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If you like Charles Kuralt's story, you might also like:
Sam Donaldson,
Nicholas Kristof,
Dan Rather,
Mike Wallace and
Oprah Winfrey

Charles Kuralt's recommended reading: My Name is Aram

Charles Kuralt also appears in the video:
Changing Lanes

Related Links:
Remembering Charles Kuralt

Charles Kuralt Learning Center


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Charles Kuralt
Charles Kuralt
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Charles Kuralt Interview (page: 5 / 5)

A Life On the Road

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  Charles Kuralt

Do you have any unfulfilled wishes?

Charles Kuralt: I'd like to write something that would live. It's getting a little late. I'd better get at it if I'm going to do that. In television, you know, everything is gone with the speed of light, literally. It is no field for anybody with intimations of immortality, because your stuff, by and large, doesn't live on.

It's not easy for me to admit, but I would love to write something that people would still read 50 or 100 years from now. That comes with growing older, I think. You begin to think, "Well, what have I ever done to benefit society? What have I ever written that would excite a young reader years from now, the way Mark Twain's journalism still excited me when I first read Roughing It and Innocence Abroad ?" So we can't all be Mark Twain. In fact, I guess it's fair to say none of us can be Mark Twain, except Mark Twain. But, you do begin to yearn to write some thing that gains a little permanence. I guess, being frank, I have to say that.

What is your advice to young people just starting out?

Charles Kuralt Interview Photo
Charles Kuralt: Oh, dear. I know that's the whole purpose of this, but I would be very reluctant to offer them advice. Many young people today are really in a position to offer me advice.

I have a 10-year-old grandson who has an e-mail address. I don't know anything about the Internet, or all of that stuff. He knows all about it. He's a dinosaur buff. We went to a store around the corner from the Museum of...of Natural History in New York and he started calling off the Latin names and dining habits of all the dinosaur models in the place. "Oh, there's a brachiosaurus!" or something, and the guy behind the counter said, "You're right about that one. You're right, you're right." Finally he said, "Okay, kid, you start at 10 o'clock Monday. You bring the bagels."

This is a grandfather bragging about his grandson, of course, but it's true that at that age I was nowhere near so accomplished as my 10-year-old grandson. When you hang around with some of these dazzling youngsters, you realize that they're way ahead of you in lots of important ways.

Look for joy in your life, it's not always easy to find. I have a daughter who spent years going back to school, because she was really puzzled about what she wanted to do with her life. She tried being an assistant professor of English, because she liked literature, but she found she didn't like teaching. And so, back to school again.

Charles Kuralt Interview Photo
Finally, as she turned 30 or so, she discovered that what she really loved and could be passionate about was the advertising business. She's a very happy, very hardworking, and very creative person in the advertising field today. It never occurred to her that that's what would finally challenge and interest her in life.

So it takes a little searching. But I don't think one should ever come to my stage of life, retired, 60, and have to look back and say, "Gosh. I wish I hadn't spent all those years doing that job that paid so well, but which I was never really interested in." That's something approaching tragedy. Even if it means ignoring the advice of family and friends, it's far better to leap into something you know you love, something you know gives you joy. You might change your mind later, but that is especially the privilege of youth.

Is there one book that you would read to your grandchildren?

Charles Kuralt Interview Photo
Charles Kuralt: I can't really think of one book. I don't think that any one book contains the wisdom of the ages. For what purpose would I be reading it to them? For love of language I would choose a Shakespeare play -- for other purposes, other works.

The Bible, of course, jumps to mind, but again, it's for the literature in it. I think there are passages of Ecclesiastes, for example, that are almost enough to persuade you that the book was divinely inspired, because they're so beautifully, beautifully composed.

Far more likely that a young person would be reading a book to me. Microsoft Word For Dummies comes to mind. I still have a lot to learn.

What does the American Dream mean to you?

Charles Kuralt: Let me answer with an anecdote.

We did a story about a black family in the poorest part of Mississippi one time, the Chandlers. There were eight or nine children and the oldest of them decided he wanted to go to college, which had never happened in that family, I assure you. All his parents could do for him was hitch up the mule to the wagon -- they didn't own either the mule or the wagon -- and go into town and borrow two dollars for bus fare to send him off to college. From that beginning he became Dr. Cleveland Chandler, the head of the Department of Economics at Howard University. And, each of his younger brothers in sisters in turn went on to college, most of them to graduate degrees. There was a Baptist minister from Colorado and the head nutritionist of a veteran's hospital in Kansas City, people of accomplishment in every case. And, one of them wrote me a letter and said, "You really ought to come see us because we are something." Their parents' 50th anniversary was coming up, it happened also to be Thanksgiving Day. From all over America, all the children came back to the new house they had built to replace the shack they had grown up in. And, looking back on those days of picking cotton all summer to afford to go back to school, helping the younger brothers and sisters accomplish what they had accomplished and looking back on the humblest beginnings that any family could ever have, all we did all afternoon was cry.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Mr. Chandler couldn't get through the blessing at the Thanksgiving dinner. I looked over at Izzy Bleckman, the camera man I worked with all these years and he was not able to look through the viewfinder of the camera and I was weeping too, everybody was. And, what were we weeping about? The American Dream, this notion that, if you really want to in a country like this, you can start from nothing and make a success of yourself. Maybe not a rich man or a rich woman, but a success. The kind of success that you look into your own heart and find is there. That is not possible in most countries of the world to this day, but it still is possible here. That's something very precious. I've kept up with the Chandlers. One of the grandchildren played violin in Carnegie Hall last year. It goes in circles. The dream doesn't stop. It makes me cry to think about it.

[ Key to Success ] The American Dream

Me too. Thanks for that story, and all your stories.

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This page last revised on Feb 28, 2008 16:14 EST
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