Legendary CBS newsman, Dan Rather, discusses his new book, "What Unites Us."
- [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."
because humility is at thevery core of patriotism.
It's one of the thingsthat separates patriotism
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.
- 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.