Read ND 2009; An Evening With Raymond Schroth


Uploaded by PrairiePublicBcast on 28.03.2012

Transcript:
IN HIS BIOGRAPHY OF NORTH
DAKOTA'S MOST FAMOUS
JOURNALISTS, THE AMERICAN
JOURNEY OF ERIC SEVEID,
AUTHOR RAYMOND SCHROTH
CHRONICLES THE FAMOUS
JOURNALIST FROM HIS BOY HOOD
HOME IN VELVA, NORTH DAKOTA TO
HIS TWO DECADES AT AMERICA'S
MOST INFLUENTIAL NEWS COMMENTATOR.
>>> FUNDING FOR THIS PROGRAM IS
PROVIDED BY THE PARTNERS OF
READ NORTH DAKOTA.
OUR AUTHORS, OUR STORIES.
>>> I STILL HAD HIS F.B.I. FILE.
IT'S NOT A LOT OF STUFF IN
HERE, BUT IT'S A LITTLE WICKED
WHEN YOU SEE HOW BITTER PEOPLE
CAN BE IF THEY HAVE AN ENEMY.
>> A JESUIT PRIEST AND
PROFESSOR OF JOURNALISM,
SCHROTH HAD NO DOUBT WHOSE LIFE
SHOULD BE THE SUBJECT OF HIS
FIRST BIOGRAPHY.
>> I WATCHED HIM EVERY NIGHT
FROM MY WHOLE -- FOR MY WHOLE
LIFE AS FAR AS I COULD RECALL,
EVEN WHEN WE WERE IN THE JESUIT
SEMINARY DURING THE BEGINNING
OF VIETNAM WAR AND WE WERE VERY
INTERESTED IN CURRENT EVENTS.
ALL THE SEMINARYIANS WOULD GO
AND WATCH CBS EVENING NEWS AND
WITH ERIC SEVAREID'S TWO MINUTE
COMMENTARY AT THE END.
TO US, WE GOT A NICKNAME FOR HIM. GOD.
>> FACED WITH THE CHALLENGE OF
WRITING ABOUT THE LIFE OF A
PUBLIC PERSON WHO PROTECTED HIS
PERSONAL PRIVACY, SCHROTH
APPROACHED THE TASK IN A TIME
HONORED TRADITION.
>> FRANCES PARTMAN, THE 19th
HIS TOORIAN, IF HE'S GOING TO
WRITE ABOUT IT, HE WOULD GO TO
THE BATTLEFIELD.
HE WENT TO VELVA AND STAYED
THERE FOR SEVERAL DAYS AND I'LL
TELL YOU, I KNEW WHAT IT MEANT
TO HIM BUT WHAT YOU LIKE TO DO
IS EXPERIENCE WHAT HE
EXPERIENCED AS MUCH AS YOU CAN.
AND SO I -- ONE DAY ON MY LAST
DAY THERE, THERE WAS A HILL OF
WHEAT AND I JUST WENT OUT ALONE
AND CLIMBED THAT HILL OF WHEAT
AND GOT AS HIGH AS I COULD AND
THEN LOOKED TO SEE AS FAR AS I COULD.
AND I SAID TO MYSELF, THIS IS
WHAT HE USED TO SEE.
AND SEVERAL PEOPLE WHO WRITTEN
ABOUT HIM OR TALKED ABOUT HIM
MENTIONED THE IMPACT ON HIS
IMAGINATION FROM THOSE VAST
PLAINS WHICH WOULD REPRESENT
THE POSSIBILITY OF THE AMERICAN FUTURE.
>> IN HIS BIOGRAPHY OF NORTH
DAKOTA'S MOST FAMOUS
JOURNALISTS, AUTHOR RAYMOND
SCHROTH EXPLORES ERIC
SEVAREID'S LIFE AND CHARACTER.
HIS SEMINOLE INFLUENCE ON
BROADCAST JOURNALISM AND HIS
LEGACY AS THE MAN WHOSE NEWS
COMMENTARIES REPRESENTED A KIND
OF NATIONAL CONSCIENCE.
READ NORTH DAKOTA PROUDLY
PRESENTS AN EVENING WITH
RAYMOND SCHROTH.

[ APPLAUSE ]
YOU'RE VERY KIND.
FRANKLIN ROOSEVELT, I THINK IN THE 36th CAMPAIGN WHEN HE WAS
-- I USED TO HEAR RECORDS OF
HIM THAT I WOULD PLAY AT HOME.
HE WAS TRAVELING IN NEW ENGLAND
AND HE HAD A WAY OF SAYING HOW
GLAD HE WAS TO BE SOMEWHERE AND
HE'D SAY, I'VE HAD A GLORIOUS
DAY HERE IN NEW ENGLAND.
NOW, I CAN'T REALLY DO THAT,
BUT I'VE HAD A GLORIOUS COUPLE
OF DAYS HERE IN NORTH DAKOTA.
AND I'M VERY GRATEFUL TO ALL OF
YOU FOR MAKING ME SO HAPPY AND
FEEL MUCH AT HOME.
PARTICULARLY THE COUNCIL ON THE
HUMANITIES AND PRAIRIE PUBLIC
FOR RADIO AND T.V., AND OTHER
PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN SO KIND TO ME.
I'M NOT USED TO THIS.
I WALK ALONG THE STREETS AND
PEOPLE LOOK AT ME AND SMILE AND SAY HELLO.
AND WHEN I TRY TO CROSS THE
STREET, NOT AT A LIGHT, CARS
WILL STOP AND LET ME GO.
[ LAUGHTER ]
JERSEY CITY DOES NOT DO THIS.
[ LAUGHTER ]
WE'VE COME TOGETHER THIS
EVENING, I'M CONVINCED NOT
MERELY OUT OF NOSTALGIC
AFFECTION FOR BYGONE DAYS WHEN
THE MAJOR NETWORKS DID
DOCUMENTARIES AND NEWSCASTERS
RESPECTED THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
AND PUBLIC INTELLIGENCE.
NOR EVEN FOR LOVE OF IN THE,
NOR MERELY OUT OF RESPECT FOR
THE LEGACY OF ERIC SEVAREID.
I THINK WE COME IN PATRIOTISM
BECAUSE, LIKE SEVAREID, WE LOVE AMERICA.
ITS WHEAT FIELDS, ANDOCAL
RIVERS, ITS TROUT STREAMS AND
OCEAN SHORES, ITS VELVAS AND
MANHATTANS AND EVEN ITS
WASHINGTON, D.C.'S.
AND THOUGH YOUR CHILDREN AND
GRANDCHILDREN AND MY JOURNALISM
STUDENTS MAY NOT RECOGNIZE THE
NAME, WE MISS HIM.
AND WE THINK WE KNOW WHAT HE
WOULD SAY IF HE WAS HERE TODAY.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1994 I WAS
SWIMMING IN THE SURF OFF SEA
BRIGHT, AT THE VILLA HOUSE OF
THE SOCIETY OF JESUS ON THE NEW
JERSEY SHORE.
AND A FELLOW JESUIT ASKED ME
WHAT I WAS WORKING ON.
AND I SAID, I'M DOING A
BIOGRAPHY OF ERIC SEVAREID.
HE REPLIED AS THE WAVES WASHED
AROUND HIM, "THERE COMES A TIME
WHEN THE HEART MUST TELL THE
HEAD WHAT IT MUST DO; AND THAT
IS THE TIME WHEN THE HEART IS
ABOUT TO BREAK".
MY FRIEND WAS QUOTING THE LAST
LINE OF ERIC'S POWERFUL CBS
EVENING NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE VIETNAM WAR.
HE HAD HEARD IT ONCE AND
REMEMBERED IT FOR 20 YEARS.
MEANWHILE TODAY, WHEN
SYNCHRONIZED SUICIDE BOMBINGS
OF GOVERNMENT BUILDINGS IN
BAGHDAD KILL MORE THAN 130
IRAQIS AND WHEN TWO HELICOPTER
CRASHES IN AFGHANISTAN TAKE
ANOTHER 14 AMERICAN LIVES,
WHILE PRESIDENT OBAMA TAKES HIS
TIME DECIDING ON TROOP
DEPLOYMENTS THERE, BECAUSE HE
WANTS TO DO IT RIGHT, THE
BATTLE BETWEEN THE HUMAN HEAD
AND THE HEART SEEMS RELEVANT AGAIN.
ALTHOUGH TELEVISION BROUGHT
SEVAREID'S SOLEMN HANDSOME
NERVOUS FACE INTO 12 MILLION AMERICAN LIVING ROOMS FOR 15
YEARS, AND THE FULL HEAD OF
GRAY HAIR AND HIGH CHEEKBONES
EARNED HIM NICKNAMES LIKE ERIC
EVERWISE AND ZEUS AND GOD, T.V.
WAS NOT HIS NATURAL MEDIUM.
AND HE WAS NEVER REALLY COMFORTABLE IN IT.
I FIRST DISCOVERED HIM WHEN I
WAS A 17-YEAR-OLD COLLEGE
FRESHMAN AT FORD HAM IN 1951.
AND OUR JESUIT SUPERVISORS MADE
US TURN OUR LIGHTS OUT AND GO
TO BED AT 11 P.M.
I GOT IN BED, BUT I KEPT MY
RADIO TUNED TO THE CBS 11
O'CLOCK NEWS WHEN ERIC HAD A
NIGHTLY FIVE-MINUTE COMMENTARY AT THE END.
I PARTICULARLY REMEMBER HIS
ANALYSIS OF HAROLD STASSEN WHO
IS ONLY ATHLETIC PROWESS SAID
SEVAREID, WAS RIFLE MARKSMANSHIP.
WHICH IS BASICALLY COLD
COMPETITION AGAINST ONE'S SELF.
ABOUT STASSEN, I KNEW ONLY THAT
HE RAN OFTEN FOR THE
PRESIDENCY, BUT I HAD FOUND IN
THIS COMMENTATOR A MANY COULD ADMIRE.
I ALREADY CAME FROM A JOURNALISM FAMILY.
BUT FROM THEN ON, I LOOKED FOR
OCCASIONS, AS A STUDENT
JOURNALIST IN PARIS AND AT
FORDHAM IN THE BRONX, AND AS A
TRAVELER IN VIETNAM, AS A READ
AND RIGHTER, WHEN MY LIFE COULD
BE MORE LIKE HIS.
IN THE FIRST BEAUTIFUL PARAGRAPH OF HIS POST WORLD WAR
II MEMOIR, NOT SO WILD A DREAM,
WRITTEN MIRACULOUSLY IN EIGHT
MONTHS, HE EVOKES THE EARTH,
FIELDS AND WATER OF TINY VELVA,
WHERE HE WAS BORN TO SET THE
SCENE FOR THE BOOK'S THEME.
THE DEMOCRATIC SPIRIT THAT WON
THE WAR TOOK ITS STRENGTH FROM
THE AMERICAN FRONTIER, FROM THE
TOIL AND VISION OF THE MEN AND
WOMEN WHO CAME TOGETHER TO
BUILD THE BARNS, HARVEST THE
CROPS AND THEN TO FIGHT THE
BATTLES OF THE WAR.
HE BEGINS: THE SMALL BROWN
RIVER CURVED AROUND THE EDGE OF OUR TOWN.
THE FARMERS PLOWED CLOSE TO ITS
MUDDY WILLOWS.
THERE IS NOT MUCH SHADE IN THE
NORTHERN SECTIONS OF NORTH
DAKOTA, NOR IS THERE MUCH
SHELTER IN THE WINTER TIME.
EVEN AS VERY SMALL CHILDREN, WE
COULD SENSE THE RIVER'S
LIFE-GIVING NATURE AND MEANING
TO THE FARMERS, TO US ALL.
BECAUSE THEIR FATHER WAS THE
BANKER, ALTHOUGH THEIR HOME WAS
BOTH LARGE ENOUGH TO HOLD HIS
OLDER BROTHER PAUL AND HIS
YOUNGER BROTHER JOHN AND HIS
SISTER JEANNE, AND SMALL ENOUGH
FOR THE TALL ARNOLD, HIS REAL NAME.
IN 1939 HE MOVED HIS MIDDLE
NAME, ERIC, INTO FRONT PLACE.
TALL ENOUGH FOR HIM TO HIT HIS
HEAD ON THE CEILING AS HE GREW.
THEY WERE THE TOWN GENTRY.
THE SEVAREID BOYS HAD BIKES
BEFORE THE OTHER BOYS DID.
THE 1918 FLU ALMOST KILLED HIS
MOTHER AND IT LAID ARNOLD LOW
FOR SIX WEEKS DURING HIS FIRST GRADE.
BUT HE WAS ALREADY A LEAN,
HANDSOME BOY WITH A RUGGED FACE IN PHOTOGRAPHS THAT MADE HIM
LOOK OLDER BY SEVERAL YEARS.
THOUGH VELVA INSPIRED HIS
PROSE, ONCE HE LEFT, HE
RETURNED THERE ONLY THREE TIMES.
IN THE SUMMER OF 1933 HE
STOPPED OFF, LOOKING LIKE A
VAGRANT, WHEN I WAS HOPPING
FREIGHT TRAINS TO TAKE HIM FOR
A JOB IN A CALIFORNIA GOLD MINE.
HE LATER WROTE THAT HE HAD
HOPED TO POP BACK IN TOWN IN A WHITE CHAUFFEURED LIMOUSINE IN
A CLOUD OF DUST, STOP AT THE
PHARMACY AND BUY 100 ICE CREAM
CONES AND GIVE THEM ALL TO THE
BOYS AND GIRLS.
IN 1953 HE WROTE A LETTER
SUPPORTING A FUND DRIVE FOR A
VELVA MEDICAL CLINIC, AND IN
1956 PUBLISHED "YOU CAN GO HOME
AGAIN" IN COLLIERS MAGAZINE, AN
AMBIGUOUS ESSAY WHICH COULD BE
READ AS AN ENDORSEMENT OR AS AN
INDICTMENT OF AMERICAN SMALL TOWN LIFE.
HE HAD CONSULTED A PSYCHIATRIST
ABOUT HIS BOYHOOD MEMORIES AND
HAD BEEN TOLD THAT HIS
EMOTIONAL ATTRACTION FOR THE
MOUSE RIVER WAS AN OCEANIC
FEELING, A DEEP YEARNING FOR
ULTIMATE ORIGINS.
THE GOLDEN THREADS OF THE PAST.
EXPLORING THE TOWN ALONE, HE
KNOCKS AT THE DOOR OF HIS OLD HOUSE.
NO ONE ANSWERS.
IN 1987, JUST FIVE YEARS BEFORE
HIS DEATH, WITH HIS SISTER
JEANNE AND A P.B.S. TELEVISION
CREW, HE RETURNED TO PRODUCE AN
AMERICAN EXPERIENCE DOCUMENTARY
ON THE EARLY CHAPTERS OF NOT SO
WILD A DREAM.
THE PRO SECRETARY TOOK THREE
DAYS, BUT HE STAYED IN A HOTEL IN MINOT.
AND COMMUTED TO WORK.
ARTHRITIC, HE MOVED SLOWLY WITH A CANE.
THE VISUALS SHOWED THE WHEAT
FIELDS AND THE MOUSE RIVER OF
THE FIRST LINE OF HIS MEMOIR,
BUT BECAUSE THE FLOOD CONTROL
LEVEE HAD CUT OFF THE MAIN
CURRENT, THE RIVER HAD BECOME A
STAGNANT POND.
THE SCRIPT BEGAN WITH THE LINE
LIFTED FROM HIS 1946 MEMOIR,
"WHY HAVE I NOT RETURNED FOR SO
MANY YEARS?"
"BUT A FEW YEARS EARLIER AFTER
HIS COLLIERS ARTICLE, A WOMAN
CAME UP AND TOLD HIM THAT I'M FROM MINOT.
WHICH HE HAD DESCRIBED AS A
MAGIC CITY IN HIS WRITINGS.
HIS REPLY WAS WITH A CHILLY
BRUSQUENESS WHICH FRIENDS
ATTRIBUTED TO SHYNESS AND
OTHERS TO HIS RUDENESS.
"I REALLY DON'T HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH MINOT OR VELVA ANY MORE" HE SAID.
WE MOVED TO MINNESOTA WHEN I
WAS VERY YOUNG.
I'VE NEVER BAN BACK THERE
EXCEPT FOR A COUPLE OF SPECIAL OCCASIONS.
TO THE LITERARY HISTORIAN,
THOUGH, THERE IS NOTHING
SURPRISING IN HIS ATTITUDE.
THERE IS A MOMENT IN HIS
CHILDHOOD WHERE THE VERY YOUNG
ARNOLD SYMBOLICALLY RUNS AWAY FROM HOME.
HE ZIPS OUT THE DOOR AND RUNS
DOWN THE STREET.
HE'S HEADED FOR SEVERAL BLOCKS
TO WHO KNOWS WHERE.
ANYONE FROM A SMALL TOWN WHO
WANTS TO BE A WRITER WILLA
CATHER, SINCLAIR LEWIS, LARRY
WOIWODE MUST FIRST FLEE THE
TOWN, OYS, HE OR SHE RISKS
SELF-CENSORSHIP TO AVOID
OFFENDING RELATIVES OR THE
LOCAL HISTORY SYNDROME THAT ROMANTICIZES THE PAST.
>>> BUT IT WAS HERE AS AN
APPRENTICE AT THE VELVA
JOURNAL, A FOUR-PAGE WEEKLY
THAT HE LEARNED WHAT HE WANTED TO DO WITH HIS LIFE.
WHEN HIS FATHER BANK SALES IN
1925, THE FAMILY MOVED FOR A
YEAR TO MINOT, THEN TO
MINNEAPOLIS, WHERE HE LIVED IN
A BIG WOODEN HOUSE IN A MIDDLE CLASS NEIGHBORHOOD AND, THOUGH
THE HIGH SCHOOL PERIOD, HE
WROTE IS SURELY THE WORST
PERIOD IN A MAN'S LIFE, AT
MINNEAPOLIS CENTRAL HIGH SCHOOL
HE LEARNED SOMETHING ABOUT
COOPERATION, TEAM SPIRIT,
SOCIAL EQUALITY, HOW TO PUT THE
SCHOOL PAPER TO PRESS AND HOW
TO WRITE A TWO-COLUMN HEADLINE,
WHICH HE SAID WAS ON A MUCH
HIGHER ORDER THAN THE ABILITY
TO WRITE A SONNET.
WHEN I WAS DOING MY RESEARCH, I
FOLLOWED YOUNG ARNOLD'S TRAIL
FROM VELVA TO MINNESOTA.
I STAYED A FEW DAYS AT THE
JESUIT NOVITIATE RESIDENCE IN
ST. PAUL WHERE ONE OF THE YOUNG
JESUITS, WHEN I SAID WHAT I WAS
WORKING ON, EXPLAINED, OH, I
KNOW ABOUT HIM.
JUST TODAY I MET A GUY WHOSE
FATHER MADE A BIG CANOE TRIP
WITH HIM IN 1930! NOT IN MY
WILDEST DREAMS HAD I IMAGINED
THAT I COULD ACTUALLY FIND AND
TALK TO WALTER PORT, THE RUGGED
YOUNG ATHLETE MUCH MORE THAN
THREE YEARS OLDER THAN ERIC,
WHO JOINED HIM FOR THE 2,2 50
MILE DEATH-DEFYING ORDEAL OF
PADDLING A CANOE FROM
MINNEAPOLIS TO THE HUDSON BAY.
WHEN I FOUND WALTER PORT THE
NEXT DAY, HE WAS EXTREMELY
GRACIOUS, BUT AILING AND FAILING.
HE HAD OUTLIVED HIS OLD FRIEND,
BUT JUST BARELY.
I SENSED THAT HAD IT FOT BEEN
FOR WALTER PORT'S STRONG BODY
AND STRENGTH OF CHARACTER, 65
YEARS BEFORE, THERE WOULD HAVE
BEEN NO ERIC SEVAREID AS WE
CAME TO KNOW HIM.
AT A TURNING POINT IN THEIR
JOURNEY THEY WERE URGED TO TURN BACK.
BUT ERIC WROTE LATER, WHAT I
WAS ENTERING UPON AT NORWAY
HOUSE WAS A CONTEST WITH MYSELF.
I KNEW INSTINCTIVELYLY THAT IF
I GAVE UP NOW, NO MATTER WHAT
THE JUSTIFICATION, IT WOULD
BECOME EASIER FOREVER
AFTERWARDS TO JUSTIFY COMPROMISE WITH ANY
ACHIEVEMENT.
AT THE UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA
HE WAS THE RARE UNDERGRADUATE
WHO PUBLISHED HIS FIRST BOOK AT
18 "CANOEING WITH THE CREE", 1935.
BASED ON THE REPORTS HE HAD
SENT TO A LOCAL NEWSPAPER ON HIS TRIP.
AND TODAY BOLD YOUNG MEN AND
WOMEN EVERY FEW YEARS REPRODUCE
THE JOURNEY, FEEDING THE
MINNEAPOLIS TRIBUNE FROM THEIR
LAPTOPS ALONG THE ROUTE.
WORKING HIS WAY THROUGH
COLLEGE, HE MAJORED IN
POLITICAL SCIENCE AND JOINED
THE JACOBINS, AN ELITE
POLITICAL DISCUSSION GROUP
MENTORED BY THE CHARISMATIC
PROFESSOR BENJAMIN LIPPINCOTT A
WELL-KNOWN SOCIAL DEMOCRAT OR
DEMOCRATIC SOCIALIST SOUNDS BETTER.
SEVERAL WERE PACIFISTS AND THEY
DEMONSTRATED AGAINST THE COMPULSORY DRILL.
MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE, ERIC
POURED HIS ENERGIES INTO THE
CAMPUS MINNESOTA DAILY,
CONVINCED THAT HE SHOULD AND
WOULD BE NAMED EDITOR.
ONLY TO HAVE HIS NAME VETOED BY
THE UNIVERSITY PRESIDENT.
THE STING OF THIS REBUKE STILL
LINGERS TEN YEARS LATER IN HIS MEMOIRS.
AND TEN YEARS AFTER THAT, IN
THE 1950s, HIS OPPOSITION TO
THE R.O.T.C. POPS UP AGAIN IN
HIS F.B.I. FILE AS EVIDENCE
THAT HE WAS UN-AMERICAN.
NEVERTHELESS, HIS CAREER
MAINTAINS THE STEADY COURSE
INTO NEWSPAPER JOURNALISM AT
THE MINNEAPOLIS STAR AND THE
MINNEAPOLIS JOURNAL WHERE HE
COVERED THE BRUTAL TRUCKERS'
STRIKE AND EXPOSED THE SILVER
SHIRTS GROUP, A NATIONAL
NETWORK OF KU KLUX KLAN-LIKE
CLUBS, ONLY TO BE FIRED IN THE
WAKE OF A NEWSPAPER STRIKE.
IN 1935 HE HAD MARRIED LOIS
FINGER, A LAW STUDENT IN THE
BEAUTIFUL AND BRILLIANT
DAUGHTER OF THE TRACK COACH.
IN 1937, THEY LEFT FOR A NEW
LIFE IN PARIS.
THERE, THE PARIS EDITION OF THE
NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE SAW HIS
TALENT AND LET HIM WRITE
WHATEVER HE WANTED.
HE INTERVIEWED GERTRUDE STEIN
AND HIS COVERAGE OF THE TRIAL
OF EUGENE WEIDMAN, A FAMOUS
SERIAL KILLER, CAUGHT THE EYE
OF CBS'S EDWARD R. MURROW, WHO
IS OVER IN LONDON.
WAR WAS ON THE HORIZON AND
MURROW HAD BEEN COMMISSIONED TO
ASSEMBLE A CADRE OF REPORTERS TO COVER IT.
HIS SEARCH WAS NOT FOR YOUNG
MEN WITH GOOD LOOKS.
RADIO LISTENERS NEITHER KNEW
NOR CARED WHETHER THEIR
REPORTERS WERE HANDSOME.
NOR EVEN GREAT VOICES.
WHAT MATTERED WAS INTELLIGENCE
AND THE ABILITY TO ADAPT THE
LANGUAGE OF PRINT JOURNALISM TO
THE NEEDS OF THE EAR, REALISM
TO MAKE THE LISTENER FEEL
PRESENT AT THE EVENT, LIKE THEY
WOULD HOLD THE MICROPHONE AT
THE PAVEMENT LEVEL SO LISTENERS
COULD HEAR THE FOOTSTEPS OF
LONDONERS DESCENDING INTO THE
BOMB SHELTERS DURING THE RAIDS
AND TO TEACH THEM CONVICTION
THAT THE COMMON MAN, GIVEN THE
INFORMATION, COULD JUDGE WHAT
THE PUBLIC NEEDS.
SEVAREID, BY NATURE, SPOKE AND
WROTE VISUALLY.
BUT SOMEHOW HE MADE HIS POETIC PROSE WORK.
HE JOINED THE NEW FRATERNAL
CALLED MURROW'S BOYS WITH
WILLIAM L. SHIRER, LARRY
LESUEUR, HOWARD K. SMITH,
WINSTON BURDETT AND CHARLES COLLINGWOOD.
WITH MURROW AS NOT JUST THEIR
BOSS BUT, ESPECIALLY FOR ERIC,
A FATHER FIGURE.
AND IN LONDON, THEIR
INSPIRATIONAL LEADER, LIKE
SHAKESPEARE'S YOU SAW THE FILM
I'M SURE, HENRY V, THEIR LITTLE
TOUCH OF HARRY IN THE NIGHT.
AT GERMAN ARMY MARCHED TOWARDS
PARIS, ERIC SENT LOIS AND THEIR
TWIN SONS, MICHAEL AND PETER,
DELIVERED AFTER A VERY
DIFFICULT PREGNANCY, HOME TO AMERICA.
ERIC HAD COME TO LOVE PARIS PASSIONATELY.
IT WAS THE CITY THAT GAVE THIS
NORTH DAKOTA AND MINNESOTA BOY A NEW LIFE.
AS ITS GOVERNMENT FLED SOUTH,
HE WROTE "PARIS LAY INERT, HER
BREATHING SCARCELY AUDIBLE, HER
LIMBS RELAXED, THE BLOOD FLOWED
REMORSELESSLY FROM HER MANIFOLD VEINS."
PARIS LAY DYING, LIKE A
BEAUTIFUL WOMAN IN A COMA, NOT
KNOWING OR ASKING WHY"."
THIS WAS ANOTHER TURNING POINT,
LIKE HIS PAUSE AT THE AGE OF 17
ON THE WAY TO THE HUDSON BAY.
AS A TEENAGER, HE HAD
IDENTIFIED WITH RICHARD HARDING
DAVIS, THE GREATEST TURN OF THE
CENTURY WAR CORRESPONDENTS,
WHOSE STORIES OF THE BATTLES
HAD THE UNFORTUNATE EFFECT NOT
ONLY OF MAKING WAR LOOK
ROMANTIC, BUT OF SUGGESTING --
IN THE SPANISH AMERICAN WAR AND
THE BOER WAR WERE SOMEHOW
GIVING THE IDEA THAT
CORRESPONDENTS WERE SOMEHOW
INVULNERABLE, THAT THE BULLETS
PASSED OVER THEIR HEADS OR HIT
ONLY COMBATANTS ON EITHER SIDE
OF THE INTREPID REPORTER.
DAVIS HIMSELF DISCOVERED TO HIS
SHOCK IN HIS ATTEMPTS TO COVER
WORLD WAR I THAT THE MACHINE
GUN AND BOMBING FROM THE AIR
HAD MADE ALL THE OLD GENTLEMEN
RULES OF WARS OBSOLETE.
IN WORLD WAR II, MANY
CORRESPONDENTS WOULD LOSE THEIR LIVES.
SEVAREID DID NOT WANT TO BE ONE OF THEM.
HE WAS AFRAID.
BUT HE WAS ALSO LEARNING THAT
FEAR IS NEVER CONQUERED IN ONE BRAVE ACT.
LIKE THE LIFELONG STRUGGLE FOR
PERSONAL INTEGRITY, IT IS
CONQUERED ONLY STEP BY STEP,
MINUTE BY MINUTE AND, FOR HIM,
WORD BY WORD.
AT THIS TURNING POINT, I WOULD
LIKE TO CONDENSE THE CHRONOLOGY
OF SEVAREID'S LIFE AND THEN
FOCUS ON ONE ASPECT OF HIS
CHARACTER, WHICH, TO ME AT
LEAST, SEEMS IN RETROSPECT MOST MEANINGFUL.
RATHER THAN RETURN TO AMERICA
TO BE WITH HIS FAMILY, HE
REPORTED -- ERIC REPORTED TO
MURROW IN LONDON.
BUT HIS NERVES DID NOT SERVE
HIM WELL DURING THE BLITZ.
MURROW HIMSELF, WHOSE
SPECTACULAR COURAGE LED HIM TO
FLY WITH THE BOMBING AIDS OVER
GERMANY, REFUSED TO GO INTO THE
SHELTERS BECAUSE HE SAID THAT
ONCE HE TRIED ONE, HE MIGHT
FLEE TO THEM ALL THE TIME.
SEVAREID RETURNED TO WASHINGTON
IN 1941 AND COVERED STORIES IN
LATIN AMERICA, BUT HIS EYES WERE ON EUROPE.
THOUGH THE TERM OBJECTIVE
JOURNALISM WAS NOT YET CURRENT,
SEVAREID, LIKE MURROW, BELIEVED
THAT THE MEDIA MUST SERVE
DEMOCRACY AND SO SHOULD BE
MOBILIZING PUBLIC OPINION
AGAINST NAZI GERMANY.
WHEN THE BOMBS FELL ON PEARL
HARBOR, HE STRUGGLED WITH HIS
CONSCIENCE OVER WHETHER HE SHOULD ENLIST.
BUT HE WAS PERSUADED TO SERVE
AS A WAR CORRESPONDENT INSTEAD.
HE FOLLOWED THE ARMIES INTO
CLINE A, NORTH AFRICA, ITALY, SOUTHERN FRANCE AND FINALLY
ACROSS THE RHINE INTO GERMANY.
AFTER THE WAR, THE MURROW BOYS
BECAME THE FOREIGN RADIO AND
THEN TELEVISION CORRESPONDENTS
FOR CBS, KNOWN AS THE TIFFANY
NETWORK FOR ITS HIGH STANDARDS
AND COURAGEOUS DOCUMENTARIES,
LIKE CBS REPORTS.
WITH SEVAREID AS A ROVING
CORRESPONDENT AND NIGHTLY
COMMENTATOR WITH THE CBS
EVENING NEWS WITH WALTER CRONKITE.
AS HIS PROFESSIONAL LIFE
SOARED, HIS PERSONAL LIFE WAS
FALLING APART.
LOIS WAS MANIC-DEPRESSIVE AND
FREQUENTLY HOSPITALIZED.
ERIC WAS ATTENTIVE AND TRIED TO BE LOYAL.
BUT HE HAD LIMITED EMOTIONAL ENERGY.
MOST PEOPLE WHO KNEW HIM WELL,
AGREE THAT ERIC WAS A MAN OF
GREAT INTEGRITY.
YET, THERE IS EVIDENCE THAT HIS
SHYNESS OF HIS WAS ANOTHER WORD
FOR BEING SELF-CENTERED.
THAT AS A CHILD OF THE
DEPRESSION, WHOSE FATHER'S BANK
HAD FAILED, HE WAS OBSESSED
WITH NOT HAVING MUCH MONEY.
THAT HE DID NOT SHOW ENOUGH
AFFECTION TO HIS SONS.
IN THE LONG RUN, HE DIDN'T HAVE
THE EMOTIONAL ENERGY TO COPE
WITH THE BEHAVIOR OF HIS
BIPOLAR WIFE.
HOWARD K. SMITH TOLD ME, IN
ERIC'S DEFENSE, THAT ERIC WAS A
MAN WITH A STRONG NEED FOR
AFFECTION, AND HE WASN'T
GETTING IT AND HE HAD A RIGHT
TO A HAPPIER LIFE.
ERIC HIMSELF CONSIDERED HIS
BEHAVIOR MORALLY INDEFENSE I BELIEVE.
DAN RATHER TOLD ME, IT REMAINED
AN OBJECT OF EXCRUCIATING GUILT
FOR HIM THE REST OF HIS LIFE.
IN 1959 THEY MOVED TO
GEORGETOWN AND THEN HE
ABANDONED LOIS AND FLED TO
SPAIN AND THEN LONDON AND NEW
YORK WITH BELEN MARSHALL, A
VIVACIOUS DAUGHTER OF A CUBAN
BORN OPERA SINGER.
A YOUNG WOMAN HALF HIS AGE WHO
WAS HERSELF A SONGWRITER AND SINGER.
HE DIVORCED LOIS IN 1962,
MARRIED BELEN IN 196 3, AND
THEY HAD ONE CHILD, CRISTINA BUT THEIR WORLDS DID NOT MESH.
ON SATURDAY NIGHTS, ERIC LIKED
TO STAY HOME AND READ.
BELEN WANTED TO GO OUT AND PARTY.
THEY DIVORCED IN 1973.
LOIS, WHO ATTAINED SOME PEACE
THROUGH MEDICATION, HAD DIED IN 1970.
IF ERIC SEVAREID DID NOT HAVE
THE EMOTIONAL STRENGTH FOR "IN
SICKNESS AND IN HEALTH" MARITAL
FIDELITY, WHAT WAS THE HEART OF
HIS MORAL CHARACTER?
I SUGGEST PHYSICAL AND MORAL
COURAGE.
HE PLANTED THE BUILDING BLOCKS
OF THIS COURAGE AS A HIGH
SCHOOL GRADUATE BY CANOEING TO
THE HUDSON BAY AND AS A COLLEGE
STUDENT, BY RIDING THE RAILS
DURING THE DEPRESSION ACROSS
THE COUNTRY TO WORK IN THE
CALIFORNIA GOLD MINE.
DURING WORLD WAR II, HE DID NOT
WANT TO DIE, BUT HE CONTINUALLY
PUT HIMSELF IN CIRCUMSTANCES
WHERE HE MIGHT BE KILLED.
IN 1943, AT THE REQUEST OF THE
UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT, HE FLEW TO CHINA TO ASSESS THE
POLITICAL SITUATION.
OVER THE BURMA HUMP, THE
ENGINES OF HIS C-46 GAVE OUT
AND THE 20 PASSENGERS,
INCLUDING DIPLOMAT JOHN PATON
DAVIES, PARACHUTED INTO THE JUNGLE.
AT THE REALIZATION THAT THE PLANE WAS GOING TO CRASH,
ERIC'S FIRST REACTION WAS "OH,
NO! THIS CAN'T HAPPEN TO ME!"
BUT AS HIS CHUTE OPENED, IT
WAS, "MY GOD, I'M GOING TO LIVE".
AS A BOY, HE RECEIVED THE
SACRAMENT OF CONFIRMATION AND
CONSIDERED JOINING THE LUTHERAN
MINISTRY, BUT IN COLLEGE AND IN
HIS JOURNALISM CAREER HE LEFT
RELIGION BEHIND.
BUT AS THE WIND CARRIED HIS
CHUTE TOWARD THE BURNING
WRECKAGE OF THE PLANE, HE
PRAYED "DEAR GOD, DON'T LET THE
FIRE GET ME."
PLEASE!" AS THE SURVIVORS
ASSEMBLED, THE CAPTAIN
APPOINTED ERIC GROUP CHAPLAIN."
[ LAUGHTER ]
NOT BECAUSE HE WAS HOLY.
BECAUSE HE WAS OLDER AND HE
LOOKED LIKE A LEADER.
IN A WAY, THAT FORESHADOWED THE
ROLE HE WOULD ASSUME AS A T.V.
COMMENTATOR.
CHAPLAIN ERIC WAS PLAYING A
ROLE WHICH, THOUGH SECULAR,
STEMMED FROM HIS
PROFESSIONALISM AS A NEWSMAN,
ONE WHO GETS THE STORY AND
CONSIDERS ITS MEANING, WHICH IS
IN A SENSE, HIS QUEST FOR
TRANSCENDENT TRUTH.
SO ON AUGUST 8, 1943, IN THE
JUNGLE AT 11 A.M., THE TIME HE
REMEMBERED GOING TO CHURCH AT
HOME, HE CONSTRUCTED A HUGE
CROSS AND CONDUCTED A MEMORIAL
SERVICE FOR THE CO-PILOT,
LIEUTENANT CHARLES FELIX, WHOSE
BODY THEY HAD BURIED ON THE HILLSIDE.
THE NAGAS, FIERCE HEADHUNTERS,
FOUND THEM AND MADE THEM AT HOME.
THE AIR FORCE DROPPED SUPPLIES.
DAYS LATER A RESCUE PARTY LED
BY A DASHING YOUNG BRITISH
DIPLOMAT ARRIVED TO HELP GUIDE
THEM ON A 140-MILE, TEN-DAY
MARCH DURING WHICH ERIC AT ONE
TIME LOST CONTROL, TURNED GREEN
AND COLLAPSED WITH EXHAUSTION
AS THEY TRUDGED OVER HILLS, AND
WATERFALLS, UNDER THE BOILING
SUN INTO SAFETY IN INDIA.
HE CONTINUED HIS MISSION TO
CHINA WHERE HE TRAVELED
EXTENSIVELY, MET THE TROOPS AND
THEIR LEADERS AND BROADCAST
SEVERAL REPORTS WHICH HE COULD
GET THROUGH THE CENSORS.
BUT THE 250 -- 2,500-WORD ESSAY
IN WHICH HE DELIVERED THE FULL
NEGATIVE ASSESSMENT OF THE
CHIANG-KAI-SHEK REGIME WHOSE
GOVERNMENT WAS MORE FASCIST
THAN DEMOCRATIC AND CONCLUDED
THAT IF THE CHINESE AND
AMERICAN PEOPLE ARE TO REMAIN
FRIENDS, WE MUST END THE POLITE
LYING AND FALSE PROPAGANDA AND
THE CONCEALING OF THEIR FAULTS.
THIS REPORT WAS KILLED BY THE
GOVERNMENT CENSORS AND SHELVED.
IN 1954, JOHN PATON DAVIES WAS
FIRED FROM THE STATE DEPARTMENT
FOR GIVING ADVICE THAT LATER
TURNED OUT TO BE UNPOPULAR.
BUT TRUE.
WITH THE RISE OF SENATOR JOSEPH
R. MCCARTHY, DEMOCRATS WERE
ACCUSED OF HAVING LOST CHINA
AND JOHN FOSTER DULLES REMOVED
DAVIES AND OTHERS KNOWN AS THE
OLD CHINA HANDS, ACCUSING THEM
OF BEING SOFT ON COMMUNISM FROM
THE FOREIGN SERVICE.
ERIC, IN HIS LATE NIGHT RADIO
BROADCASTS, KNOWING THAT HE
HIMSELF COULD BE ACCUSED OF
COMMUNIST SYMPATHIES IF HIS
1943 ESSAY WAS PUBLISHED
DEFENDED -- NEVERTHELESS, DEFENDED HIM.
THE BOARD THAT DISMISSED
DAVIES, THE CHARGE OF COMMUNISM
THEY DISMISSED THAT CHARGE, BUT
SAID HE HAD "DEFECTS OF CHARACTER".
SEVAREID RECALLED THEIR ORDEAL
IN THE BURMA JUNGLES AND
REPLIED, "I SAW THEIR VICTIM
MEASURED AGAINST THE MOST
SEVERE TESTS THAT MORTAL MAN CAN DESIGN."
THOSE HE PASSED.
AT THE HEAD OF THE
CLASS."HERBERT BAYARD SWOPE,
THE LEGENDARY EDITOR OF THE OLD
NEW YORK WORLD, PRAISED
SEVAREID'S COURAGE."
DAVIES RESPONDED THAT IT DID
TAKE COURAGE TO GO AGAINST THE
HYSTERICAL FRAME OF MIND IN THE COUNTRY.
BUT IN ANOTHER SENSE, IT DID
NOT TAKE COURAGE BECAUSE
SEVAREID REALLY BELIEVED WHAT HE SAID.
AND IT WAS HIS BUSINESS TO SAY
WHAT HE BELIEVED.
FROM THE BEGINNING IN 1950,
WELL BEFORE MURROW'S FAMOUS SEE
IT NOW BROADCAST, SEVAREID
OPPOSED MCCARTHYISM AND
DEFENDED OTHERS LIKE OWEN
LATTIMORE AND ROBERT
OPPENHEIMER WHO HE THOUGHT WERE
FALSELY ACCUSED.
HIS TOUGHEST CONDEMNATION CAME
DURING THE ARMY MCCARTHY
HEARINGS ON JANUARY 10, 1954,
WHEN MCCARTHY REVEALED THAT A
YOUNG MAN ON THE STAFF OF
COUNSEL JOSEPH WELSH HAD A
REMOTE COMMUNIST CONNECTION,
AND WELSH EXPLODED IN RIGHTEOUS
INDIGNATION.
HAVE YOU NO SHAME, SENATOR?
>>> SEVAREID REPLIED THAT
MCCARTHY HAD NO ANSWER BECAUSE,
HE HAD NO FEELING THAT HE HAD
DONE ANYTHING MORALLY WRONG.
HE CANNOT HELP IT.
THE PERSONAL TRAGEDY OF
MCCARTHY IS THAT THE NERVE CORD
OR CLUSTER OF CELLS THAT
PRODUCE WHAT MEN CALL
CONSCIENCE WAS NOT GRANTED TO HIM.
[ LAUGHTER ]
FROM 1963 UNTIL HE RETIRED IN
1977, ERIC SEVAREID SETTLED
INTO A WORKING ROUTINE HE
INTERRUPTED ONLY FOR OCCASIONAL
SPEAKING ENGAGEMENTS, FISHING
TRIPS AND VACATIONS.
HE DROVE HIS DAUGHTER TINA TO
CHEVY CHASE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,
READ THE NEW YORK TIMES AND
WASHINGTON POST, THEN DROVE HIS
BLUE VOLVO TO THE NEW CBS
OFFICE AT 2020 M STREET AT 10
A.M. WHERE, IN HIS RELATIVELY
LARGE OFFICE, HE SAT AND
STAERED AT HIS GRAY MANUAL
ROYAL TYPEWRITER.
AFTER LUNCH, HE ANSWERED ALL
HIS CORRESPONDENCE.
AND UNLESS THE WRITER QUESTIONED HIS INTEGRITY, HE
SENT WARM, BRIEF, GRACIOUS REPLIES.
TO OLD FRIENDS FROM VELVA, HE
WROTE, OF COURSE I REMEMBER YOU.
YOUR HOUSE WAS JUST ACROSS THE STREET.
HE WROTE MANY CONDOLENCE NOTES,
OFTEN PROMISING PRAYERS.
THE CHALLENGE WAS WRITING THAT
EVENING'S COMMENTARY.
STRICTLY SPEAKING, IN
JOURNALISM, CONVENTIONAL
WISDOM, IT WAS NOT A
COMMENTARY, BUT AN ANALYSIS.
AN EDITORIAL PROPOSES --
PROMISES A LINE OF ACTION.
AN ANALYSIS DIE SECRETARIES A
NEWS -- DISSECTS A NEWS ITEM
INTO ITS PARTS AND PUTS IT IN CONTEXT.
A COMMENTARY GIVES THE
JOURNALIST'S PERSONAL OPINION.
SEVAREID WAS NOT SUPPOSED TO GIVE OPINIONS.
WHATEVER THE FORM, THE
ATTRACTION FOR SEVAREID'S
VIEWERS WAS WATCHING A GOOD
MIND COME TO A CONCLUSION.
A CLEAR OPINION THAT WILL HELP
MOVE A PUBLIC TRYING TO MAKE UP
ITS MIND.
HIS CREATIVE PROCESS WAS COMPLEX.
FOR SOME YEARS, HE TALKED OUT
IDEAS WITH PRODUCER FRIENDS.
HE MADE PHONE CALLS, PICKED THE
BRAINS OF LOCAL EXPERTS,
WANDERED INTO THE HALL AND
PACED SOLEMNLY UP AND DOWN,
STOPPED IN IN WITH THE YOUNG
MARVIN KALB, JUST BACK FROM MOSCOW.
HE LUNCHED WITH FRIENDS WHO
COMPLAINED THAT HE MUMBLED.
HE SWAM AT THE METROPOLITAN
CLUB TO EASE OF PAIN THE HIS ARTHRITIS.
HE RETURNED TO THE OFFICE WHERE HE'D SOMETIMES STRETCH OUT ON THE SOFA THEN HE WOULD RETURN
TO THE TYPEWRITER AND STARE SOME MORE.
HE SMOKED STEADILY, INHALING
DEEPLY AND BLOWING A BIG CLOUD
OUT IN FRONT OF HIS FACE.
SOME STAFF COMPLAINED HE WAS LAZY.
AFTER ALL, HOW HARD IS IT TO
WRITE 400 WORDS, A TWO-MINUTE ADDRESS?
BUT FOR HIM, IT WAS NOT JUST 400 WORDS.
THEY WERE HIS 400 BEST WORDS,
WORDS MEANT TO LAST.
HE TOLD NOVELIST KURT VONNEGUT
THAT HE WAS WRITING THE
GETTYSBURG ADDRESS EVERY DAY.
FINALLY, THE SCRIPT WAS RETYPED
FOR THE TELEPROMPTER, THE
MAKEUP WAS APPLIED, THE LIGHTS
DIMMED BECAUSE HE HATED THE
GLARE AND TO SOFTEN HIS FEATURES.
HE NEVER GOT USED TO
MICROPHONES OR CAMERAS, AND HE
LONG COMPLAINED THAT THE T.V.
MEDIUM SACRIFICED WORDS TO IMAGE.
HE WAS SO NERVOUS THAT HE
AVERAGED -- HE WOULD SWALLOW
NINE TIMES IN EVERY TWO MINUTES.
HE USED TO BE TO HAVE A POOL AS
TO HOW MANY TIMES IS HE GOING
TO GULP BEFORE HE GOT TO THE END.
YET, IRONICALLY ON THE NIGHTS
WHEN HIS VIEWERS HAD NO IDEA
WHAT EXACTLY HE HAD SAID, THEY
WERE STILL AWESTRUCK BY THAT
LARGE SCREEN-FILLING GRAY HEAD
FROM WHICH THE WORDS POURED
FORTH AND THEY BELONGED TO SUCH
A VERY WISE AND GOOD MAN.
WHEN ERIC SEVAREID RETIRED IN
1977, HE WAS NEVER REPLACED AND
IN THE SILENCE THAT FOLLOWED
FOR A NUMBER OF REASONS,
ECONOMICAL, POLITICAL AND
PERSONAL, THE ART OF COMMENTARY DIED.
ONCE 60 MINUTES DEMONSTRATED
THAT NEWS COULD BE PROFITABLE
AS WELL AS THE SOURCE OF
NETWORK PRESTIGE, MANAGEMENT
EVALUATED NEWS PROGRAMS ON THE
BASIS OF THE BOTTOM LINE.
THOSE TWO MINUTES COULD BE USED
FOR ANOTHER COMMERCIAL.
WHEN THE NEW TECHNOLOGY MADE IT
POSSIBLE TO BROADCAST LIVE FROM
ALL OVER THE WORLD, YOUNG,
AMBITIOUS REPORTERS LUSTED
AFTER THOSE TWO MINUTES AS WELL.
COMMENTARY HAD DEVELOPED DURING
THE NEW DEAL YEARS WHEN BIG NEW GOVERNMENT PROGRAMS DEMANDED
EXPERTS LIKE WALTER LIPPMANN,
JAMES RESTON AND THE ALSOP
BROTHERS TO EXPLAIN THESE POLICIES.
TODAY THE CABINET MEMBERS AND
EVEN THE PRESIDENT COMPETE FOR
TIME ON THE SUNDAY MORNING AND
EVEN LATE NIGHT TALK SHOWS.
WITH THE EXPLOSION OF
INFORMATION, THE LINE BETWEEN
REPORTING AND INTERPRETATION HAS GROWN FUZZY AGAIN.
THE JOURNALIST ON THE SCENE
INTERPRETS THE EVENT.
IN PUBLIC TELEVISION SOMETIMES
AND CABLE NEWS, PUNDITS WHO,
UNLIKE THEIR JOURNALISTIC
PREDECESSORS WHO WERE MADE
EXPERTS BY THEIR EXPERIENCE,
PUNDITS ARE OFTEN FORMER
POLITICAL OPERATIVES WHO EITHER
JUST CHAT SERIOUSLY OR THEY
HAVEN'T PREPARED OR YELL AT ONE
ANOTHER AND CALL IT ANALYSIS.
LAST FALL A CONSERVATIVE GROUP
IN ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA, THE ALLIED LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE,
GAVE COURSES TO 600 PEOPLE IN
PUNDITRY, INCLUDIN A
THREE-HOUR, $1500 ONE-ON-ONE
SESSION WHERE THEY LEARNED TO
WEAR CHARCOAL GRAY SUITS AND
WHITE SHIRTS, TO SMILE A LOT,
USE SHORT SLOGANS, LIKE
FLIPFLOP AND AVOID TOUGH
QUESTIONS BY SAYING, NOW LOOK,
THE REAL QUESTION IS SOMETHING OVER THERE. RIGHT?
OH, OVER THERE.
FINALLY, ERIC WAS CORRECT WHEN
HE FEARED THE PICTURE WOULD WIN
OUT OVER THE GOOD WORD.
IN THE WORLD OF THE COUCH
POTATO WITH THE REMOTE CONTROL,
NO ONE WILL LISTEN TO ONE
PERSON FOR TWO WHOLE MINUTES.
UNIQUELY, THE PROBLEM IS --
ULTIMATELY, THE PROBLEM IS THAT
SEVAREID WAS UNIQUE.
NO ONE ELSE HAS COME ALONG WITH
THE WORLD'S BATTLE GROUNDS, HIS
LITERARY HISTORY AND LITERATURE
AND HIS MASTERY OF THE LANGUAGE
AS WELL AS THE NORTH DAKOTA
WHEAT FIELDS IN HIS BLOOD AND
BRAINS.
HE WAS ALL OF AMERICA TALKING
IN DIALOG WITH ITSELF.
IN THREE QUOTATIONS, I'D LIKE
TO GIVE HIM THE LAST WORDS.
IN OCTOBER 1970, IN A SPEECH
WRITTEN BY WILLIAM SAFIRE, VICE
PRESIDENT SPIRO AGNEW, IN AN
ATTEMPT TO INTIMIDATE THE
PRESS, SAID THAT COMMENTATORS
LIKE HOWARD K. SMITH AND ERIC
SEVAREID SHOULD APPEAR ON A
PANEL SHOW AND BE FORCED TO
REVEAL THEIR REAL OPINIONS.
SELF-SELF-RYE REPLIED:
>>> FINALLY AT THE RISK OF
SOUNDING A BIT STUFFY.
WE MAY SAY TWO THINGS.
ONE, THAT NOBODY IN THIS
BUSINESS EXPECTS FOR A MOMENT
THAT THE FULL TRUTH OF ANYTHING
WILL BE CONTAINED IN ANY ONE
ACCOUNT OR COMMENTARY.
BUT THAT THROUGH FREE REPORTING
AND DISCUSSION, AS MR. WALTER
LIPPMANN PUT IT, THE TRUTH WILL EMERGE.
AND SECOND, THAT THE CENTRAL
POINT ABOUT THE FREE PRESS IS
NOT THAT IT BE ACCURATE, THOUGH
IT MUST TRY TO BE, NOT THAT IT
BE FAIR, THOUGH IT MUST TRY TO
BE THAT, BUT THAT IT BE FREE.
AND THAT MEANS, IN THE FIRST
INSTANCE, FREEDOM FROM ANY AND
ALL ATTEMPTS BY ANY POWER OF
GOVERNMENT TO COERCE IT OR
INTIMIDATE IT IN ANY WAY.
ON APRIL 19, 1972, THE FUTILITY
OF THE VIETNAM WAR WAS BECOMING EVIDENT.
ERIC SAID: IF WE HAVE REACHED
THE DREADFUL POINT WHERE THE
HONOR OF THE STATE AND
CONSCIENCE OF THE PEOPLE
COLLIDE, THEN WHAT DOES HONOR MEAN ANYMORE?
WE ARE ASKED TO BELIEVE THAT IT
IS DISHONORABLE TO DEPART AND
RISK OF THE SAFETY OF THE
VIETNAMESE POLITICAL AND
MILITARY LEADERS, BUT HONORABLE
TO GO ON CONTRIBUTING TO THE
CERTAIN DEATH AND MISERY OF
THOSE WHO ARE WHOLLY INNOCENT.
WE ARE ASKED TO BELIEVE THAT BETTER RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA
ARE WORTH THE LOSS OF OUR OWN SENSE OF MORAL IDENTITY.
THERE DOES COME A TIME WHEN THE
HEART MUST RULE THE HEAD.
THAT TIME IS WHEN THE HEART IS ABOUT TO BREAK.
ON NOVEMBER -- NOVEMBER 18th
THROUGH THE 20TH, 1977, HE WAS
GIVEN THREE NIGHTS TO SAY GOODBYE.
ON THE LAST HE SAID: THERE IS
IN THE AMERICAN PEOPLE A TOUGH,
UNDIMINISHED INSTINCT FOR WHAT IS FAIR.
RIGHTLY OR WRONGLY, I HAVE THE
FEELING THAT I HAVE PASSED THAT TEST.
I SHALL WEAR THIS LIKE A MEDAL.
MILLIONS HAVE LISTENED.
INTENTLY AND INDIFFERENTLY, IN
AGREEMENT AND IN POWERFUL DISAGREEMENT.
TENS OF THOUSANDS HAVE WRITTEN
THEIR THOUGHTS TO ME.
I WILL FEEL ALWAYS THAT I STAND
IN THEIR MIDST.
THIS WAS ERIC SEVAREID IN WASHINGTON.
THANK YOU AND GOODBYE.
I SAY AMEN.

[ APPLAUSE ]