FAIRBORN — Broadcast journalist Dan Rather gave a lecture at Wright State University Jan. 31 — hitting on topics like journalism today, a changing America, and the Trump administration.
But, throughout his remarks, the message remained the same: “Steady. Steady.”
Rather’s visit came as a part of the university’s Presidential Lecture Series, “Democracy, Politics and You.”
WSU President David Hopkins, in his welcoming remarks, described Rather as someone who “literally gets in the trenches to uncover the real story, and presents those facts to you with compassion, dignity and humanity.”
The award-winning journalist has earned more than 50 years in the field — as an anchor for CBS Evening News, a correspondent for 60 Minutes, and now the CEO and president of News and Guts.
Of America, Rather spoke of “an ache for change.”
“There is a certain feeling of unease that the country is changing too quickly and too chaotically in terms of who we are as a people,” Rather said during his remarks. “This time is not a normal time but this is the new normal.”
Rather hit this topic during a media visit prior to the lecture, too. But in each moment he expressed concern — he followed with optimism.
“I hear people saying all the time, ‘I’m scared’ — and I will say, ‘Fright is not in American character.’ We’re not a people who are to be scared,” Rather said.
With concern, and optimism, Rather also offered lessons — to journalists and all citizens alike.
He advised the crowd of listeners to value gratitude, modesty and humility, and to always keep a sense of humour.
But mostly, he spoke of patriotism.
“We, the American people, should never underestimate what a big, continental, complex country we have — with such a diverse population. And that the genius of our system of government’s checks and balances endures … ” Rather said. ” … We have a whole interwoven web of checks and balances — one of those is of course a free and independent press. A truly free and independent — fiercely independent — necessary press is the red beating heart of freedom and democracy.”
Rather stressed the importance of a free press, one that is “under attack” today.
“As journalists, we’re in the fight of our professional lives,” Rather said. “Most recently, the media moved into a post-truth political era in which we’re asked to believe facts that aren’t facts, called ‘alternate facts’ … Facts are facts. Two plus two equals four. Two plus two equals five is a kind of alternate fact … Water does not run up hill … When you’re dead you’re dead. That’s a fact.”
On the topic of President Donald Trump, Rather said that he’s simply unlike any president he’s covered in his lifetime, that he’s “unique”.
“We’ve never had a president who had zero, no experience in public service,” Rather said, noting that that was neither a political nor ideological statement.
Throughout, Rather consistently turned to one word.
“Anybody else who asks — [I say] ‘Steady, steady. We’ll be alright.’ It may take a while, it may take a long while, but we’ll be alright.”
Contact Anna Bolton at 937-502-4498.