The Jewish Community Center of San Francisco hosted a lecture by Dan Rather. This sold out lecture was preceded by a VIP reception with Mr. Rather. The renowned journalist is promoting his new memoir, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News.
While awaiting Rather’s arrival, benefactor Shelley W. Gotlieb, remembered first seeing Dan Rather, on CBS, following the Kennedy assassination. Gotlieb recalled Rather’s omnipresence during Neil Armstrong’s walk on the Moon and Watergate. Lloyd Sacks, Major Donor Officer for the JCCSF, said, “This (Dan Rather event) is the highlight of the year, helping build the prestige of the Arts & Ideas series.” Jennifer and Tommy Battat’s Jenerosity Foundation made this particular Arts & Ideas event possible.
In a week when CBS Evening News celebrates its 75th anniversary it was notable that the normal “celebrity bubble” disappears when the celebrity has been in your living room for 40 years. The 82-year-old Rather, just back from his 17th trip to Afghanistan, arrived without pretense and easily chatted with enchanted JCC donors.
JCCSF Director of Arts & Ideas, Barbara Lane, introduced San Francisco Giants CEO, Larry Baer. Baer said, “This event sold out faster than any Giants game.” A former CBS colleague of Rather’s, Baer in his introduction of Rather, refereed to him as, “An American icon who is the voice, heart and soul of American journalism.”
Rather began his remarks by asking the audience to join him in a moment of silence for our military and their families. Throughout the evening, whenever he spoke of war, Rather visibly choked up.
Some tidbits from his talk:
“News is what you need to know that someone in power doesn’t want you to know.”
When asked by an audience member his party affiliation, Rather stated he was a registered Independent. However, he admitted to voting for Republican, Democrat and Independent candidates for President.
On the current political climate in Washington, Rather isn’t optimistic about successful governance in the short term. He stated the climate was, “The worst I’ve seen in my lifetime.” He finds this “virtually dysfunctional climate” where “…each side is set in cement” both “…outrageous and dangerous.”
Rather, while acknowledging his past criticism of CBS, said of his former network’s history, “CBS News took the lead, as far as television was concerned, on issues from McCarthyism, to Viet Nam to Watergate.”
In a statement that spoke not only to his own personal history, but to the cultured audience as well, Rather recalled the Walker County, Texas definition of an intellectual. “If you can listen to the William Tell Overture and without thinking of the Lone Ranger, you are an intellectual.”
Following his lecture, Rather signed copies of Rather Outspoken in the Pottruck Family Atrium.