The Elfun Society was an organization related to the General Electric Company. My father worked for GE from college graduation to retirement, and he and my mother would occasionally go to Elfun Society special events. On January 18, 1966, they attended a program featuring Peter Jennings as the speaker. Jennings was 27 years old at the time, and only one year into his job as ABC anchorman. Dad, in his journal, remembers him as a young Canadian, "witty when he wanted to be and also very serious when he wanted to be."

Here are a couple of things he found memorable.

He started his talk by referring to President Johnson's favorite phrase when some negotiating needs to be done: "Come, let us reason together." He said that a little research shows that this comes from the Bible, the first chapter if Isaiah, 18th verse: "Come, let us reason together, saith the Lord." That brought down the house, and then he read further. In effect, the Lord then says that those who do things his way will be rewarded, and those that do not will be "devoured by the sword."

Knowing more now about our 36th president, I'd say Jennings was pretty astute about American politics for a Canadian in his mid-20's!

The following is an old joke, but then again, this was almost 60 years ago, so who knows?

He also commented that as far as his own political views are concerned, he is not a member of any organized political party—he is a Republican.

It was clearly intended to be a joke. Jennings would not become an American citizen until nearly 40 years later, so was unlikely to have been directly involved in American politics. But it reminds me of something else he said that night. Dad did not write it in his journal, but quoted it enough times afterwards that I've never forgotten. What Jennings said was that journalists are always trying to portray themselves as neutral and unbiased in political matters, but that's impossible. One's own biases always come through in the reporting. What is important, Jennings said, is to be upfront about where you are coming from, so the audience can take your prejudices into account. I've always thought he was right about that, but I surely do miss the days when those who reported the news at least gave lip service to fairness, instead of the can't-distinguish-news-reporting-from-editorial-comments circus we have today.

Posted by sursumcorda on Sunday, February 25, 2024 at 3:31 pm | Edit
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