Patriotism is a passionate and occasionally emotional topic for Dan Rather, and was the subject of his address before Brookhaven College and the community Feb. 13. The legendary journalist engaged the crowd with personal moments from the past and professional experiences peppered with a generous dose of supporting historical fact.
"It is important not to confuse patriotism with nationalism," Rather said. "Nationalism is a monologue in which you place your viewpoint in the position of total and complete moral supremacy over others. Patriotism is a dialogue with your fellow citizens about love of country but also how your country can be improved."
He acknowledged that as a country, we are going through a perilous time and our patriotism is being tested every day with new challenges to face and daunting headlines. He emphasized the importance of individuals reaching out to others in the spirit of civic action – to become active, stay active and go to the polls. Rather said patriotism takes knowledge and work, and the ballot box is the path to change.
"Are we as good as we could be, or are we better than this?" he asked. "Patriotism cannot be a passing endeavor. This is a cause each of us must take up… The work of unity is never done."
Rather ended his talk taking questions from the audience. When asked about the most memorable story he witnessed in his career, he said the one story of short duration that stood out the most was covering the "four dark days" that followed the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He also noted the "measured honor" he felt in covering the combat troops in Vietnam for almost a year in 1965 and 1966.
As to why he chose to speak at a community college with the availability of higher profile engagements, he said, "In all honesty, I prefer community colleges. The students are thirsty for knowledge. They ask important questions."
Rather says he's a reporter who simply got lucky and doesn't consider himself an expert in anything. But as his time passes, he hopes to inspire others.
"I love this country with a deep and abiding love," he said. "I have faith in American citizens and people around the globe."
And for the future? Rather remains cautiously optimistic.
"There are 10 magic words, you can count them off on your fingers," he said. "If it is to be, it is up to me."
-This DCCCD event was funded by the Department of Education, Title V - P031S150018.