There are some people in this world that demand a high level of respect. Their actions, their demeanor, their backstory. You hear them speak and you think, damn. What's he got that other people are lacking?
My father was one of those people. Walter Cronkite was another.
I didn't know Walter Cronkite, of course. Never met him. I would have loved to, and I'm sure he tops the list in our collective unconscious of 'person I'd most like to have dinner with, living or dead.'
My earliest memory of Walter Cronkite was when I about four years old, and living in my old house. I was sitting on the floor in our family room, and I said to my mother, "If Daddy couldn't be my Daddy for some reason, can he be my Daddy?" Which I'm sure was an awful thing for a mother to hear, but I know I meant no disrespect. I just meant, hey, Dad's a great guy and all, but this guy's pretty cool too, no? (For the record, I also asked the same thing about Captain Kangaroo. No idea why the temporary obsession for having back-up Dads, and tv ones at that. I was four. I was probably eating paste.)
There's not a single journalist or anchor in the modern world who inspires the trust and respect Mr. Cronkite did. Not a single one. The news world has changed along with the rest of the world--'Can I have trash reporting for $200, Alex?' Everyone gets breaking news one minute after it happens, and nobody cares whether the source is trustworthy (or whether the news itself is even newsworthy, a la Jon and Kate and Paris and Britney). We don't have to wait for the evening news to find out what happened during the day, we're constantly wired into our computers, our phones, we're twittering, we're facebooking, there's not a news story that breaks that we're not instantly informed of. The messages are everywhere, and the source doesn't really matter. (Sorry, Katie Couric and Brian Williams, but it's true.)
It was different with Mr. Cronkite. He was our source of important stories, he was our comfort when the stories were troubling, and I'm sure the reason why I wanted him to be my backup Dad was that he was gentle and trustworthy and honest. All qualities my father possessed.
When a dear president was gunned down in cold blood, his impartial reporting did not prevent him from being overcome with grief and wiping away a tear. When a rocket shot into space, he broke from his usual decorum to cheer them on. He was a gentleman and a professional, and he was one of a kind.
I miss my Dad every day, even now, almost eight years later. I'd never begin to compare losing my beloved father with the death of a man I'd never met who just happened to do an important job well, with dignity and decorum. He wasn't my father, and though it's sad to know he's gone, I won't grieve for Mr. Cronkite, national treasure though he was. It's not my place to.
Still. It was nice to know he was out there.