But worse, he said, are pollution, depletion of natural resources, overpopulation and atomic proliferation. “These mega-problems are our modern four horsemen of the apocalypse,” he said. Students and others of their generation will have to get to work right away on solving those problems or face the destruction of our society.
It was a message that, 26 years later, still rings true.
In his first year in office, College President Douglass
Cater welcomed fellow journalist Walter Cronkite to
campus. Photo by Constance Stuart Larrabee
May 15 — It was a picture-perfect day. The sky was nearly cloudless and the morning sun was brilliant above the trimmed campus lawn. At the foot of the Hill, family, friends and the College’s 201st graduating class assembled to face the faculty, Board members, officials and dignitaries as the traditionally magnificent al fresco commencement began. Walter Cronkite, quintessential newsman and one of the most recognized individuals on American television, was on campus as commencement speaker. “Please be seated,” he told those who stood to applaud as he approached the podium to begin his address; “This may be a bit long.”
Photo by J. Tyler Campbell '76
It was a memorable address: Some remarked that it was challenging and, all in all, positive; others noted that it was somber and perhaps a bit gloomy. At one point, breaking away from the flow of his written text, Cronkite raised his eyes and said, “I think you are exceedingly fortunate—this class of 1983—to be graduating from a college the size of
In his address, Walter Cronkite told the graduates that they are living simultaneously in five eras: “The atomic age, the computer age, the space age, the petro-chemical age and the telecommunications age,” and that “together they comprise a technological revolution perhaps almost certainly greater in its impact than the industrial revolution of the last century.” He predicted, “there is going to be a social and political and economic evolution, coming with such explosive suddenness as to have the character of revolution,” and he admonished them saying, “It is up to us—to you—to get into the leadership of that revolution.”
He charged them to find ways to enable government “to cope with the vast technological changes taking place,” ways to make the legislative branch of government more efficient, ways to make the selective process ensure that the “best man for the job” of the Presidency is elected.
He said that as a nation we must “re-establish our credentials for leadership among the developing nations… by taking the lead… to reorganize the global economy.” He said that aiding the “poor majority of the world is very much in our interest” if we are to advance the cause of freedom in the world. “We are going to need converts to the cause of freedom,” he explained, “if it is to endure. Freedom must be a growth industry. And converts will not come from nations bulging with hungry people … [nor from] countries with illiteracy rates of 70 and 80 and 90 percent.”
“In sum,” he concluded, “your task will be to make