Alistair Cooke

British journalist and broadcaster (1908-2004)

Alistair Cooke KBE (20 November 190830 March 2004) was a journalist and broadcaster. Born in England, he became a naturalized American citizen.

Cooke in 1974

Quotes edit

  • Even the prospect of early annihilation should not keep us from making the most of our days on this unhappy planet. In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. And it would be a crime against Nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly that it put off enjoying those things for which we were presumably designed in the first place, and which the gravest statesmen and the hoarsest politicians hope to make available to all men in the end: I mean the opportunity to do good work, to fall in love, to enjoy friends, to sit under trees, to read, to hit a ball and bounce the baby.
    • One Man's America (1952).
    • Quoted in "The Very Moving Day", Season 6, Episode 1 of All in the Family (1975)
  • In life no such colour brightened the grey picture of a man devoted to the daily study of warfare on several continents with all the ardour of a certified public accountant.
  • Some people say we are on the verge of the Second Civil War. And it may be so. But even on the darkest days, cheerfulness kept breaking in. I am not by nature a 'Whither America?' man.
    • (June 1968) In: Talk About America (1968)
  • All Presidents start out pretending to run a crusade but after a couple of years they find they are running something less heroic and much more intractable: namely, the presidency.
    • Talk About America (1968)
  • LSD ... is one of the company of drugs now known as hallucinogens, and there is no doubt that in some people it produces exquisite visions. The big question is whether they are of the outer or inner world, whether in fact they heighten or deepen reality or fool the taker into believing that the kind of vision a madman sees is the real world that convention, habit, or sheer blunting of instinct hide from him.
    • "The World Gone to Pot?", in Talk About America (1968)
  • To the goggling unbeliever Texans say — as people always say about their mangier dishes — "but it's just like chicken, only tenderer." Rattlesnake is, in fact, just like chicken, only tougher.
  • Probably, I wound up—if not as a jack-of-all-trades—at best as a thirdrate polymath never able to focus these curiosities into a commanding “view of life.” The most practical solution appeared to be to make a profession of observation, to become a reporter simply, a profession easily damned as that of a fence-sitter, a moral coward unwilling to take a stand, a chronic water-treader who lacks the strength to take the plunge. To these strictures, I can only reply that once every four years at least I take a stand: I vote. And immediately afterward return to my reporting habits and the continuing discovery that in life the range of irreconcilable points of view, characters, flaws, idiosyncrasies and virtues is astounding, and that in politics there is very often much to be said on both sides, and sometimes on three or four.
    • "Reflections of a Non-Positive Man". In: Living philosophies : the reflections of some eminent men and women of our time (1990), edited by Clifton Fadiman.

Alistair Cooke's America (1973) edit

  • During thirtyfive years as a foreign correspondent, I must have covered just about everything, from the public life of six Presidents to the private life of a burlesque stripper; from the black market in beef to the Black Panthers; from Estes Kefauver amid the snows of New Hampshire to Jack Nicklaus amid the azaleas of Augusta, Georgia; from Henry Kaiser's Liberty ships to Francis Chichester's Gypsy Moth sailing into Staten Island at one in the morning; from the Marshall Plan to Planned Parenthood; from Senator Joseph McCarthy's last stand to the massacre of Muhammad Ali by Joe Frazier.
  • (The Negro) is a permanent invalid in American society. And the places he lives, whether in the town or the country, are its casualty wards. (p. 146.)
  • One hundred years after the Declaration that 'all men are created equal,' there began to gather in Newport a colony of the rich, determined to show that some Americans were conspicuously more equal than others.
  • (Las Vegas) composes a night-time image of Babylon in the desert. But it is Everyman's cut-rate Babylon. Not far away there is, or was, a roadside lunch counter and over it a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor's orgy is now a democratic institution. It says: 'Topless Pizza Lunch.' (p. 280)

Six Men (1977) edit

  • He was at his best only when the going was good.
  • He measured all his fellow workers by the test of professionalism, and a professional is a man who can do his best work when he doesn't feel like it.
  • Moving among wretched people in mean places, as I often saw him do, he had the impulses of a saint but not the serenity.

Quotes about Cooke edit

  • Cooke is a nuisance. He telephones his copy at the last moment, so that everything else has to be dropped to get it into the paper. He says that he will be in Chicago and turns up in Los Angeles. He discards the agreed subject to write about something which has taken his fancy, news of the moment or not. But we think he’s worth it, and we love him just the same.
    • Guardian editorial, 1968.

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