The 60th year of "Face the Nation"

Seb. Joe McCarthy was the first guest on CBS' "Face the Nation" when the show debuted in 1954. CBS News

"It seems like yesterday . . ." People say that, but actually it doesn't seem that way. It seems like about 60 years ago, because it was November 7, 1954, that CBS launched "Face the Nation."

Contrary to the belief of some, I have not been at "Face the Nation" the entire time. I have only been at CBS 45 years, the last 23 at "Face the Nation."

"Face," as we call it, was the brainchild of the late Frank Stanton, who ran the network in the early days. When I asked him some years ago why he started it, he said simply, "Because NBC had 'Meet the Press,' and I thought we needed a program like that."

Today the two broadcasts are the oldest programs on television.

The first guest was Joe McCarthy. Producers were apprehensive; he had shown up at another network packing a pistol, but he came to CBS unarmed.

Over the years, everyone from Nikita Khrushchev and a parade of foreign potentates, to the cream of the crop of American politics -- presidents, candidates, diplomats, civil rights leaders, war leaders and revolutionaries, authors and opinion makers -- all came to "Face the Nation."

AFL-CIO chief George Meany was one of the few who showed up late. When moderator George Herman chided him by saying, "Don't you know I'm a good union man?" Meany responded, "Yours is not much of a union."

In the early days "Face the Nation" included a live report beamed to New York all the way from New Jersey. Now we can speak to newsmakers at any point on the globe.

For all the technology, the remarkable thing about "Face the Nation" is how little it has changed. We still do exactly what they did in the beginning: We sit down the key newsmakers of the week, turn on the lights, and ask them about the news of the day.

You, our viewers, have seemed to appreciate that over the years, so in case you're wondering, we'll try to get better, but basically we'll celebrate this 60th year by doing what just we've been doing. We won't change much.

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    Bob Schieffer is CBS News' chief Washington correspondent and anchor of Face the Nation.

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