By Brian Williams, Anchor and managing editor
America has lost an icon, our industry has lost its living giant, and all those who learned about the world from Walter Cronkite have lost an exceptional teacher.
He loved his country and had a profound effect on it. He told us the truth in a plain-spoken manner. He never forgot that he was one of us, and yet we admired him so. That's why I can't help but fear that his loss means we've lost a tiny bit of who we are. He was a founding father of our profession. Others had done the job before him, and yet no one before or since has had just a mystical hold on the American people. He perfectly reflected his audience and our times. Watching Walter do what he did -- better than anyone -- was a formative experience. While he was deeply uncomfortable with overstatements of his own importance, those of us watching at home were so comfortable knowing he was in that chair during those years of great change and upheaval.
To use the terminology of his beloved sailboat, he was our national barometer, our compass and our rudder. With Walter at the helm of that broadcast, we knew we would sail through whatever crisis we faced as a country. He always seemed to point the wheel, with a gust of wind in his sails, toward our collective North Star.
On a personal note, Walter Cronkite was the man I grew up wanting to be. Our household, like many, came to a halt when his broadcast came on the air each night, and dinner was served only after he said good night. Knowing Walter was among the great blessings of my life.