(Despite the overused cliche, he really was the most trusted man in America)
The idea of Walter Cronkite not being among us, even at the age of 92, is a hard concept to grasp. Those of us of a certain age who grew up with him every night, glued to our TV's during every defining moment of our history - hearing the words of calm and conscience, we came to expect he would always be around - maybe not nightly as he was until 1981, but in some form, some presence of the man we trusted - always there, always observing, always the witness.
But life doesn't work that way, and now we're left with moments of time, places in history we associate with Walter Cronkite.
Tributes the past day have been largely flashes of moments in history - the Moon landing, the JFK assassination.
I thought I would add something a little different to the mix - maybe not as earth shattering as a tragedy or a walk on the moon, but the postmortem of an election - November 7, 1968, when Nixon won by a narrow margin. The exhaustion of staying up most of the night to report returns up to the final moment when Nixon was declared winner. It's not a milestone moment, but it was typical of the eloquence, the thoughtful reflection on a night in a troubled time.
Those nights we turned to Walter Cronkite the most.
“There’s a great deal of talk tonight of Richard Nixon, not by his own admission a loveable figure, succeeding without a clear mandate, to the leadership of a divided nation. These, to put it mildly, are negative thoughts. President-elect Nixon has said his first job will be to try and unite the nation. There’s no one who can say tonight, including Richard Nixon, whether he can do that job. Who can restore the hope of the American spirit, to all our people, black and white, rich and poor. But there is one thing that should be abundantly clear, the President-elect, whether it was Nixon or Humphrey or Wallace or the candidate of the Prohibition Party, could not do that job alone. The leaders of the opposition including Dick Gregory in a particularly Statesman-like concession called for unity. Their followers can do no less than to give the new man a chance. This is Walter Cronkite, CBS News election headquarters – good night.”
And that's the way it was.