Friday, July 17, 2009

Walter Cronkite,
the 2nd most important man in my life

Today I mourned the passing of the second most important man in my life, Walter Cronkite. Now, let me make it clear, the most important man was my father, Raymond Green. My father taught me about right and wrong, he taught me about respect, and he taught me that it was OK for a young, African American woman to question the establishment, to ask for answers if I felt something was wrong. He taught me to not be afraid to go against the tide as long as I got the answers I was searching for.
Walter Cronkite reinforced these lessons. He became the second most important man in my life.
He became the man who helped shape my life into the extraordinary journey that it's been.
Getting back to my father, he was old school. He got a newspaper everyday, and watched the news every night. I mean every night. We sat down in front of the TV and watched Walter Cronkite, and nothing disturbed this. We ate dinner at 4pm so we could be ready to watch the news.

That's just how it was in our house. For that half hour every day we were in Walter's house, as he took us on a journey around the world.

Both these men gave me a passion for journalism. I got my first paper route when I was just nine, and I remember my mother Iris getting up on rainy mornings before the sunrise and driving me from house to house so I could deliver the papers. The real perk was I got my own paper every day from the supplier, it was my own paper. I was the first one to open the pages,and bend them back. It was my paper. I didn't make much money from that paper route, but gained so much more. It reinforced this passion I had for information. I wanted to know everything that was happening.

This passion led me to get my journalism degree from Arizona State University, and begin working for the NBC station in Phoenix. My career in TV news led me to stations in Washington DC, Los Angeles and New York City. For more than two decades, every day I went into a newsroom I carried Mr. Cronkite on my shoulders, trying to ask the questions he would ask, wanting to make sure I was being a good journalist, wanting to make sure he was proud of the job I was doing.Thinking that some day he might actually see one of my shows. I wanted to make sure it was one he would approve of, and since I never knew when he might happen to catch a show, I had to make sure I gave it my all every day.

Walter Cronkite didn't know me, but I sure felt like I knew him.You can only imagine what I felt when I accepted a job teaching as a Professor of Practice at the Walter Cronkite school of Journalism and Mass Communication three years ago. As of that wasn't exciting enough, I then got a letter in the mail, it was from Walter Cronkite himself, welcoming me to the school. I was literally shaking as I read it.

Then, the unthinkable. Just a couple of months after accepting the position, I actually got a chance to meet Mr. Cronkite in person when he came to Arizona State University to speak with the students. There I was, sitting down next to Mr. Cronkite, the chance to meet the second most important man in my life, and I was tongue tied.

I just sat there looking at this man who for the majority of my life I had watched most days on TV, and here he was right next to me. I finally took a deep breath, introduced myself and told him I was honored to be teaching in his school. He said he had heard about me joining the staff, and was excited that I would be able to share my knowledge with the students. He said just teach them well, and I have taken that to heart.

The entire time I sat next to him as he spoke about his days at UPI and covering the Apollo Moon landing, all I could think about was I wish my dad was here, he would be so proud of me.

Now, both of the most important men in my life are gone, but never forgotten. I know that somewhere up there my Dad has invited Walter Cronkite to come sit in on his game of Pinochle, and they are sitting there discussing what it was like reporting on the Civil Rights movement, the Vietnam War and the situation in Israel. My Dad will tell him job well done, and Mr Cronkite will say the same back to my father.

For more memories, and pictures about Walter Cronkite, please visit the Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication website at Arizona State University.

Susan Green, Tempe, AZ


Robin said...

Yes, your dad would be so proud of you. What a beautiful story about both men.
Job well done.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Susan, for the beautifully written essay. Both your dad and Mr. Cronkite would be proud of you. I entered journalism for the exact same reasons you describe - reporting the news, and reporting it well, isn't just a job, it is a calling. When I was in high school, I won a pencil from my journalism teacher, Joyce Miller. It wasn't for writing, but for producing a page layout that didn't contain errors. I always used "What would Walker Cronkite do?"" as my mantra. If anyone spotted an error (Like sloppy corner tape, I'm sure you remember!) I *had* to correct it, because I had to try to live up to Mr. Cronkite's standards. And now, 30 years later, I still have that pencil. Thanks, Walter!

Jacqueline T Lynch said...

A terrific essay. We never know where our role models are going to come from, and usually they never learn just how important they are to us. Maybe that's the way it's meant to be. I'm glad you got to meet him. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Lavender Luz said...

Wow, Susan. I've been gone and this is the first I've heard.

Love that photo of you with Mr Cronkite. And that he influenced you directly and so positively.

PerfectMomentProject said...

Hello All,

Thank you for the kind words. I feel very honored to have met one of my idols and I loved sharing the moment with all of you!

Steph said...

What a sweet post about a man that everyone in America loved and a man that I'm sure everyone in American would have loved had they known him.

P.S. - I LOVE that photo of your father. Or at least I assume it's your father, how neat!

Cynthia Samuels said...

Oh Susan, how beautiful. Someone commenting on my BlogHer post about Walter Cronkite posted this link and I'm so glad.
I love the parallel between your dad and WC. I felt the same way about my own father - I think that kind of determination and respect from a dad is a huge asset, especially in journalism where you have to be pretty nervy and use high standards of behavior to judge how to cover a story.
For me it was moving both as a reporter and a daughter to read this. We KNOW your dad would be proud and I'm thinking that, if he read this, Walter would be proud too!

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