What is it that binds us to this speech? Charles Kuralt’s 1993 UNC Bicentennial Address

“What is it that binds us to this place as to no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls . . . ” – Charles Kuralt

These words, spoken in Charles Kuralt’s iconic voice, will be familiar to anyone who has watched a UNC sporting event on TV the past few years. The speech provides the background narrative to the promotional spots run by the university during televised football and basketball games. This speech was given by Kuralt on October 12, 1993, during the celebration of UNC’s bicentennial.

Kuralt (class of 1955) began his journalism career as a student at UNC. He was editor of the Daily Tar Heel and did some of his earliest broadcast work with WUNC radio. During a long career with CBS in New York, he was known nationwide for his On the Road segments on the evening news and later as the anchor of CBS Sunday Morning.

Kuralt, a native of Wilmington, never lost touch with North Carolina. He wrote about the state in his book North Carolina is My Home and was an active alumnus, frequently returning to Chapel Hill and remaining an avid fan of Tar Heel basketball. Kuralt was the featured speaker at the 1985 graduation ceremony, during which he talked about the importance of UNC for the rest of the state: “And so, in concentric circles, as if from a pebble tossed from a pool, the influence of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill moves outward to the farthest corners of our state, and far beyond its boundaries.”

(Charles Kuralt’s speech during commencement 1985, from the Charles Kuralt Collection, 1935-1997, #04882, Southern Historical Collection.)

 

Kuralt expanded on this theme, and on his own deep appreciation for UNC, in his 1993 address, delivered in Kenan Stadium before a large audience that included President Bill Clinton and Governor Jim Hunt. In a memorable opening, Kuralt said “I speak for all of us who could not afford to go to Duke, and would not have, even if we could have afforded it.”

The now famous lines from the TV commercials come early in the speech: “What is it that binds us to this place as no other? It is not the well or the bell or the stone walls. Or the crisp October nights or the memory of dogwoods blooming. Our loyalty is not only to William Richardson Davie, though we are proud of what he did 200 years ago today. Not even to Dean Smith, though we are proud of what he did last March. No, our love for this place is based on the fact that it is, as it was meant to be, the University of the people.”

A video of Kuralt’s address is available online from UNC-TV (his speech begins at 11:30 into the recording). The full text, from a book about the bicentennial, is here:

Charles Kuralt’s Speech During the Bicentennial Observance Opening Ceremonies [Tepper, Steven J. The Chronicles of the Bicentennial Observance of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. 1st ed. Chapel Hill: The University, 1998: 219-220.]

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3 Responses to What is it that binds us to this speech? Charles Kuralt’s 1993 UNC Bicentennial Address

  1. Cynthia LaChapelle says:

    It’s amazing to hear the words again now that I’m older. I was one of those kids sitting there waiting to flip my tassle and get out into the world.

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  3. Arthur J Shepard III says:

    I am 32 years out from hearing this speech as a member of the Class of 1985, and still I return to it from time to time because – just as it rang so true then – it rings true even more today, almost in a prescient way. I can still hear Mr Kuralt’s iconic voice in my head, and his words serve as a homing beacon bringing me back to center – a precious graduation gift.

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