : Goodbye, and good luck, Walter.
On Eric Sevareid's retirement (1977)
- Eric's not retiring from television entirely, but only from daily journalism, and that means, of course, this broadcast. It's not only his beautifully-chosen words of wisdom that we shall miss — to this newsman, he's one of the finest essayists of this century — but we shall also miss our almost daily contacts with him in the pursuit of our craft, in which his rare insight and unswerving integrity were a constant source of professional guidance. And yes, it's also true that we shall be the poorer in our self-esteem for no longer being able to call him "colleague," but that's the way it is: Wednesday, November 30, 1977. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News; good night.
CBS Evening News Farewell (1981)
- This is my last broadcast as the anchorman of The CBS Evening News; for me, it's a moment for which I long have planned, but which, nevertheless, comes with some sadness. For almost 2 decades, after all, we've been meeting like this in the evenings, and I'll miss that. But those who have made anything of this departure, I'm afraid have made too much. This is but a transition, a passing of the baton. A great broadcaster and gentleman, Doug Edwards, preceded me in this job, and another, Dan Rather, will follow. And anyway, the person who sits here is but the most conspicuous member of a superb team of journalists — writers, reporters, editors, producers—and none of that will change. Furthermore, I'm not even going away! I'll be back from time to time with special news reports and documentaries, and, beginning in June, every week, with our science program, Universe. Old anchormen, you see, don't fade away; they just keep coming back for more. And that's the way it is: Friday, March 6, 1981. I'll be away on assignment, and Dan Rather will be sitting in here for the next few years. Good night.
UN Address (1999)
- Address on receiving the Norman Cousins Global Governance Award at the UN Delegates Dining Room (19 October 1999)
- The first priority of humankind in this era is to establish an effective system of world law that will assure peace with justice among the peoples of the world.
- For many years, I did my best to report on the issues of the day in as objective a manner as possible. When I had my own strong opinions, as I often did, I tried not to communicate them to my audience.
Now, however, my circumstances are different. I am in a position to speak my mind. And that is what I propose to do.
Those of us who are living today can influence the future of civilization. We can influence whether our planet will drift into chaos and violence, or whether through a monumental educational and political effort we will achieve a world of peace under a system of law where individual violators of that law are brought to justice.
- For how many thousands of years now have we humans been what we insist on calling "civilized?" And yet, in total contradiction, we also persist in the savage belief that we must occasionally, at least, settle our arguments by killing one another.
While we spend much of our time and a great deal of our treasure in preparing for war, we see no comparable effort to establish a lasting peace. Meanwhile, emphasizing the sloth in this regard, those advocates who work for world peace by urging a system of world government are called impractical dreamers. Those impractical dreamers are entitled to ask their critics what is so practical about war.
- It seems to many of us that if we are to avoid the eventual catastrophic world conflict we must strengthen the United Nations as a first step toward a world government patterned after our own government with a legislature, executive and judiciary, and police to enforce its international laws and keep the peace.
To do that, of course, we Americans will have to yield up some of our sovereignty. That would be a bitter pill. It would take a lot of courage, a lot of faith in the new order.
But the American colonies did it once and brought forth one of the most nearly perfect unions the world has ever seen.
- We cannot defer this responsibility to posterity. Time will not wait. Democracy, civilization itself, is at stake. Within the next few years we must change the basic structure of our global community from the present anarchic system of war and ever more destructive weaponry to a new system governed by a democratic UN federation.
- I suppose I'm preaching to the choir here. So let's not talk generalities but focus tonight on a few specifics of what the leadership of the World Federalist Movement believe must be done now to advance the rule of world law.
For starters, we can draw on the wisdom of the framers of the US Constitution in 1787. The differences among the American states then were as bitter as differences among the nation-states in the world today.
In their almost miraculous insight, the founders of our country invented "federalism," a concept that is rooted in the rights of the individual. Our federal system guarantees a maximum of freedom but provides it in a framework of law and justice.
Our forefathers believed that the closer the laws are to the people, the better. Cities legislate on local matters; states make decisions on matters within their borders; and the national government deals with issues that transcend the states, such as interstate commerce and foreign relations. That is federalism.
Today we must develop federal structures on a global level. We need a system of enforceable world law — a democratic federal world government — to deal with world problems.
- What Alexander Hamilton wrote about the need for law among the 13 states applies today to the approximately 200 sovereignties in our global village:
"To look for a continuation of harmony between a number of independent, unconnected sovereignties in the same neighborhood, would be to disregard the uniform course of human events, and to set at defiance the accumulated experience of ages."
- Ours will neither be a perfect world, nor a world without disagreement and occasional violence. But it will be a world where the overwhelming majority of national leaders will consistently abide by the rule of world law, and those who won't will be dealt with effectively and with due process by the structures of that same world law. We will never have a city without crime, but we would never want to live in a city that had no system of law to deal with the criminals who will always be with us.
- Even as with the American rejection of the League of Nations, our failure to live up to our obligations to the United Nations is led by a handful of willful senators who choose to pursue their narrow, selfish political objectives at the cost of our nation's conscience.
They pander to and are supported by the Christian Coalition and the rest of the religious right wing. Their leader, Pat Robertson, has written that we should have a world government but only when the messiah arrives. Any attempt to achieve world order before that time must be the work of the Devil!
This small but well-organized group, has intimidated both the Republican Party and the Clinton administration. It has attacked each of our Presidents since FDR for supporting the United Nations. Robertson explains that these Presidents were and are the unwitting agents of Lucifer.
The only way we who believe in the vision of a democratic world federal government can effectively overcome this reactionary movement is to organize a strong educational counteroffensive stretching from the most publicly visible people in all fields to the humblest individuals in every community. That is the vision and the program of the World Federalist Association.
- Our country today is at a stage in our foreign policy similar to that crucial point in our nation's early history when our Constitution was produced in Philadelphia.
Let us hear the peal of a new international liberty bell that calls us all to the creation of a system of enforceable world law in which the universal desire for peace can place its hope and prayers.
As Carl Van Doren has written, "History is now choosing the founders of the World Federation. Any person who can be among that number and fails to do so has lost the noblest opportunity of a lifetime."
Free the Airwaves! (2002)
- The battle for the airwaves cannot be limited to only those who have the bank accounts to pay for the battle and win it. Democracy is in danger. Seats in Congress, seats in the state legislature, that big seat in the White House itself, can be purchased by those who have the greatest campaign resources, who have the largest bank accounts or own riches.
That, I submit to you, is no democracy. It is an oligarchy of the already powerful. It is no less than a conspiracy of the powerful to deny access to government to those who literally cannot afford to run for public office with any realistic hope of getting elected.
- All the European democracies have far higher election turnouts than ours, and all of them provide their candidates with extensive free airtime. In fact, of all the major nations worldwide that profess to have democracies, only seven — just seven — do not offer free time. These are Ecuador, Honduras, Malaysia, Taiwan, Tanzania, Trinidad and Tobago, and the United States of America. Does it make us proud to be on such a list?
- In our country, third-party candidates throughout the years have said there is not a dime's worth of difference between the candidates from the major parties. Well, that is clearly a campaign canard. But it may appear to be true if the public's knowledge of the important differences between candidates is limited to what the public sees and hears on television.
Putting it as strongly as I can, the failure to give free airtime for our political campaigns endangers our democracy.
- This is the essential importance of the Alliance for Better Campaigns' efforts backed by Common Cause. It is our campaign to give free time to all legitimate candidates. … What our campaign asks is that the television industry yield just a tiny percentage of that windfall, less than 1 percent, to fund free airtime.