Monday, August 8, 2005

"To Seek, to Find, and Not to Yield"

Peter Jennings died yesterday at the age of 67. The face and the voice of the news for more than 20 years for millions of Americans, the Canadian-born Jennings brought the world into our living rooms for so long that for many people, including myself, it is hard to remember a time when he did not keep us informed of the goings on around the world. The first man on the scene at so many of the defining moments of the second half of the 20th century, Jennings was the man we turned to on September 11, 2001. He provided us with the information we needed and was a source of comfort and consistency on that most bizarre and inconsistent of days. It is hard to imagine who the world will turn to when the next major event occurs. On September 11, Jennings was on the air for 12 straight hours. There was no script prepared, and we experienced the emotions of the day through his reporting.

Jennings' impact on America and the world goes beyond simply reporting what was happening half a world away. He had a personal influence on people that was shown in the reaction to his sudden announcement in April that he was battling lung cancer and would have to leave the anchor desk at ABC News. Countless current and former smokers hurried to their doctors for screenings and tests to see if they were in the same fight, and it is impossible to say how many lives were saved because of his announcement. Jennings had a choice in his announcement. He could have stepped down saying that he wanted to spend more time with his family, or that he felt that it was time for there to be a new face in the business, or because it simply was his time to leave. Instead, he felt that he had a duty to those who had spent so many years depending on him, and that he should tell the world that he was in a fight for his life, and many others are in this same fight whether they know it or not. I personally know someone whose life was saved by Jennings' announcement, and I am thankful for his courage in sharing what is often a very private fight with the world.

Peter Jennings brought us the world every day for over 20 years. In tribute to his life of traveling the world and being part of the world he reported, I am including three quotes from Alfred Tennyson's "Ulysses" that I feel exemplify the man and his mission to the world.

"Much have I seen and known; cities of men
And manners, climates, councils, governments,
Myself not least, but honour'd of them all;
And drunk delight of battle with my peers;
Far on the ringing plains of windy Troy.
I am part of all that I have met…

"The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep
Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends,
'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die…

"Tho' much is taken, much abides; and tho'
We are not now that strength which in the old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal-temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield."