Dan Rather ended an era at CBS News on Wednesday night by signing off as Evening News anchor with a familiar message: “Courage”.
Rather, who spent 24 years in the anchor chair, closed the news program with these words:
“To our soldiers in dangerous places. To those who have endured the tsunami and to all who have suffered natural disasters, and who must find the will to rebuild. To the oppressed and to those whose lot it is to struggle, in financial hardship or in failing health. To my fellow journalists in places where reporting the truth means risking all. And to each of you: ‘Courage.'”
Rather is passing the baton to CBS News Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer, who will anchor the show until a permanent replacement is chosen. Rather stepped down 24 years to the day after he replaced another CBS News icon: Walter Cronkite.
Rather tied his final message to the tragic events of Sept. 11.
“Not long after I first came to the anchor chair I briefly signed off using the word ‘courage.’ I want to return to it now, in a different way, to a nation still nursing a broken heart for what happened here in 2001, and especially those who found themselves closest to the events of Sept. 11,” he said.
In September 1986, Rather began signing-off newscasts with the word “courage.” But he dropped that sign off a week later.
After the broadcast, about two hundred CBS News employees crowded the Evening News studio and gave Rather an ovation that lasted several minutes.
Rather said the ovation was “overdone,” but then noted that anything worth doing was worth overdoing.
The newsman’s wife of 48 years, Jean, stood near the anchor desk, smiling but wiping tears from her eyes. CBS News executives and correspondents toasted Rather with champagne and Wild Turkey, Rather’s favorite adult beverage.