Nation's oldest park ranger has a timeless message

Betty Reid Soskin, 92, stayed optimistic and patient all throughout the drama of the government shutdown while she was temporarily furloughed.
CBS News

(CBS News) RICHMOND, Calif. - The end of the government shutdown this week meant the opening back up of our national parks from biggest to smallest. It's also a return to duty for all the park rangers from youngest to most senior of all.

During the government shutdown, anger and arguments spread across the nation.

But one federal employee, park ranger Betty Reid Soskin, watched it all with patience.

Watch CBS News correspondent John Blackstone's previous report on Betty Reid Soskin prior to the end of the shutdown:


"I think I was optimistic," she said, "because I've seen times that were equal to this in uncertainty...ultimately they all worked out. So longevity has its advantages.

Longevity indeed. Soskin is 92-years-old. The nation's oldest park ranger now has her hat on again.

"That's right," she says with a laugh. "Being under the hat is really important to me."

The park where Soskin works is small: the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park in Richmond California. Its reopening did not attract a huge crowd like the one that gathered at the National Zoo, cheering when the gates opened again.

In California, the 'closed' sign was simply taken down at the visitors' center. Then Soskin helped another ranger with the most important ritual of the day: raising the American flag.

"And that was a thrill," she said. "That was a thrill. That's the way we start our day everyday."

At the Rosie the Riveter National Historical Park, Soskin tells visitors how thousands of American men and women, black and white, became part of an unprecedented mobilization of labor to win the Second World War, to ensure the Stars and Stripes was the flag of victory.

"It's funny when I look at the flag," she said, "there are feelings that block words because the symbolism of that flag has meant so many things to me in so many points in history."

With two weeks of national turmoil ended, and the flag raised once more over her park, Soskin reminds us that no matter our disagreements, the same flag flies over all of us.

  • John Blackstone

    From his base in San Francisco, CBS News correspondent John Blackstone covers breaking stories throughout the West. That often means he is on the scene of wildfires, earthquakes, floods, hurricanes and rumbling volcanoes. He also reports on the high-tech industry in Silicon Valley and on social and economic trends that frequently begin in the West.