Tuesday, 4 August 2009

A tribute to Walter Cronkite

I got an email from Brian Mullaney, founder of The Smile Train last week and thought I would post it here. Although most Brits will have heard the name, most don't know who he was or what he stood for in the states.

He was a journalist and broadcaster from the old school, not the modern day world of E! front men and women who just care for the latest celebrity gossip.

I think lots of people from outside the USA look down their noses at Americans as crass, overweight and loud individuals who do not realise that there is a world beyind their shores, but by all accounts Walter Cronkite was an intelligent, hardworking and thoughtful man as well as a consumate professional.

He was the classic network anchorman and broke some of the biggest stories of the 20th century. He was known as the 'most trusted man in America', a bit like our Trevor McDonald and then some.

When I was younger I wanted to be a journalist and writer and so I had come across his name and seen some of his work but I had no idea he'd done work for the Smile Train. He's gone even further up in my estimation. Here's the email.


Hi,

The Smile Train lost a very good friend when Walter Cronkite passed away recently.

10 years ago when we started The Smile Train, Walter was one of the very first to get on board.

Many years ago I remember vividly meeting with him for the first time in his office and talking about what we were trying to do.

Always the reporter, he started quizzing me about what causes clefts, where are they most prevalent, why can’t a cure be found that would prevent them, etc. He was in his 80s at this point but he was sharp as a tack. I was kind of surprised at how interested he was in what we were doing and even more so at how much he wanted to help us.

When I explained to him how tragic it was that there were millions of children with unrepaired clefts in developing countries who were not being helped solely because they were too poor to afford surgery, he said it was a “Story that was almost too sad to tell.”

After watching videos of children with clefts that I had brought along, he shook his head and said it was “just heartbreaking.”

As I sat there speaking with him I looked around his office and saw photos, newspaper front pages and headlines of many of the biggest events that have happened in America and the world over the past 50 years. Walter was front and center at each and every one of them: JFK’s assassination, man on the moon, Vietnam, Watergate, The Berlin Wall, etc. I felt like I was in a museum and sitting across the desk from an American Institution.

When Walter agreed to appear in our very first Smile Train video, we were so honored and excited to have "the most trusted man in America" helping us. (If you want to see the video he did for us, Click Here)

And help us he did, in many ways, for more than 10 years.

Altogether, Walter Cronkite helped us provide free cleft surgery for more than 524,000 children who would otherwise never have received it.

And a few months ago when our documentary Smile Pinki won an Oscar, one of the first emails we received was from Walter congratulating us and saying how proud he was to have helped us launch The Smile Train.

He was a great man.

And we will miss him.

Brian Signature

Brian

P.S. We have posted a special tribute to Walter on our home page, to thank him for everything he did for us. Click here to view the tribute.

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