Celebrating Life

Bob Schieffer
Weekly commentary by Chief Washington Correspondent Bob Schieffer.

It has rained for one solid month here on the East Coast, which is why I find myself spending more time reading the obits. It's not that I enjoy reading about death. Just the opposite.

The obits celebrate life. They list people's accomplishments. It's the one place in the paper to find a ray of sunshine, a smile. The rest of the paper is usually a list of things that have gone wrong, because that's the nature of news, the stuff we need to know.

Walter Cronkite once said, `We don't do stories about all the cats that did not run away. No one needs to know that. It's the cat that climbs a tree and won't come down that becomes the news story.'

The New York Times' obits are the best. Wherever in the world someone dies, The Times seems to know about it and finds something pleasant to say about them.

My favorite obit this week was about Clarence "Sandman" Simms, the legendary tap dancer. I saw the Sandman once and liked him, but not until I read the obit did I find out how he became a dancer. It was out of necessity. He started out as a boxer, but his footwork was better than his punch, so he just concentrated on what he did best. Now there's a lesson. The obit also said that the Sandman was 86, but added he had long maintained his age was just a matter of opinion.

News is what we need to know, and no one really needs to know any of that, but aren't you glad you do now? That's why I love the obits. Now if it would just stop raining.