and the media | Eyes
of the world
of the century
Nine months to the day after Sept. 11,
broadcast journalist Bob Schieffer '59, moderator of CBS's Face the Nation,
addressed the largest graduating class in TCU history -- 1,064 students.
He told the more than 10,000 friends and family who came to the Fort Worth
Convention Center that this generation will be defined by its response
to the attacks.
Schieffer's commencement address:
Ferrari, distinguished guests, members of the faculty, may I first offer
my best wishes to my old friends and new doctors Jim Wright and Bob Bolen
for this very well deserved honor.
of all may I say congratulations to the graduating classes of 2002, your
proud parents and grandparents who always knew you had what it took to
get this far . . . and your surprised brothers and sisters who were not
sang of "days that are made in heaven" and surely graduation day is one
possibly be a happier time than families coming together to celebrate
the achievement of one of their members?
It is a day
that holds a different and special meaning for each of us, parents, graduates
and even the commencement speaker. And since I am the proud parent of
two college graduates, may I first say a word to the parents?
I don't know
how you're feeling right now, but when I watched my daughters walk across
the stage to pick up those diplomas, I felt as if I had just been given
a substantial pay raise.
a lot to celebrate today isn't there?
speakers enjoy a luxury afforded few people. No one ever remembers what
they say. There is a good reason. Graduation is not about what someone
says, it is about what you have done.
So you won't
remember what is said here, but you will always remember this day. And
that is how it ought to be.
Day is one of life's crossroads. Most of the time we pass through life's
crossroads without knowing it. But not Graduation Day. It is clearly marked.
We can even plan for it.
can be a little daunting.
All of your
lives you have been students. For the past four years, you have been students
at Texas Christian University.
you will be graduates of Texas Christian University.
has a nice ring, doesn't it?
It is also
a little scary, but it is supposed to be.
I know because
long ago -- back in the year 1959 -- I stood in line in cap and gown at the
TCU football stadium waiting to get my diploma.
You are a
little apprehensive. My emotions ran stronger: I was terrified.
I was not a candidate for Magna Cum Laude. I was a candidate for Magna
I had specialized
in Spanish Ð not majored in it, but specialized in it. Graduation required
two years of a foreign language. If memory serves, I managed to take four
years of Spanish plus one semester in summer school to get those required
the grades for the final semester had not been posted prior to graduation,
I stood there waiting for my diploma, terrified that I would be pulled
out of line and told "sorry, you still didn't pass Spanish."
kindly old Dr. Rominengi, my Spanish professor, put mercy before justice
and passed me. Or maybe he was just tired of fooling with me.
In any case,
he passed me. I got that diploma and put it in a safe place . . . still
not really sure they were going to let me keep it!
about that day when Chancellor Ferrari asked me to chair The Commission
on the Future of TCU. It was an unexpected honor to be asked to head that
commission and one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, but
it is also just as well that most of my professors has already passed
on by then.
If they had
known that the student they remembered was heading up a group to improve
TCU academics, I'm not sure their old hearts could have taken it.
So to those
of you who worked hard, I say congratulations. Your hard work will serve
you well. To some of the others who may have taken the more leisurely
approach than I did, look at it this way: you will be well rested for
And the good
news is you still have time to catch up. You still have plenty of time
to read the books you were supposed to read. As I did, you'll come to
understand why you were supposed to read them. And you'll make a happy
discovery. The books are better than the Cliff Notes.
this day. You deserve it. This is one down with a lot more to go.
is a day of passage. What we don't know is where this passage leads. What
we do know is that the world you are about to enter is very different
than the world of four years ago when most of you came here.
the days when the good times rolled from Silicon Valley to Wall Street,
and wars were some other far away place.
came Sept. 11, 2001. Even when we saw it we couldn't believe it. A friend
of mine was watching one of the morning shows and thought he was seeing
a clip from a new action movie. "I stood there waiting for someone to
interview Steven Spielberg," he told me. "And then I realized this wasn't
about a movie."
of you, my wife, Pat, and I saw it on television and when the first plane
hit the tower, we thought it was an accident. Probably the Washington-to-New
York air shuttle that I had ridden hundreds of times, and which often
takes a flight path that goes past the Towers.
It was the
hardest day and the hardest story that any of us at CBS News ever went
through and I want to talk about that and tell you how it was for me .
. . and what I learned that day.
It was a hard story because it was not just about others, it was about
us too. We were part of it. Our friends and families were at risk. Our
country was under attack here at home in America. Somebody -- we didn't even
know who -- had done what no enemy is history had done...they killed innocent
Americans on the mainland of America.
and I saw the second plane hit we knew it was no accident. I dressed as
quickly as I could and headed for the U.S. Capitol where I spend my days
to Georgetown to keep a long scheduled appointment but as she approached
the main thoroughfare there and was looking directly across the Potomac
River, suddenly in the distance -- probably no more than a mile or so away -- she
saw a huge ball of fire and smoke billow into the sky.
traffic light changed, she heard a radio bulletin that a plane had hit
around and headed back home, knowing I was en route to the Capitol. From
my car, I called our Washington Bureau to get the latest. By then I was
at the foot of Capitol Hill. At first our Bureau Chief Janet Leissner
put me on hold, then she came back on the line and said, "Get out of there!"
She said there was a report that another hijacked plan was heading toward
the Capitol and she was trying to reach three of our producers who were
already inside the Capitol. She was desperately trying to find them and
tell them to get out.
What we would
later learn was that the plane authorities believed was heading for the
Capitol was the one that crashed in Pennsylvania, forced down by those
brave passengers who gave their own lives.
owe my life to them. Who can say? But I shall never forget what they did.
On the Friday
before the attack, my own brother had spent six hours in the Pentagon
in the very spot where the plane hit. Had the hijackers chosen to strike
on Friday rather than Tuesday, he might have died. Who can say?
It was a
day when everyone had a story.
In New York,
one of the hijacked planes flew directly over the Greenwich Village garden
of one of our producers, Tom Flynn. When he heard the explosion, he jumped
on his bicycle and raced to the scene. He was there when the first tower
came down. As he and another man scrambled shoulder to shoulder to get
out of the way, he escaped. The man running beside him was buried in rubble
One of our
veteran directors, Eric Shaper, directed our coverage that morning. In
a television studio, the director is the key person who tells all the
camera crews what to do, the one who surveys a vast bank of TV monitors
and decides which pictures to put on television; the person who pulls
the entire broadcast together. That morning, he directed the first part
of our coverage not knowing the whereabouts of his daughter was worked
in the area. When he couldn't locate her, he was convinced she had died.
An hour passed before he learned that she and others in her office had
escaped and walked to Chinatown.
One of our
youngest Evening News staffers, Melissa Valcarcel, 23 years old, on her
first job out of college, arrived at work shortly after the first plane
hit the tower. She knew her father -- who was wheelchair-bound -- worked
in one of those towers. Frantically, she called her mother, who told her
that dad had called. He was safe. The plane hit the other building. She
returned to the newsroom only to watch one of the TV monitors in horror
as the second plane hit the second tower. She never heard from her father
In the midst
of all this, we stayed on the air -- around the clock -- for 93 hours and five
minutes -- the longest consecutive coverage in the history of CBS News.
organizations did the same. Why? Because that is what we are supposed
Street Journal's headquarters are next to Ground Zero and was evacuated
in the first hours. As people were asking, "what can we do?" the Journal
Editor Paul Steiger said, "We decided what we knew how to do was put out
a news paper, so that's what we set out to do." Even though they had to
do it from a makeshift office in New Jersey.
When I heard
him say that, it reminded me of what Eric Severeid used to say: That democracy
demands more of its citizens than any other form of government. But it
was not until that day that I really understood what that meant.
11, millions of Americans from all walks and every corner of American
life met the demands of democracy by doing what they knew how to do. Because
they knew it had to be done. And because they knew it was their responsibility
to do it.
is what heroism is -- having the wit and courage to do in extraordinary
circumstances what we would do in normal circumstances.
many heroes that day, and it was a day I was never prouder to be an American.
congressional leaders decided that no matter what, Congress would convene
the next day to show whoever was behind all of this that they could not
shut down the U.S. government.
300 members of Congress gathered on the Capitol steps and vowed that the
acts of terror would not stand. Spontaneously, they began to sing God
Bless America. It was the most moving scene I can recall in all my years
In the coming
days they were able to put partisanship aside and approved -- unanimously
-- 40 billion dollars in emergency aid. Yes, when congress must work together,
it can work together and it did.
day, as I drove to the Capitol, I could sense that something was different.
It took me awhile to understand just what it was, and then it hit me.
There was no road rage. People honked, gave right-of-way and waved.
At the Capitol,
people were speaking to each other. It was as if we had all discovered
there were others around, others we had not really noticed. But we had
all been through something we would never forget and we had been through
say we are a different country since 9-11, but I am not so sure.
I am old
enough to remember an America before the traumatic events of the Kennedy
assassination, and the lies and deceptions of Vietnam and Watergate, events
that left us cynical and caused us to lose faith in our institutions,
our government and eventually each other.
cynicism began to fade on 9-11. Of course Washington is still a partisan
place, that's as it is supposed to be. But those we once saw as heroes
-- firemen, policemen, soldiers, those who are willing to risk their lives
for others -- are being celebrated as heroes once again.
reminded us that there is a difference between heroism and celebrity,
a distinction we somehow forgot.
We also relearned
something else we may have forgotten. The government is just us, working
together to do what we cannot do alone. Perhaps the most important thing
we learned on 9-11 is that we need each other.
11, 2001 was the darkest day since Pearl Harbor, but I believe we are
stronger than we were on September 10th.
If I ever
doubted that, that doubt was removed last month when I went to see Melissa
Valcarcel, the young CBS staffer who lost her father in the attack on
me the FBI had asked her if she would be willing to testify at the trial
of the hijacker, Zacarias Moussaoui, to show the loss the families had
I asked her
if she planned to do it, did she understand the danger, that the publicity
could make her a terrorist target?
Here is what
she told me: "I loved my Father. I want to do it. I have to do it for
who graduate today I say, if that is the kind of courage, if those are
the values that your generation it taking into the future, then we will
be all right.
This is a
time that requires not only courage and perseverance, but patience and
If you should
come to Washington, you will find the most beautiful city in the world
now marred by ugly barriers and concrete barricades.
reasons, Pennsylvania Ave. is blocked off to traffic around the White
House. The Capitol is barricaded off like the palace of a tin-horn dictator.
cameras will follow your every move if you should choose to walk among
the monuments that are the symbols of our freedoms.
all of this as necessary. But we must never accept it as the way it must
Winston Churchill went back to Harrow where he was schooled as a boy and
when the young students asked for advice, he told them only this: "Never
give in. Never, never, never."
We must never
give in to terrorists. We want it as it used to be and we must settle
for nothing less.
When a free
people cannot walk freely among the shrines and symbols of their freedom,
they are no longer free.
cannot be appeased anymore than the Nazis could be appeased. As our parents
and grandparents understood, they must be defeated.
built the greatest war machine the world had ever known, but Roosevelt
and Churchill recognized the real danger was not the weapons, but the
hatred that drove them.
So too we
must recognize that barricades around the nation's capitol can make us
a little safer, but we can never be secure until we eliminate the ignorance
and hatred that drives the terrorists.
require more than military action, it will require telling America's story
better than we have told it. It will cost enormous sums and in many cases
it will require massive rebuilding and education programs.
But we have
no choice. Millions of people around the world are raising their children
to hate us. Somehow, we must convince them that they are wrong.
be your challenge. It will be difficult but it can be done. What you must
remember is that even more difficult tasks have been done before, by our
parents and grandparents when the Nazis threatened to plunge the world
into a new Dark Age.
when the country was literally coming apart, and by the founders who led
history's first successful revolution against a Colonial Power, a country
that was one of the "superpowers" of its day.
after great men and women who were able to accomplish great things working
Look to them,
to their courage, to their values, and there you will find your strength
to confront the problems of your time.
For all that
we have endured, the great lesson of 9-11 is that the human spirit still
prevails. What you must never forget is that is does so only because good
people are there to nurture it.
As you think
back on this day, remember why you felt so good. It was not because you
will soon have a piece of paper that says you have graduated.
It is because
you set out to do something and you did it. It is because you have enriched
your intellect and because you have enriched your lives with the friendships
that come from the shared experience of a worthwhile task.
this as well.
sit where your parents sit, and your children sit where you sit, you can
never know how proud your parents are today.
And of all
there is to know, that is the very best.
best of all.
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