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Dan Rather: What it Means to Love America

Legendary CBS newsman, Dan Rather, discusses his new book, "What Unites Us." Read Transcript


- [Scott] After decadesas a CBS field reporter,

Dan Rather took over theCBS Evening News anchor desk

in 1981 from retiring Walter Cronkite,

the most trusted man in America.

Rather held that post for 24 years.

During his storied careerspanning more than 60 years

Rather reported on nearlyevery headline event.

Now at 86 he offers news analysis

and commentary on social media.

I talked to the legendarynews man about his new book.

Six decades, that's a long time doctor.

- That's a long time.

Well I've been very luckyand mightily blessed.

- Spoken like a true Texan.

He's been married toJean Goebel for 61 years

and he's the father of twosuccessful grown children.

I put down here you're achronicler of the times

and the times keep changing

you know, but you're keeping up with it.

That's the interesting thing.

You frequently have beendefined as the voice

of the liberal media.

Is that the fact

Mr. Rather?- No.

- How did they tag you with that?

- Well I'm not sure Scott.

I can say with a smile, no.

I understand, I understand the question

and it's a fair questionbecause there are any number

of people who want to say youknow, Dan Rather I know you.

You're this liberal, leftist, Bolshevik,

bomb throwing or whatever.

I think part of it comes from the fact

that I have been a reporter all my life

and reporters, if you serveany kind of apprenticeship

you do see the underside of society,

the Dickensian side of society.

You've seen the poor,you've seen the homeless,

you've seen the hungry.

It's a side of life thatmany people don't see.

When you do reportingon that kind of thing

there are many people who saywell you know, he leans left

because he has sympathy for these people.

I do, both compassionand empathy for them.

I've seen my role through life as trying

to be an honest broker of information.

- [Scott] After his divorcefrom CBS News in 2005

the octogenarian found a newaudience in the digital space

by providing analysis oncurrent events via social media.

You're all over Facebook.

You're sort of a patriarch

to the baby boomers, the millennials

and here you sit.

- Well it's true.

One, this is proof positivethat miracles still happen

and the second is I have noidea why this has happened

but I am very grateful for it.

If there's any reason forwhatever success I've had

on the social media I think is

because that this is a tumultuous time.

There are many youngpeople who are afraid.

What I have to offer, aboutthe only thing I have to offer

is yes, I've lived a fairly long time,

I have some experience and I do try

and put things in historicalcontext and perspective

when I can and to be asteady, reliable voice.

That's what I'm trying to do.

- How do you counter thecharge of being a host

of fake news Mr. Rather?

- I don't try to defend it.

I simply say, check my record.

There's so many other things in life.

You are what your record is.

Now my record is not unbroken.

They say I've made mistakes, have wounds,

some of them self-inflicted

but I have always been dedicated to trying

to do quality news with integrity.

The accusation of fake news,

not necessarily with me directly

but in general is oftena tool for politicians

who seek to accuse those ofus in journalism of fake news

for their own partisan, political

and/or ideological advantage.

- In our deeply polarizedtimes Rather recently penned

What Unites Us.

The book is a series ofreflective essays on the values

that have shaped our national character.

Rather's views on education,to the environment,

from politics to the press

challenges readers on theleft, right and center

of the political spectrum

but perhaps too, as I found,there's some common ground.

You hooked me from chapter one.

What motivated you to write it?

- There's so many peopletalking about what divides us

in the country and withinme, deep somewhere in my id

is such a strong beliefthat what unites us,

the things that unite usare much more plentiful

and much more important thanthe things that divide us.

It's not that we don't haveproblems, we have problems

and we have differences of opinion

but there are certaincore values of the country

which have been our corevalues ever since the founding

of the country.

- This was a strongstatement on your part,

"Humility if we lose thatwe risk losing everything."

- Absolutely

because humility is at thevery core of patriotism.

It's one of the thingsthat separates patriotism

from nationalism.

Having said there's some overlap

but the spirit of patriotismis I love my country

and to the point thatI'm literally prepared

to die for my country

but I recognize that mycountry needs to improve

that we all can improve.

So humility is the core of patriotism.

Where nationalism tendsto be a breast beating

we're the greatest-- Triumph.

- There's ever been,the greatest now, right

and there's dangers in nationalism

and I won't give you my full blast on this

but I think it's so important right now.

- It seems to be rootedin pride in many ways.

- It is.

- The wrong kind of pride.

To another one of your topics, service.

Could almost be an anecdote to pride.

- There's a great and possiblydecisive battle going on

in the country with thesoul of the country.

I'm not talking about bysome political ideology.

What I'm talking about our soul

has always been closelyidentified with service.

Service to others,service to the community,

service to country.

This is what has made usUnited States of America.

I personally believe

in mandatory nationalservice of some kind.

I think it oughta include the military

but not be limited at that.

Teach school in a poor neighborhood

or go overseas with peacecorps or something like that

but this idea of service as I say has gone

a little out of fashion

and I think we shouldbe worried about that.

- That's an interesting prospect.

Now here's a charged word.

We should neither forget nor be paralyzed

by our prior national sins.

You don't hear that word anymore.

Why did you choose to use that?

- Well first of all you're right

it's gone a little outof fashion to talk about.

Because it's a strongword and it's applicable.

That we had the sin of slavery.

- Right.

- And it took us a longtime to overcome that

and we're still in theprocess of doing penance,

if you will, the time of slavery

that yes, we have nationally as a country,

as a society committed sins

but at least you and I asChristians believe in redemption.

- That's right and repentancewas a word I wrote down

but I know many people who have repented

of those historic sins of this nation.

Do you think your book'sgonna sell to the mid America

between the two coasts?

- Well I'm happy to say Ialready have enough evidence

that is has.

It's funny with a book.

You write it and you put it out there,

it's in the arena, you haveno idea what it's gonna do.

I'd love to hear fromanybody who reads it.

- I want to put you on the spot.

Is there a spiritual dimension to you?

- Well I certainly hope so.

I think so.

Look, I was raised in a familythat was a praying family.

We went to the little, and it was little,

West Fourteenth Avenue BaptistChurch in Houston Heights.

It's still there under another name.

That gave me not onlysome spiritual foundation

but also gave me yes areligious foundation.

Now don't misunderstand me,

that again I have made mymistakes over the years,

I have too often strayed

but you asked me if Ihad a spiritual dimension

and I said well I certainly hope so

and yes I think I still do.

- I read this last night it's a proverb

from the book of Ecclesiastes.

It describes you.

"How wonderful to be wise, to analyze

and to interpret things."

- Well I appreciate that.

I'm unworthy of thatbut as the saying goes,

from your mouth to God's earthat I could become that.

- Thank you so much.

- Thank you very much.

I really appreciate it.

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