Friday, April 30, 2010

The Legacy of Bill Moyers

Bill Moyers has ended The Journal. It is possible to make too much of this. Moyers will still be around and will not be entirely silent. He will, however, no longer host a regular television show. Though this may very well be the right thing to do for the soon to be 76 year old journalist, it is a sad thing for the rest of America.

Much could be written about Moyers' contribution to journalism. From his time in the White House as press secretory and his impact on the founding of the Peace Corps, to his interviews with Joseph Campbell, on death and dying, and on world religions - to name but a few of his many creative and informative projects. But others have done this far better than me. I refer to Eric Alterman's fine piece on what Moyers has meant to journalism and the country and Fresh Air's thoughtful retrospective involving past interviews with him.

There is little I can add to the tributes I mention. I will say only this: In an age dominated by partisan hacks and pompous blowhards, when shock jocks are the norm and vulgarity toward one's opponents encouraged, Bill Moyers remained a Christian Gentleman.

Always courteous, kind, generous, respectful and well-mannered, Moyers nevertheless spoke the truth to power with courage, stood on principle no matter what, and battled against power interested for the good of working people everywhere.

He has been the most honest man in journalism.

Moyers' professionalism, commitment to truth, openness to others, and above all genuine integrity and humanity have seldom been seen together in a single newsman.

It is above all his combination of passion for truth, commitment to principle, compassion for his fellow human beings, together with his generosity toward others, respectful tone, courteous manner, open mind, and refusal to engage in the smear tactics and name calling that have dominated journalism and media for some time now, that make him a personal hero to me - (I concede by the way that I've not measured up to his standard here).

Mr. Moyers will be greatly missed by many of us. As for his replacement? Let us be frank: Moyers is NOT replaceable. He is a unique contributor to American Journalism. But we can carry on his mission.

We must all pick up Bill Moyers' mantle. Let us also strive, like Moyers, to seek the truth with gentility, kindness, openness, but also with perseverance, integrity, and a desire for truth over pleasing those in power.

Let's continue to fight his fight!

Let us make it our own.

Here are some of Moyers' parting thoughts (from the second to last episode, not the last):

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