Dan Rather has enjoyed something of a renaissance recently, emerging as the leading force behind News and Guts, an online outlet that provides critiques of and insights into current happenings in Washington, D.C. It’s been gratifying to see this lion of the press corps get a second act, after a semi-scandal involving his reporting of unverified documents relating to President George W. Bush’s Air National Guard service hastened his exit from CBS News in 2007.
Now, Rather delivers What Unites Us, in which he reflects upon what it means to be a patriotic American. Written with collaborator Elliot Kirschner, the book is a deeply felt reminder of what is the best of America.
“Our Constitution, our rule of law, our traditions, our work ethic, our empathy, our pragmatism, and our basic decency,” he writes. “As I have seen over the years, when we cultivate these instincts, we soar. When we sow seeds of division, hatred, and small-mindedness, we falter.”
Given the Twitter wars, the tragedy in Charlottesville and the general vitriol currently ruling our national conversation, What Unites Us is at times almost unbearably poignant. Yet Rather’s words provide a sort of salve—and clear thinking about how to recover from these ugly times. He reflects on the role of the press, the need for sound science in making policy and public education as a pillar of patriotism. Deeply grounded in his upbringing in segregated Houston, Rather reminds us how far we have come as a nation.
Although this is a set of essays, not a memoir, Rather adds another dimension to the book by sharing remembrances from his remarkable life. This is a man who has so often been in the front row of history. He recalls drinking cola with civil rights activist Medgar Evers as they talked about voter repression in the 1960s South and rushing to the studio the morning of September 11, 2001.
What Unites Us is a passionate treatise on preserving the best of America and letting go of that which makes us weaker.