BATON ROUGE, La. -- Clad in purple socks, a nod to Louisiana State University's trademark purple and gold, and standing beneath a shimmering disco ball, veteran newsman Bob Schieffer told graduates of the LSU's Manship School of Mass Communication that journalism was changing and politics were dying, but being a reporter is still the most fun you can have.
In an ultimately uplifting speech, the longtime CBS News reporter and current moderator of "Face the Nation" did not shy away from offering his personal opinions about our "broken" political system, which, he said, has reached a state of unbreakable gridlock.
"There's something wrong," Schieffer said, "when this much money has become the overpowering force in our politics."
He spoke about the skyrocketing price of campaigns -- "Obama and Mitt Romney are both planning to spend about a billion dollars each" -- and how the flood of money has made compromise between the parties that much harder. People who work on campaigns, he said, now find themselves "ashamed" at the end of their runs, rather than "happy or sad for what has happened."
"There's no penalty anymore for the dirty campaigning," he told the graduates. "In the old days, people on the losing side had to go back and live in their communities. But now those consultants don't have to live with their loss."
As for his own profession, Schieffer said that although the state of the industry is changing and jobs are scarce, journalists are more important than ever.
He reminded graduates that being a television reporter wasn't even possible when he was a boy, just as being an astronaut wasn't yet a viable aspiration. He told stories about working closely with Walter Cronkite, scoring his first scoop on Gerald Ford, and the time he watched Lyndon Johnson toss his hat into a crowd of admirers in Fort Worth, Texas. And then, many years later, when he met the young campaign worker who had been assigned to retrieve LBJ's hat after he tossed it out.
Schieffer said much of his success was based on luck and being in the right place at the right time. Decades ago, he had entered the CBS news building uninvited, only to be called in for an interview because they thought he was somebody else.
"Lucky? Yes, it was lucky. I was very lucky," he said. "My tip to you is the harder you work, the luckier you get."
Schieffer has long been passionate about journalism education. He helped found the journalism school at his alma mater, Texas Christian University, which now bears his name.