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Dan Rather to Students: “Walk the Walk”

Newsman tells audience to vote in November

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Television journalist and former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather spoke last night at Metcalf Hall in conjunction with the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center’s 45th anniversary. Photo by Vernon Doucette

During an impassioned speech delivered last night in Metcalf Hall, noted television journalist and former CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather (Hon.’83) implored Boston University students to vote in this year’s presidential election.

“I don’t care which candidate you favor,” he told the crowd. “But I do care that you don’t fall into the category of talking the talk without walking the walk. Please, if you believe this election to be an important one — and it is — get yourselves to the polls this November.”

Rather’s appearance, which coincided with the Howard Gotlieb Archival Research Center’s 45th anniversary celebration, debuted the center’s latest retrospective, A View from the Vault: 45 Years of Collecting. The exhibition chronicles Rather’s renowned — and at times controversial — career, from his early days as a student reporter for The Houstonian at Sam Houston State Teachers College to his move to CBS in 1962. The display includes script fragments, reporter’s notebooks, transcripts, and photographs, as well as documents from every presidential election convention that Rather covered between 1968 and 2004.

Known for his tough reporting and tenacious investigative journalism, Rather has covered nearly every major world news event during his decades as a reporter. He has interviewed every sitting U.S. president since Dwight D. Eisenhower, as well as many other world leaders, including Saddam Hussein. During the Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Persian Gulf wars, Rather reported live from the field, and he was a major television presence following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. His current weekly news program on HDNet, Dan Rather Reports, focuses on investigative pieces on politics, the environment, the global economy, and international affairs.

Lamenting a “diminution of journalism standards,” Rather noted that many of today’s reporters and news outlets are motivated by ratings and demographics over truth and ethics. Dismissing the rambling pundits and satirical news-comedy shows, he encouraged the audience to glean information from a variety of sources. “The more you read and the more you listen, the better chance you have of making up your own mind,” he said.

Rather predicted that, as in previous presidential elections, late deciders will determine who the next president of the United States will be. “This race has already gone through more surprises than most presidential campaigns,” he said. “Never before has an African-American had a serious chance of going to the White House, and never before has the naming of a vice presidential candidate changed the dynamic of a campaign.

“Someone once said, ‘Hearts can inspire other hearts with fire,’” Rather continued, his usually steady voice choking with emotion. “Remember that you can make the difference. Remember that when one person inspires another, the movement grows and grows. Remember that on November 4.”

Before closing his speech, Rather took a few minutes to answer questions from the audience.

“I’m such a fan of Dan Rather, and I thought it was extremely interesting to hear his wisdom tonight,” said Michelle Simunovic (CAS’12). “I’m amazed that he’s able to remain so unbiased when it comes to the election, and I really respect him for that.” Although she is too young to vote in the November election, Simunovic is volunteering with a voter registration drive.

“I guess because I do vote, I was a little surprised that Rather said students don’t walk the walk,” said Jonah Kappraff (CFA’08). “I hope his message got across tonight, and I hope that my generation will be the one that makes the difference in this year’s election.”

A View from the Vault: 45 Years of Collecting is on display in the Gotlieb Gallery on the first floor of Mugar Memorial Library. In addition to featuring the papers of Dan Rather, it includes documents from Martin Luther King, Jr. (GRS’55, Hon.’59), Elie Wiesel (Hon.’74), Senator Edward W. Brooke (LAW’48,’50, Hon.’68), Alistair Cooke, Angela Lansbury, and Fred and Adele Astaire, among others. The exhibition is open from 8 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 10 a.m. to midnight on Sunday.

Vicky Waltz can be reached at vwaltz@bu.edu.

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