One of the deans of the Fourth Estate defends the traditional American values he learned to cherish in childhood, now under threat in a tempestuous political and economic climate.
With straightforward chapter names like “The Press,” “Empathy,” and “The Environment,” “Science,” and “Public Education,” Rather (Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, 2012, etc.) expounds on the qualities and characteristics that he believes make America great and on what must be done to overcome the formidable challenges it faces. His own profession is among those most at risk: “Presently, the institution of a free press in America is in a state of crisis greater than I have ever seen in my lifetime, and perhaps in any moment in the nation’s history.” Brief essays on each topic incorporate sepia-toned vignettes from Rather’s childhood or his storied career, although rarely does he go into significant detail. Overall, the tone is something of a greatest-hits compilation of American civic life and the national spirit, and readers may be forgiven for thinking that the book was rushed to respond to the election. Rather stresses the importance of standing firm against a coarsening of values, noting, “in moments like the present, when our government has become erratic and threatens our constitutional principles, dissent is doubly necessary to resist a slide into greater autocracy.” He also asks, “when did we accept a can’t-do spirit from so many of our national leaders?” Disappointingly for one of the country’s most famous investigative journalists, Rather never fully investigates anything here, hitting all the well-rehearsed, expected topics, many of which he has already potently addressed through social media. Though the situation is dire, he remains optimistic, reminding readers that “we have been through big challenges in the past, that it often seems darkest in the present.”
A full-throated celebration of the national spirit and its potential to persevere in spite of dangers foreign and domestic.