Friends Remember Peter Jennings

Aug. 8, 2005 -- -- Colleagues, friends, and newsmakers remembered Peter Jennings fondly today. Here are some of their words:

ABC News President David Westin: He would always come in with strong views of what stories needed to be covered and whether we were doing it the right way or not. And he gave us energy, a love for what we did because he had so much love for the news and for reporting the news.

Outgoing Disney CEO Michael Eisner and his successor, Bob Iger, in a joint statement: For four decades, Peter set a standard of fairness, intelligence, insightfulness and courage. This last trait was especially evident during these last months. For once, Peter himself became the story as his courageous battle with cancer served as an inspiration for millions of people across America. Peter was one of those unique individuals who was larger than life but never lost the common touch. He possessed an innate understanding of the human condition, which is why his broadcasts had such an air of authenticity. He understood that the world was a complex place and had the extraordinary ability to communicate that complexity to millions of viewers day after day.

"Nightline" anchor Ted Koppel: He and I joked the last time I went to visit him a few days ago that between the two of us, we'd put in 83 years at ABC News. … But I do feel the need to say that he was a warm and loving and surprisingly sentimental man. … For the rest of his life, and I do mean for the rest of his life, he always regretted the fact that he had dropped out of school, and he used to travel when he was overseas with whatever else he needed for his trip and always, he had with him one extra suitcase that was filled with books. He was a student for the rest of his life, even though he had dropped out so early.

Barbara Walters: No one could ad-lib like Peter. Sometimes he drove me crazy because he knew every detail and I would find myself saying, "But … but … " But he really did. You would think it was all scripted, he was so poetic. But it wasn't. … He just died too young. And if as Ted gave the message [to] finish high school, I want to give a message: If you have kids who are smoking, for heaven's sake, tell them that we lost Peter.

Sam Donaldson: I remember back in 1968 we were at the Miami Convention of the Republican Party … we went out of our workspace … there were 30 people in line to get this coffee and we fell in with this young woman who had eight cups … Peter asked if he could buy the coffee … she said, "Oh you're Peter Jennings … of course," and as we walked away the woman got back in line … I said, "Peter, I'm just as jealous as I can be."

ABC News political commentator and analyst Cokie Roberts: I think that if he were writing his eulogy this morning, he would put that right at the top -- that he was a good dad and he loved his children dearly. I'm so glad that they were with him last night. But he felt so -- that was such an important part of his life. And, you know, he carried it over, as you well know, to other children as well as his own, not only personally but as a professional. He insisted on those specials for children that he could bring difficult issues, particularly after Sept. 11, to children and talk about it with children. … He was always interested in what was happening with the children.

ABC News correspondent Bob Brown: He had extraordinary movie star looks, an encyclopedic mind, he had the curiosity and the ability to make things work for him … despite all the gifts that he had which you would think would generate a large amount of envy among people, I never heard it. You would hear people say he was too demanding or this or that but never heard anybody begrudge Peter the gifts that he had -- because he used them.

Former "NBC Nightly News" anchor Tom Brokaw: We were not just competitors and colleagues -- we were friends. We had a lot of opportunities to reflect on this in the last year. It was a competitive brotherhood. We appeared at a number of dinners together and seminars. … We had been together on so many big stories over the last 30 years of our careers and Peter especially, I think, summarized for all of us the feelings that Dan [Rather] and I have -- that the three of us had -- when he said people often asked, 'Are you friends?' Peter would say we are friends because we don't see each other that often. The fact is we were friends and then he went on to say we have all made each other better.

Former "CBS Evening News" anchor Dan Rather: Peter took his work very seriously. But he did not take himself seriously. And he was a little uncomfortable -- very uncomfortable -- with the word "star" and a little uncomfortable with the word "anchor" because he really did think about himself as a reporter.

"60 Minutes" correspondent Mike Wallace: How do I feel about Peter? We tried to recruit him for "60 Minutes." That says it all. A high school dropout, he educated himself out in the field, reporting, and I marveled at his gift of command in tough on-air situations. Best of all, he was a loyal friend.

Former "Today" anchor Bryant Gumbel: Peter was a consummate professional. I think it would surprise a lot of people that he was also a high school dropout. Yeah, he was a high school dropout who rose to basically head up ABC News and was a journalism superstar. He was a good person. He really was.

ABC News medical editor Dr. Tim Johnson: What I'm remembering in this moment is how compassionate and concerned Peter was about people who had problems. And I know this because he would constantly call me and say, "Tim, can you help me out finding help for this person? Or can you find a good doctor for this friend?" Incredible concern and attention to the details of the people who he knew and some he didn't even personally who were in trouble.

ABC News correspondent Dan Harris: When I went into a war zone for the first time, which was Afghanistan, he called my parents to let them know I was OK. He's the anchor of a broadcast that 10 million people watch a night. He's got plenty of things to do. And he took time, before the show, to call my parents and say, "You're kid's alright."

ABC News correspondent Bill Blakemore: We'd come back and tell him things and immediately we knew we'd get a skeptical response: "Are you kidding me? You couldn't possibly. Are you serious?" And suddenly tell him the one thing in talking out the story that would make his eyes widen a little bit: "That's interesting."

ABC News cameraman Akram Abi-Hanna: Anytime you went to do a story with him -- his knowledge of the place, his knowledge of the name even local warlords. He had a grasp of the story that for me as a Lebanese, I was in awe of somebody from Canada that can fly into Beruit and has all this knowledge where many Lebanese would not have such grasp, and such knowledge as he did.

ABC News correspondent John McWethy: When we were about to do something live, Peter would talk in generalities about what we might do, but he would never tell me the questions he was going to ask [on air]. I never had a clue! And his response to me was, "I don't want you to become stale, McWethy." Stale?! I often was caught completely off guard. He loved it. I hated it.

No matter where I was in the world, Peter always seemed to know a few more things about that place -- about the people, the language, the culture -- than I did. And he was always on me. He challenged everything I wrote and he turns out to be the best teacher I ever had. That was the essence of Peter -- challenging.

ABC News correspondent John Cochran: Peter never liked the ties I wore. And he would literally call my wife and say, "You've got to buy him better ties!" And he didn't do it out of meanness. He just thought, you know, I should just look a little spiffier if I was going to be on "World News Tonight."

Peter was extremely demanding with correspondents, but he was even more demanding of himself. And because of that, I think a lot of people, we just took it because we knew he worked harder and longer than the rest of us and his feeling was if he could do it we could do it.

"World News Tonight" senior producer Tom Nagorski: Peter asked me if I'd come to Baghdad with him. And I thought about it and I told him I'd come and just don't, um, I'm not going to be racing to the nasty scenes. He said OK, and then he said, "You know, we've got those nice big flak jackets and we'll find one that fits you." We always took pictures on the road, and he gave me one with a little classic odd-penned signature at the top and what he wrote was, "The brave and the not so brave, do you feel better now."

"World News Tonight" senior producer Stu Schutzman: A great Gorbachev interview two weeks before the coup. Before the interview, Peter had brought a Louisville slugger bat and a Raggedy Ann doll for Gorbachev's grandchildren. Number one, they struck up an instant relationship. And number two, Peter thought about things like that. He really did think about things like that.

"Peter Jennings Reporting" senior producer Jeanmarie Condon: I remember last summer, we were out at their house and he was playing with my 2-year-old daughter in a swimming pool and he has just having a great time with her. And all of a sudden he looked up and he said, "You know I love this, I love a being a father." And he did, he did, he got goofy with them.

"World News Tonight" executive producer Jon Banner: He was supposed to give a toast to the Constitution and a toast to the nation. And he had gotten done with the toast and Justice Scalia turned to him and said, "Not bad for a Canadian." And he actually said to Scalia, "Can you keep a secret? I actually am an American now." Becoming a citizen was something very, I mean we always take it for granted, and it was so meaningful for him.

Lauren Lipani, assistant to Peter Jennings: This is a pocket-sized U.S. Constitution which Peter carried in his back pocket. He became obsessed with the idea because Peter had such a romance with American history. And so we ordered about 100 of them -- they are everywhere. They're in his car, they're in his briefcase, they're in his office, and in his back pocket.