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Gibson bids farewell to anchor post after 34 years at ABC

"My parents taught me you should understay, not overstay your welcome."

And with that, Charlie Gibson said goodbye. The now-former anchorman of "World News" who spent 34 years at ABC and many of them in the early morning where we got to know him so well left the program Friday night for good.

And good it was: A warm farewell, with his staff assembled behind him in the closing seconds applauding their boss and he them.

In his last remarks, Gibson spoke of the "privilege and an honor to work with producers and reporters and staff for whom I have unbounded respect."

"This," he added, "has been a labor of love."

He gave a plug for journalism values and for his successor as well. "Objectivity is not universally in favor in our business these days, but it is critically important . . . and you'll find it with my pal, Diane Sawyer," who starts Monday.

There were taped messages from ex-presidents, luminaries, stars and competitors, including Katie Couric and Brian Williams. It could have been a Friar's Club roast - a gentle one.

Former President George W. Bush said, "you'll find [retirement's] not all that bad." His father, George H.W. Bush, said goodbye, too, along with presidents Clinton, Carter and (of course) Obama, who thanked Gibson for the "decades you've been a consummate journalist."

Why is Gibson, 66, leaving after a mere three years as anchor? To spend time with his family (yes) or - excuse the cliche - to begin his "second act," whatever that will be?

Or maybe this, as he told The Washington Post recently: "I'm whipped on a Friday night. I'm not as sharp as I once was, and I don't want to stay too long. . . . It's good to leave when your elevator is up on a high floor and not on a low floor."

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