Retirement, as Barbara Walters Shows, Is More Than Just Ending an Era

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May 21, 2014

Barbara Walters announced her retirement in early May, capping a near 40-year career with ABC News.

In 1976, she became the first female news anchor on TV, and has pioneered the profession ever since, becoming one of the most recognizable names in journalism.

In celebration of the event, ABC pulled out all the stops: in addition to a week-long celebration by her colleagues on The View, there was a formal ceremony naming the ABC News Headquarters in New York City after her.

That’s right — ABC loves her so much, they named the building after her.

Iron Lady

While her last “official” day on the air was May 16, which ended with a two-hour prime time special, it may come as a surprise that Walters is not actually retiring. Not really, anyway.

In the years to come she will still be under contract with ABC to pursue big-ticket interviews and develop new programming — so why all this pomp and circumstance over a “retirement” that isn’t actually a retirement? Why are we celebrating now?

Walters gave a great answer: “You have to leave sometime, don’t you?

Where’s the party?

A 40-year career is more than just a job; it’s a little piece of history. Wars have been waged and entire nations have risen and fallen in shorter amounts of time.

Whatever an employee’s post-retirement plans may be, the decision to formally announce a retirement is something that deserves pause — it’s more than just the end of work. It’s more than just the person.

When we celebrate a retirement, we celebrate the end of an era. Barbara Walters not only changed the era she lived in with her reporting, she also inspired new generations of young women to reach further in a formerly male-dominated industry. The real question is why aren’t we celebrating?

Back to the future

If you told Barbara Walters in 1976 that one day the ABC News building would be named after her, she might have called you crazy, but here we are in 2014 celebrating that fact.

It’s proof that employees who have their dedication reciprocated by their employers can do amazing things.

This was originally published on the Michael C. Fina blog.