Reading A Reporter's Life reminded me of how woefully ignorant I am of world politics and events. My respect for Peter Jennings was cemented during 9/11--his calm and steady presence as he reported the news made it easier to digest what was happening. On the rare occasion I watched World News Tonight the amount of research he obviously put into his broadcasts was compelling.
It reads like a biography, but it is a compilation of interviews with over 80 of his friends, colleagues, family members, politicians, and professional rivals. There's a deep respect for his high journalistic standards and thorough understanding of world affairs.
My favorite quotation came after he became an American citizen:
"I aspire to be a good American. And I aspire to stand for the best American values. That's not easy. It takes work. I know of no people on Earth who are more generous, who are more open, sometimes to the point of distraction. I know of no people who mean better...So I aspire to be a good American means to see the best of America, but it's also to see the bad, and to work in a responsible way to try to make that which is bad better, and to relish the best in the country. It is an exceptional country... At its best, it's a joyous experience, a really, truly rich experience" (p. 260).
He was also apparently vain about his appearance (from an interview with John Leo):
"Peter loved ties. He particularly loved ties his friends were wearing. You'd go out to dinner with Peter and he'd admire your tie, and you'd say thank you and try to get back to the conversation. No, no, Peter would extravagantly admire your tie over and over until you took it off and gave it to him. And that's how he acquired a great many of his ties. At his fiftieth birthday party, we dummied up a slide show of all the events of his life that were likely to be embarrassing...The one that got the biggest laughs was--he turned fifty in the Dukakis year--was of him stripping the tie off Dukakis during their interview. Everybody roared over that because every man in the audience had lost a couple of ties to Peter. He did send me six ties one year, to apparently make up for it. They were the six most hideous ties I've ever seen in my life" (p. 240).
Stories like that are why I like biographies so much. The public persona is very rarely interesting to me--I like to see the goofball, dorky, and just plain strange sides of people.