1980 to 2012

So, Tampa.

Last weekend I walked onto the floor of the convention for the first time, and it was beautiful—all the lights and the dazzle and the sound checks, all the bustle.  We forget how exciting it is, some of us, because we’ve been here before, we’ve seen the huge cavernous stadium dressed up in red, white and blue, and the standards of the states: Kansas, Oklahoma, Arizona, Tennessee.  But: it is beautiful.

I attended my first national convention in 1980, for CBS News, as a producer on the radio side.  I had all the credentials and wore them proudly on a thick chain around my neck.  I was so eager to get in and see it all that I went in on Sunday morning before everything began.  In the middle of the floor, standing alone, was a tall and august figure—Eric Sevareid, the great commentator.  He turned, we nodded, I introduced myself and told him it was my first convention for CBS.  He said his first had been in 1948, and the first time he walked on the floor he saw a guy standing by himself, and it was H.L. Mencken.  Sevareid said he introduced himself.  I asked if Mencken said anything.  No, said Sevareid, “He just shook my hand.”

Then Sevareid smiled and shook my hand, and we laughed.

I told that story to the young “Face the Nation” producer who guided me to the floor.  He was Walt Cronkite, grandson of Walter.  We smiled and shook hands.