|Dan Rather reads from his book 'What Unites Us.'|
At a time in our nation's history when there's a crisis over our national identity, the longtime broadcast journalist has surfaced as a calm, measured voice of reason and integrity. At 86, he has embraced social media, where he regularly contributes his thoughts and wisdom via his Facebook page, which has more than 2.5 million followers.
Last week, Rather's new book, What Unites Us: Reflections on Patriotism, written with Emmy Award-winning journalist Elliot Kirschner, was published. In it, Rather has written a collection of 16 original and passionate essays that reflect on what it means to be an American in the 21st century.
During a recent book tour lecture at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., I listened attentively to Rather, in conversation with Washington Post editorial writer Jonathan Capehart. He discussed a variety of topics including patriotism and freedom of the press, whose values have transformed us and represent institutions that sustain our nation.
On the subject of patriotism, Rather read from his book: "Patriotism – active, constructive patriotism – takes work. It takes knowledge, engagement with those who are different from you, and fairness in law and opportunity. It takes coming together for good causes," he said. "This is one of the things I cherish most about the United States: we are a nation not only of dreamers but also of fixers. We have looked at our land and people , and said, time and again, this is not good enough; we can be better."
When asked about Capehart to discuss freedom of the press, Rather didn't hesitate when he responded: "We are the witness to the truth and there's a lot of good reporting going on out there. This president is pushing us toward a 'post-truth' and 'post-fact' political era.
"American journalism is at a crossroads," he continued. "News is what the public needs to know and it's generally what somebody else doesn't want you to know about."
Rather's storied career – he spent more than 40 years with CBS News and succeeded the legendary Walter Cronkite in the anchor chair for The CBS Evening News – has made him one of the world's best-known journalists. He's interviewed every president since Eisenhower. With decades spent on the front lines covering the world's biggest stories – from the assassination of President John F. Kennedy to the Vietnam War to the Watergate crisis that ended with the resignation of President Richard Nixon – Rather is able to offer his readers a unique if not intimate view of America's history and its historical change.
It's easy to gain from reading What Unites Us and by listening to Rather that regardless of the state of our current national political climate, he maintains a fundamental sense of hope that comes from sharing our nation's transformative values, from empathy to inclusion to service.
Photo of Dan Rather by Michael Dickens © 2017.