Peabody Award-winning journalist Bill Moyers’ keynote remarks for Public Citizen’s 40th Anniversary Gala are found below.
I am honored to share this occasion with you. No one beyond your collegial inner appreciates more than I do what you have stood for over these 40 years, or is more aware of the battles you have fought, the victories you have won, and the passion for democracy that still courses through your veins. The great progressive of a century ago, Robert LaFollette of Wisconsin – a Republican, by the way – believed that “Democracy is a life; and involves constant struggle.” Democracy has been your life for four decades now, and would have been even more imperiled today if you had not stayed the course.
I began my public journalism the same year you began your public advocacy, in 1971. Our paths often paralleled and sometimes crossed. Over these 40 years journalism for me has been a continuing course in adult education, and I came early on to consider the work you do as part of the curriculum – an open seminar on how government works – and for whom. Your muckraking investigations – into money and politics, corporate behavior, lobbying, regulatory oversight, public health and safety, openness in government, and consumer protection, among others – are models of accuracy and integrity. They drive home to journalists that while it is important to cover the news, it is more important to uncover the news. As one of my mentors said, “News is what people want to keep hidden; everything else is publicity.” And when a student asked the journalist and historian Richard Reeves for his definition of “real news”, he answered: “The news you and I need to keep our freedoms.” You keep reminding us how crucial that news is to democracy. And when the watchdogs of the press have fallen silent, your vigilant growls have told us something’s up.