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Convocation celebrates “most trusted man in America”

Coinciding with the birthday of the “most trusted man in America,” Missouri Western hosted the Dan R. Boulware Convocation featuring a speaker presenting on the famed St. Joseph newsman Walter Cronkite.
This year’s annual convocation featured historian and biographer Dr. Douglas Brinkley, who recently wrote a New York bestseller book on Cronkite. In perhaps one of the longest speeches in the 21 year history of the Convocation on Critical Issues, Brinkley provided a detailed account of Cronkite’s life.
“Cronkite is the greatest television broadcast news journalist, bar none,” Brinkley said. “There’s nobody close to him. He’s in a league all his own.”
The man who would go on to become the most trusted man in America came from humble origins. Raised largely by a single mother, Cronkite grew up in the heart of the Great Depression where his family struggled to make ends meet. Cronkite found a passion for journalism, working several jobs before landing a job at CBS during the Korean War.
“He was then given at CBS the lowest, worst job possible: television,” Brinkley said. “No one believed television was going to be a big deal. Nobody was making a name for themselves in TV.”
However, all of that would change. Cronkite would go from broadcasting in a tiny room the size of a broom closet to becoming the most trusted man in America.
“In 1950 it was the broom closet,” Brinkley said. “By 1960 with John F. Kennedy, it’s the rage. And Cronkite gets really famous.”
Cronkite would go on to cover such important events like the JFK assassination, the Vietnam War, Watergate and the resignation of President Nixon and the environmental movement, and secure himself a legacy in the field of journalism.
Aside from presenting on the life of Cronkite, Brinkley also addressed some of the critical issues facing Cronkite’s profession of journalism. Echoing the ethos of Cronkite, Brinkley provided some advice for journalists in the age of instant and electronic news. He also advised journalist to double and triple check sources, just as Cronkite did.
“Forget first, get it right,” Brinkley said. “You have to build a career, not a moment. Walter survived the 40s, the 50s, the 60s, the 70s, the 80s, and the 90s and stayed the most trusted man in America because he never broke that rule.”
Dan R. Boulware, former president of the Missouri Western Board of Regents and namesake of the convocation, introduced Brinkley.
“As a historian, Brinkley follows other notable American historians who have graced our convocation podium, including our first speaker Arthur Schlesinger Jr.,” Boulware said. “He is the best of a new generation of American historians.”
Brinkley is the second historian in a row to be featured at the Convocation on Critical Issues. He follows last year’s speaker, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, author of Team of Rivals about President Abraham Lincoln. While the purpose of the convocation is not to discuss only history, it often has been used as an interesting way of discussing critical issues which is at the heart of the idea behind this convocation series.
“This is for the students,” Boulware said. “This is a convocation on critical issues.”
However, some students like junior Maddie Marx who attended the convocation said the critical issues discussed weren’t all that critical.
“The convocation was entertaining,” Marx said, “but I feel that the speaker and the content were irrelevant to my age group.”
While the critical issues of the convocation may not have taken center stage, other important themes did. The themes of history and Cronkite have been very important to Missouri Western in the past few years. As a St. Joseph native, a memorial in honor of Cronkite was recently finished and unveiled last year. Next year will also be the 100th anniversary of Western’s founding.

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