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Acclaimed reporter delivers speech about upcoming election

By Kim Wilson
On October 10, 2012

  • Dan Rather delivers a speech at Eastern Connecticut State University on Tuesday night. CORYN WASSIK/The Daily Campus

Dan Rather, who spoke on the upcoming presidential election in a speech hosted by Eastern Connecticut State University Tuesday, said voters need to keep four things in mind when considering the candidates: the economy, education, threat of nuclear war, and hunger and homelessness in the U.S.

Rather is a former "CBS Evening News anchor and "60 Minutes" correspondent who reported on iconic U.S. news, including the Kennedy assassination, the Watergate scandal, President Richard Nixon's resignation, civil rights movements in the South and the 9/11 attacks. He has covered every presidential campaign since 1952.

"One reason I state to you, and I want you to understand, I'm not an expert on anything," Rather said. "I've been very lucky. I've covered big stories .... But that doesn't make me an expert."

Rather said citizens should be concerned with job creation when determining who to vote for in the upcoming election. He said jobs are not being created quickly enough and the "dangerously high" official rate of unemployment stunts the economy.

On education, Rather said the U.S. system of education should be based on the systems of countries who have surpassed the U.S. in international testing. Rather said this will allow for the country to improve in international education rankings.

"Are we going to keep sliding?" Rather said. "Are we going to take a look at some foreign countries? They used to look to us. Now some of them are better than we are but we don't look to them."

Rather also said he feared that nuclear warfare could become a reality and asked the audience to think about how a candidate would handle a situation of nuclear conflict.

"The proliferation of nuclear weapons has continued unabated," Rather said. "We have to face the fact that we could be a nuclear war with another country ... Nobody wants to discuss it."

Rather also said the presidential candidates have not paid enough attention to hunger and homelessness in the U.S., an issue he said should be at the forefront of political discourse.

Presidential Campaigns
Rather discussed the current state of the presidential campaign and how debates have influenced past elections, but said he would not make predictions on the outcome and what the next president will accomplish.

"He who lives by the crystal ball learns to eat a lot of broken glass," Rather said.

The number of registered voters planning to vote for Obama went up in the polls after the Democratic National Convention, Rather said, but Romney gained potential votes after the presidential debate, which he decidedly won.

"These debates are scored by and large by the public," Rather said. "Historically, over these 50-plus years we've gone through the presidential debates, the president who won usually got the bounce [in ratings]."

A Reuters-Ipsos poll shows the candidates as being tied for potential voters, and most national polls show the candidates as having less than a 1 percent difference.

"In Gov. Romney's case, he definitely got a bounce from the debate," Rather said. "He came up in the polls. Not a lot. The question was, and it remains, whether ... he can keep the momentum going."

Dan Rather received a standing ovation when he concluded his speech. "We are a Constitutional Republic based on freedom of Democracy," Rather said. "A multi-religion multi-racial, multi-ethnic, and in that we stand united."

Q&A With Rather
In a Q&A session after the speech, Rather reflected on his reporting career, the economy and the field of journalism.

One attendee, who identified himself as a veteran and ECSU alum, said he admired Rather for reporting on George W. Bush's "spotty military record" though it hurt him professionally. "Was it worth it?" he asked.

Rather said he did not regret reporting the story. "We reported the truth," he said. "We reported the facts. He got into the Texas National Guard for the purpose of not having to go to Vietnam."

When asked about the changes in the profession of journalism, Rather said the formation of media conglomerations has changed the field.

"No more than six, my count is four, international corporations control the distribution of news in this country," Rather said. "It is a fact of life. They have lost any sense of public interest."
Rather, who now runs and hosts his weekly show, "Dan Rather Reports" on, said he enjoys the editorial freedom.

"I have complete editorial control over what I do now," he said. "I Love CBS News and no, I didn't want to leave it. With a large corporation, you can't, but I can do things how I want to, do what I want to and when I want to." 

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