Like many Americans, President Obama did not personally know revered newsman Walter Cronkite. But as he delivered remarks at the trusted reporter's New York memorial service, this simple fact did not seem to matter. Whether the living room belonged to a future American leader or an elderly couple in Nebraska, millions of people invited Cronkite into their homes each evening—his presence a calming and constant reassurance in a world oftentimes plagued by uncertainty:
He was forever there, reporting through world war and cold war; marches and milestones; scandal and success; calmly and authoritatively telling us what we needed to know. He was a voice of certainty in a world that was growing more and more uncertain. And through it all, he never lost the integrity or the plainspoken speaking style that he gained growing up in the heartland. He was a familiar and welcome voice that spoke to each and every one of us personally.
The President focused on the reporter's deep sense of duty to provide truthful information to a nation reliant on his integrity and honesty:
I have benefited as a citizen from his dogged pursuit of the truth, his passionate defense of objective reporting, and his view that journalism is more than just a profession; it is a public good vital to our democracy. Even in his early career, Walter Cronkite resisted the temptation to get the story first in favor of getting it right.
The President took the opportunity to thank those who have devoted their careers to the pursuit of truth and justice, and called upon journalists in particular to live up to Cronkite's legacy:
Our American story continues. It needs to be told. And if we choose to live up to Walter's example, if we realize that the kind of journalism he embodied will not simply rekindle itself as part of a natural cycle, but will come alive only if we stand up and demand it and resolve to value it once again, then I'm convinced that the choice between profit and progress is a false one -- and that the golden days of journalism still lie ahead.