Last modified on 4 June 2014, at 20:29

Bill Moyers

My colleagues and I at NOW didn't play by the conventional rules of Beltway journalism. Those rules divide the world into Democrats & Republicans, liberals & conservatives, and allow journalists to pretend they have done their job if instead of reporting the truth behind the news, they merely give each side an opportunity to spin the news.

Bill Moyers (born June 5, 1934) is an American journalist, broadcaster, and a former White House Press Secretary.

QuotesEdit

The Peace Corps is more than a program or mission. It is a way of being in the world.
This is a conservative notion because it holds dear the ground of one's own being — the culture and customs that gave meaning to a particular life. But it is a liberal notion for respecting the ground revered by others.
Journalists who make mistakes get sued for libel; historians who make mistakes get to publish a revised edition.
All my life I've prayed the Lord's Prayer, but I've never prayed, "Give me this day my daily bread." It is always, "Give us this day our daily bread." Bread and life are shared realities. They do not happen in isolation.
Reagan's story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons.
Millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable.
  • [George Washington] in uniform patriotism can salute one flag only, embrace but the first circle of life — one's own land and tribe. In war that is necessary, in peace it is not enough. Events enlarged his embrace to a wholly new idea of nation — the United States of America. But less than a century later his descendant by marriage could not slip the more parochial tether. In the halls of the family home standing on the hill above us, General Robert E. Lee paced back and forth as he weighed the offer of Abraham Lincoln to take command of the Union Army on the eve of the Civil War. Lee turned the offer down and that evening took the train to Richmond. His country was still Virginia. We struggle today with the imperative of a new patriotism and citizenship. The Peace Corps has been showing us the way, and the volunteers and staff whom we honor this morning are the vanguard of that journey.
    • "At Large", speech at the Peace Corps twenty-fifth anniversary memorial service (21 September 1986), published in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 26
  • As every volunteer testifies, the Peace Corps is more than a program or mission. It is a way of being in the world. This is a conservative notion because it holds dear the ground of one's own being — the culture and customs that gave meaning to a particular life. But it is a liberal notion for respecting the ground revered by others. This double helix in America's DNA may yet be the source of a new political and patriotism that could save us from toxic self-absorption.
    • "At Large", speech at the Peace Corps twenty-fifth anniversary memorial service (21 September 1986), published in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 27
  • Journalists who make mistakes get sued for libel; historians who make mistakes get to publish a revised edition.
    • "The Big Story", speech to the Texas State Historical Association (7 March 1997), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 131
  • The corporate right and the political right declared class warfare on working people a quarter of a century ago and they've won … Take the paradox of Rush Limbaugh, ensconced in a Palm Beach mansion massaging the resentments across the country of white-knuckled wage earners, who are barely making ends meet in no small part because of the corporate and ideological forces for whom Rush has been a hero.
  • No wonder scoundrels find refuge in patriotism; it offers them immunity from criticism.
    • On polls showing that many Americans would support a restriction of free speech especially if against speech held to be unpatriotic, in a speech to the Society of Professional Journalists (11 September 2004)
  • This "zeal for secrecy" I am talking about — and I have barely touched the surface — adds up to a victory for the terrorists. When they plunged those hijacked planes into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon three years ago this morning, they were out to hijack our Gross National Psychology. If they could fill our psyche with fear — as if the imagination of each one of us were Afghanistan and they were the Taliban — they could deprive us of the trust and confidence required for a free society to work. They could prevent us from ever again believing in a safe, decent or just world and from working to bring it about. By pillaging and plundering our peace of mind they could panic us into abandoning those unique freedoms — freedom of speech, freedom of the press — that constitute the ability of democracy to self-correct and turn the ship of state before it hits the iceberg.
    • Speech to the Society of Professional Journalists (11 September 2004)
  • On the eve of the election last month my wife Judith and I were driving home late in the afternoon and turned on the radio for the traffic and weather. What we instantly got was a freak show of political pornography: lies, distortions, and half-truths — half-truths being perhaps the blackest of all lies. They paraded before us as informed opinion.
  • "News is what people want to keep hidden and everything else is publicity."
    • Quoting an adage widely attributed to the newspaper-owner Lord Northcliffe, in a speech at the National Conference on Media Reform (15 May 2005)
  • All my life I've prayed the Lord's Prayer, but I've never prayed, "Give me this day my daily bread." It is always, "Give us this day our daily bread." Bread and life are shared realities. They do not happen in isolation. Civilization is an unnatural act. We have to make it happen, you and I, together with all the other strangers.
    • "Pass the Bread", baccalaureate address at Hamilton College (20 May 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 385
  • For the life of me I cannot fathom why we expect so much from teachers and provide them so little in return. In 1940, the average pay of a male teacher was actually 3.6 percent more than what other college-educated men earned. Today it is 60 percent lower. Women teachers now earn 16 percent less than other college-educated women. This bewilders me. … There was no Plato without Socrates, and no John Coltrane without Miles Davis.
    • "America 101", speech at the fiftieth anniversary of the Council of Great City Schools (27 October 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 237
  • In tracking down and eliminating terrorists, we need to change our metaphor from a "war on terror" — exactly what, pray tell, is that? — to the mind-set of Interpol tracking down master criminals through intense global cooperation among nations, or the FBI stalking the Mafia, or local police determined to quell street gangs without leveling the entire neighborhood in the process.
    • "The Meaning of Freedom", Sol Feinstone Lecture at the United States Military Academy (15 November 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 78
  • Reagan's story of freedom superficially alludes to the Founding Fathers, but its substance comes from the Gilded Age, devised by apologists for the robber barons. It is posed abstractly as the freedom of the individual from government control — a Jeffersonian ideal at the roots of our Bill of Rights, to be sure. But what it meant in politics a century later, and still means today, is the freedom to accumulate wealth without social or democratic responsibilities and license to buy the political system right out from everyone else.
    • "For America's Sake" speech (12 December 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 17
  • The most fundamental liberal failure of the current era: the failure to embrace a moral vision of America based on the transcendent faith that human beings are more than the sum of their material appetites, our country is more than an economic machine, and freedom is not license but responsibility.
    • "For America's Sake" speech (12 December 2006), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 21
  • Jesus would not be crucified today. The prophets would not be stoned. Socrates would not drink the hemlock. They would instead be banned from the Sunday talk shows and op-ed pages by the sentries of establishment thinking who guard against dissent with the one weapon of mass destruction most cleverly designed to obliterate democracy: the rubber stamp.
    • "The Power of Democracy", speech accepting the Public Intellectual Award of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (7 February 2007), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 92
  • Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don't talk about what democracy means — what it bestows on us — the revolutionary idea that it isn't just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency.
    • "The Power of Democracy", speech accepting the Public Intellectual Award of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation (7 February 2007), as quoted in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 92
  • In those days [1955], affirmative action was for whites only. I might still be working for the grocery store in the small Texas town where I grew up were it not for affirmative action for Southern white boys.
    • "Help", speech to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (3 March 2007), in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 99
  • [Martin Luther] King subpoened the nation's conscience. He was killed for it.
    • "Help", speech to the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (3 March 2007), in Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 111
  • Terms like "liberty" and "individual freedom" invoked by generations of Americans who battled to widen the 1787 promise to "promote the general welfare" have been perverted to create a government primarily dedicated to the state and the political class that runs it. Yes, Virginia, there is a class war and ordinary people are losing it.
    • Moyers on Democracy (2008), Introduction, p. 2
  • The property qualifications for federal office that the framers of the Constitution expressly chose to exclude for demonstrating an unseemly "veneration of wealth" are now de facto in force and higher than the Founding Fathers could have imagined.
    • Moyers on Democracy (2008), Introduction, p. 3
  • Ed Murrow told his generation of journalists bias is okay as long as you don't try to hide it. So here, one more time, is mine: plutocracy and democracy don't mix. Plutocracy, the rule of the rich, political power controlled by the wealthy.
    Plutocracy is not an American word but it's become an American phenomenon. Back in the fall of 2005, the Wall Street giant Citigroup even coined a variation on it, plutonomy, an economic system where the privileged few make sure the rich get richer with government on their side. By the next spring, Citigroup decided the time had come to publicly "bang the drum on plutonomy." … over the past 30 years the plutocrats, or plutonomists — choose your poison — have used their vastly increased wealth to capture the flag and assure the government does their bidding. … This marriage of money and politics has produced an America of gross inequality at the top and low social mobility at the bottom, with little but anxiety and dread in between, as middle class Americans feel the ground falling out from under their feet. … Like those populists of that earlier era, millions of Americans have awakened to a sobering reality: they live in a plutocracy, where they are disposable. Then, the remedy was a popular insurgency that ignited the spark of democracy. Now we have come to another parting of the ways, and once again the fate and character of our country are up for grabs. … Democracy only works when we claim it as our own.

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