Celebrities re-invent themselves to stay current

What do Dick Van Dyke and Walter Cronkite have in common? Not too much—it would seem on the surface.
One was one of the funniest people on television, the other the “most trusted man” in the United States. But take a closer look.
Both were born in Missouri, although one grew up in Illinois and the other in Texas. Neither finished college, although one had a prestigious journalism school named for him.
Both knew what they wanted to do in high school. Both had long visible careers, and both won several Emmy Awards.
And the similarities don’t end there. They’ve even worked together. At age 29, Van Dyke was the anchor on the CBS Morning Show and his newsman was Cronkite.
In 2002, the two were reunited as hosts of “Stay Tuned: Television’s Unforgettable Moments,” a multimedia anthology that presents the most famous moments in series, sports, and news.
Moments like the final episode of M*A*S*H*, the moon landing, Barry Bonds’ 71st home run, and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy.
But the most important similarity between Van Dyke and Cronkite is the way they’ve both continuously re-invented themselves to stay current and vibrant in a youth-oriented culture.
They are wonderful role models.
After 19 years as anchorman and managing editor of the CBS Evening News, Cronkite was forced to retire at age 65. An avid sailor with plenty of money, he could have lived a life of leisure. But that was not for Cronkite.
Since retiring, he has been very busy lecturing, hosting CBS documentaries, and co-founding The Cronkite Ward Company, which has produced more than 40 award-winning documentaries.
When he was 79, Cronkite was the only journalist listed in the top 10 “most influential decision makers in America,” based on a survey conducted by U.S. News and World Report.
Now, Cronkite is 87 and ready for a new challenge. Last October, he began a syndicated column “And That’s The Way I See It,” which already appears in 130 papers.
While Cronkite is 87, the star of “Mary Poppins” and “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” is a young 78.
As an actor, Van Dyke was not forced to retire. In a 2000 interview with Van Dyke, Larry King asked the question, “How long do you want to keep on keeping on?”
The answer was, “I don’t know. I’ve retired so many times now it’s getting to be a habit.”
In spite of that reply, Van Dyke did retire from television and movies two years ago.
Now, he spends much of his time as a computer animator and describes himself as “a real nerd.” Van Dyke began working with special effects and animation 13 years ago. He loves the work and says he is constantly learning.
But the youthful actor hasn’t given up show business entirely. He still sings and dances with a quartet of 20-year-olds, performing “Mary Poppins” hits in area children’s hospitals.
So, at ages 78 and 87, both Dick Van Dyke and Walter Cronkite still are active—one plays tennis and writes a column, the other dances and does computer animation.
What can you learn from these remarkable people?
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist. Write her at thisside60@aol.com or visit www.visit-snider.com

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