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March 27, 2009

What Questions Would You Ask President Obama?

Concluding the JOURNAL this week, Bill Moyers reflected on Barack Obama's press conference Tuesday and the questions from the public that he answered on Thursday, suggesting a few questions that he and journalist Morton Mintz would like to see answered:
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What questions would you ask President Obama?

A Living Wage in an Ailing Economy?

This week, the JOURNAL introduced James Thindwa, a community organizer in Chicago who has been involved in a lengthy campaign to force big-box stores like Wal-Mart to pay employees a living wage if they want to open locations in the city. Those efforts proved controversial in struggling neighborhoods that lack other employment opportunities.

Thindwa said:

“The opposition to the living wage was based on a couple of things... [some said] if we passed a living wage ordinance in Chicago that we're gonna drive businesses away, that Wal-Mart would not build a store in Chicago. [Some said] that when there is a job and you're out of work, you don't have the luxury to pick, you don't have the luxury to choose. And so we had to convince people that, no, it wasn’t just about a job, you know – the job has to be dignified, has to have meaning. Furthermore, corporations don't have a right to exploit people in a neighborhood just because those people are desperate, just because they're vulnerable, just because they're jobless. The task for us was to go out and talk to our allies and to convince them, to give them a good reason why this was not an obstructionist proposal, but that in fact this is in the long-term interest of the city and of its communities.”

The JOURNAL story noted that Chicago’s leading newspapers, the SUN-TIMES and the TRIBUNE, ran numerous opinion pieces against the proposed living wage ordinance. In one column, published May 10th, 2004, the CHICAGO TRIBUNE’s Dennis Byrne wrote:

“In a society in which ‘choice’ is regarded as the greatest civic right, it is hard to imagine why 700 people and their families should be deprived of jobs, which, in their wisdom, they choose to accept. In a stunning act of paternalism, they are being told that they shouldn’t work there “for their own good”... I assume that those who oppose Wal-Mart will have some other, perfect alternative lined up to take Wal-Mart’s place as an economic and job generator in those neighborhoods. Or even a not-so-good alternative. Or any alternative. You know they won’t, because they’re too busy hanging on to their jobs as ‘activists,’ by creating a monster and then turning a mob on it.”

What do you think?

  • Are activists’ efforts to mandate a living wage worth the risk of repelling businesses that might otherwise locate in struggling areas? Why or why not?

  • James Thindwa states that “the job has to be dignified, has to have meaning.” To what extent, if any, do you think that the current economic crisis affects his expectation? Explain.

  • Do You Trust the Federal Reserve?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with journalist William Greider about the state of the economy and his thoughts on the Obama administration's plans for recovery... Greider said:

    "I think it’s pretty well understood in Washington that the administration and the treasury secretary would like to give this to the Federal Reserve. The Federal Reserve, as many people know, is a sort of unique cloistered institution of government that is insulated from political accountability and usually quite secretive. My accusation is that it tipped its favor hard in favor of capitalism and against labor over the last 25 to 30 years, and become a kind of cheerleader under Alan Greenspan for all the excesses and so-called modernization that are now in ruin. Just as a matter of logic, why would we want to give more power to a governing institution that was already supposed to defend the ‘safety and soundness of the system?’... The Federal Reserve, because it is so close to the major banks, did what it could to help those financial institutions and, bluntly, betrayed its public obligation."

    What do you think? Do you trust the Federal Reserve to manage the economy in the public interest? Why or why not?

    Michael Winship: That’s No Angry Mob, It’s a Movement

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    That’s No Angry Mob, It’s a Movement
    By Michael Winship

    A college friend of mine, after much quaffing from the keg, so to speak, would start singing a faux hymn that began, “We are sliding into sin – whee!”

    I’ve thought of his bleary tune from time to time as we all watched our financial institutions slide from thoughtless, wretched excess into calamity, aided and abetted by deregulation and bailouts, dragging the rest of us along on their speed bump-free ride.

    You’d think there would be a modicum of contrition but mostly it has been deny, deny, deny combined with shivers of revulsion as an angry citizenry freely expresses its opinion. Former Clinton SEC chairman Arthur Levitt sniffed to THE WALL STREET JOURNAL this week, “It has reached extremes of incivility that are intolerable,” and on Friday the JOURNAL editorially wrung its hands over “political Torquemadas” who would dare to prosecute Wall Street executives.

    See here, you people, the seemingly dumfounded elite ask, why all this hollering? Well, it wasn’t only those AIG bonuses that had folks mad as hell. For sure, they triggered the outburst last week. But then came an ABC News report that JPMorgan Chase – recipient of 25 billion in bailout bucks, courtesy of taxpayers – was pressing ahead with plans to spend $138 million dollars on two new corporate jets and a place to park them – a state of the art hangar with a “vegetated roof garden.” Presumably, bank executives will use the vegetation to hide behind when the mob arrives with tar and feathers.

    And speaking of greenery, Wednesday’s NEW YORK TIMES reported that last year 25 top hedge fund managers harvested salaries totaling 11.6 billion dollars. That’s an awful lot of lettuce in these hungry times, especially when, as the TIMES calculates, hedge funds have lost an average 18 percent of their value.

    By Thursday, Treasury Secretary Geithner was talking tough to Congress. He called for a vast expansion of government authority, promising to crack down on Wall Street’s reckless behavior, including the murky markets of hedge funds and derivatives. He proposed “comprehensive reform – not modest repairs at the margin, but new rules of the game.”

    But veteran Washington journalist Wllliam Greider, who has covered government, politics and the economy for four decades, fears that what Geithner and the Obama administration are proposing may not create reform but simply perpetuate more of the same and even lead to the creation of what he calls “a corporate state… a rather small but very powerful circle of financial institutions... Yes, watched closely by the Federal Reserve and others in government, but also protected by them. And that's a really insidious departure.”

    He expressed his concern to my colleague Bill Moyers in an interview for the current edition of BILL MOYERS JOURNAL on PBS. Greider agrees with most experts that the Geithner plan will end up placing reform in the hands of the Federal Reserve Board.

    Twenty years ago, Greider wrote Secrets of the Temple: How the Federal Reserve Runs the Country, still considered the definitive account of the government bank. “One of the attractive qualities about the Fed is that it is this black box of technocratic expertise,” he told Moyers. “And it knows things the rest of us don't know. And it's very expert at what it does… But it's a political institution. It makes public decisions for the rest of us. So to pretend that it's above all that is nonsense from the beginning...

    “They couldn’t stop deregulation,” he continued. “In fact, they supported it, because they knew their major constituencies in finance and banking were all very much for it... So to tell them now ‘Wouldn’t you like to just admit your mistake and put back some of the collateral lending functions into your control?’ I don’t trust them to do that.”

    What we ought to be seeking, Greider believes, “is creating a new financial and banking system, of many more, thousands more, smaller, more diverse, regionally dispersed banks and investment firms. The first obligation is to serve the economy and serve society. Not the other way around.

    As for President Obama, “I understand his political dilemma. And I sympathize with it. But he's trying to govern by convincing people that we will be able to get the old good times back. And my view is that the good times ain't comin' back. For lots of reasons – including the ecological crisis and global warming and the weakness of our economy. This is the hard part. The sooner the country comes to terms with that, acknowledges it as fact, not just fear, then we can start this great era of reform and revitalizing the country and society.”

    In his new book, Come Home, America: The Rise and Fall (and Redeeming Promise) of Our Country, William Greider sees the public’s anger as good news for the country – “America the Possible,” he calls it.

    “We're at a break point in our history,” he said. “And it's not just the financial system, although that's front and center. It's the deteriorated economy, it's militarism looking out in the world, trying to find the next war. It's a lot of things coming at us, all at once. I believe, on the other side of all of these adversities, we can become a better country.

    But to make that happen, Greider thinks, “People at large, I don't care whether they're middle class or upper class or working poor or union, non-union, have to find ways to come together themselves, perhaps in very small groups at first, and talk about their own stuff. Their experiences, their ideas their convictions, their aspirations for the country, themselves, their families, and then broaden out a bit, laterally. And have more people in the discussion. They don't have to become a giant organization, but they have to convince themselves that they're citizens…

    “That's kind of the mystery of democracy. People get power if they believe they're entitled to power.”

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    March 20, 2009

    Facing Historical Vertigo?

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with author Mike Davis for a socialist perspective on the world’s daunting economic situation. Davis referenced a column he wrote for TomDispatch.com likening today’s perspective on the crisis to when Europeans first saw the Grand Canyon. The column read:

    “[One] expedition included a well-known German artist, but his sketch of the Canyon was wildly distorted, almost hysterical. [None of the early Europeans] could make sense of what they saw; they were simply overwhelmed by unexpected revelation. In a fundamental sense, they were blind because they lacked the concepts necessary to organize a coherent vision of an utterly new landscape... It took years of brilliant fieldwork to construct a conceptual framework for taking in the canyon... [before] it was finally possible for raw perception to be transformed into consistent vision... Like the Grand Canyon's first explorers, we are looking into an unprecedented abyss of economic and social turmoil that confounds our previous perceptions of historical risk. Our vertigo is intensified by our ignorance of the depth of the crisis or any sense of how far we might ultimately fall.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Davis that the current crisis represents “an unprecedented abyss of economic and social turmoil” that is beyond the present level of human understanding? Why or why not?

  • Davis suggests that the economic crisis defies the scope of our current understanding. Are there other issues with vast significance that most people simply can not comprehend?

  • The Cycle of Abuse

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    In this week's JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with Marta B. Pelaez, who runs an agency for women and children who have been victimized by domestic abuse. Moyers asked Pelaez why so many women go back repeatedly to partners that have injured them physically and emotionally.

    Pelaez said:

    “At the beginning, they don't see very well the level of trauma that they have sustained, and that has been progressive, over a lifetime, in many instances... We are, as human beings, beings of custom. We are accustomed to something. We have made some adjustments to adjust to a certain situation, as awful and as ugly as that may be. So it is difficult for them... If you stay in an abusive situation one year, the likelihood of your staying a second year grows exponentially... Why? Because the progressive nature of domestic violence is one that begins in a very subtle way... It's about isolating the person from the relatives, from friends, so that he can exercise more and more abuse. And then, eventually, it becomes the physical thing. It becomes the dramatic thing that we see on the newspapers. But in order to get to that point, the abuse has been going on for a long time."

    What do you think?

  • Does Pelaez’s explanation correspond with your own experiences and/or observations of domestic abuse? How?

  • Pelaez describes a progression of more and more dehumanization over time. Is this dynamic applicable to situations other than domestic abuse, such as business or politics? Explain.

    For more information, please visit our resources page on domestic violence.

  • March 13, 2009

    Compassion, Idols, and Ideals

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with religious scholar Karen Armstrong about her efforts to promote understanding between cultures. Armstrong suggested that human nature has an inherent tension between compassion and the desire that one’s views be the absolute truth:

    “Compassion doesn’t mean feeling sorry for people. It doesn’t mean pity. It means putting yourself in the position of the other, learning about the other, learning what’s motivating the other, learning about their grievances... The three monotheisms – Judaism, Christianity and Islam – have a besetting tendency: that is idolatry, taking a human idea of God, a human doctrine, and making it absolute, putting it in the place of God. Now, there have been secular idolatries too. Nationalism was a great idolatry. The state can be... We are constantly creating these idols, erecting a purely human ideal or value to the supreme reality. Once you’ve made something essentially finite, once you’ve made it an absolute, it has to then destroy any rival claimants, because there can only be one absolute... And we get a lot of secular people doing this too... I think the so-called liberals can also be just as hard-lined in their own way.”

    What do you think?

  • Do you agree with Armstrong that humanity elevates its ideals to idols representing “the supreme reality?” Why or why not?

  • Have well-intentioned values, like compassion and intercultural understanding, themselves become idols? Explain.

  • How do you balance compassion and empathy for others’ experience with working towards your core beliefs?

  • Michael Winship: The Brave, Living and Dead

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    The Brave, Living and Dead
    By Michael Winship

    In this bicentennial year of Abraham Lincoln’s birth, I recently was re-reading part of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s epic history, TEAM OF RIVALS. Once again it was stunning to see the number of casualties during the Civil War, the dead and wounded in four years of fighting exponentially outnumbering the American men and women killed and wounded in Iraq and Afghanistan over six and a half years of combat.

    On both sides of the Civil War, 618,000 were killed, although some estimate as many as 700,000. In just the three days of the Battle of Gettysburg, July 1863 – more than 51,000 dead and wounded. Chickamauga, Georgia, 2 days, September 1863, nearly 35,000. Chancellorsville, Virginia, four days, May 1863, more than 30,000. And on and on.

    “The war took young, healthy men and rapidly, often instantly, destroyed them with disease or injury,” Drew Gilpin Faust notes in her 2008 book THE REPUBLIC OF SUFFERING: DEATH AND THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR. “… Loss became commonplace; death was no longer encountered individually; death’s threat, its proximity and its actuality became the most widely shared of the war’s experiences.”

    Up until that time, Faust writes, the U.S. Army had neither regular burial details nor grave-registration units. Such duties “seemed always to be an act of improvisation.” Often the townspeople in or near a battleground wound up with the task. Many of the enlisted went unidentified, their bodies hastily placed in mass graves for fear of disease.

    Contrast that with the painstaking care given each of the dead today when they arrive from Iraq or Afghanistan at the Carson Center for Mortuary Affairs, the joint military facility headquartered at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware. Bodies and personal effects are thoroughly washed and cleansed, dress uniforms are individually tailored for the corpse, even the individual’s wristwatch is carefully set to the time at the location where they fell. When each body is ready to leave Dover, all the service personnel at the mortuary stop what they’re doing and form a line along the driveway, giving a slow, ceremonial salute as the hearse passes by.

    I learned this a few weeks ago, when I happened on the telecast of the HBO made-for-TV movie, TAKING CHANCE, the true story of Marine Lieutenant Colonel Michael Strobl – played in the film by Kevin Bacon – who in 2004 escorted the body of Lance Corporal Chance Phelps, killed in Al Anbar Province, Iraq, to its final resting place in Dubois, Wyoming.

    I knew about the film but hadn’t made plans to watch it. Nonetheless, coming upon it by accident I was totally pulled in by the eloquent simplicity of the script, its attention to detail and lack of melodrama, the poignancy of Strobl and Phelps’ stories and the people “they” meet as Lt. Col. Strobl accompanies the body on its final, cross-country journey. (You can continue to see the film through this month, at various times, well worth the fewer than 90 minutes it takes to view. Check the schedule at HBO.com.)

    Coincidentally, the film’s release came at the same time as the Pentagon’s announcement that it was lifting the ban on photographs and videos of bodies arriving at Dover, a proscription that had been in place since the first Gulf War in 1991. A similar renewed openness is taking place as the military and the Department of Veterans Affairs become more candid about suicide and PTSD, post traumatic stress disorder.

    Alarmed by the increasing rate of suicide, the Army has begun releasing monthly numbers, in addition to the annual reports produced in the past. 2008 was a record high – 128 confirmed suicides and 15 under investigation. The rate has been increasing steadily since 2004.

    Last month, there were 18 suspected suicides, up from 11 the previous year. In January there were 24, up from five in January 2008. According to the Associated Press, “Usually the vast majority of suspected suicides are eventually confirmed, and if that holds true it would mean that self-inflicted deaths surpassed the 16 combat deaths [in January] reported in all branches of the armed forces in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations considered part of the global war on terror.”

    The Army’s suicide rate is now exceeding the U.S. civilian rate, for the first time since the military began keeping records in 1980.

    “Why do the numbers keep going up?” Army Secretary Peter Geren asked rhetorically at a press conference last month. “We cannot tell you.”
    Experts say PTSD is a big reason – the RAND Center for Military Health Policy Research estimates that 19 percent of all the troops who have served in Iraq or Afghanistan suffer from it, some 300,000 men and women.

    Others point to the high rate of redeployment. According to a new report in the BOSTON PHOENIX newspaper, “With the number of personnel that have served in the two theaters reaching nearly 1.8 million, critics estimate that one-third have served multiple deployments.” With that redeployment comes incredible stress and anxiety, not only on the battlefield but back home, where marriages and other relationships collapse from the strain.

    This past fall, the Army announced a $50 million, five year joint study of suicide with the National Institute of Mental Health. And this week, the service will be wrapping up a month-long training program to help soldiers recognize suicidal behaviors in their comrades.

    But much more needs to be done. “We keep getting studies,” Rep. John Murtha, chair of the House defense appropriations committee said at a March 3rd hearing. “That’s the problem with the Defense Department – they study it to death.”

    What’s more, according to an Army Medical Department’s 2008 report, 33 percent of the troops in Afghanistan and 21.8 percent in Iraq say when it comes to mental health, their leaders discourage them from seeking help.

    That has to stop. We must treat the living as respectfully as we do the dead.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    March 10, 2009

    Michael Winship: Oh, What a Lovely Class War!

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    Below is an article by JOURNAL senior writer Michael Winship. We welcome your comments below.

    Oh, What a Lovely Class War!
    By Michael Winship

    My goodness, how they howl when the proverbial shoe is on the proverbial other foot. You’d think the Red Army had just left Moscow and was preparing a frontal assault on the Federal Reserve.

    So what are conservatives, Wall Street and financial television commentators shouting? Socialists! That's right. Spread the word: Socialists are swarming over our nation's capitol, and making off with the means of production, otherwise known as campaign contributions and the Federal budget. You got trouble, my friends.

    The hysteria started during the campaign, retreated a bit but was back full throttle by the day after the inauguration. President Obama’s left hand was barely off Abraham Lincoln’s Bible as South Carolina Senator Jim DeMint told the January 21st edition of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL, “What I'm looking to do as a conservative leader in the Senate is to identify those Republicans, and even some Democrats, and put together a consensus of people who can help stop this slide toward socialism.”

    Newt Gingrich, resurrected yet again, proclaims his Contract on America has been cancelled and replaced by Barack Obama's “European socialism.” Josh Bolin, founder of the conservative website Reagan.org, is quoted in THE NEW YORK TIMES, saying, “Socialism is something new for us to hit Obama over the head with,” and a panel at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference was titled, “Bailing Out Big Business: Are We All Socialists Now?”

    And what do all these pesky socialists coming out from the woodwork want? Why, class war, of course. Arise, ye workers from your slumbers, at least in time to watch early morning TV. On THE TODAY SHOW last week, CNBC’s Jim Cramer alleged that President Obama was perpetrating ‘an agenda in this country now that I would regard as being a radical agenda,” adding, “This is the most, greatest wealth destruction I've seen by a president.”

    Joan Walsh of Salon.com noted several hundred references to Obama and “class warfare” when she searched the words on Google News at the beginning of March and wondered “why are mainstream reporters pushing this storyline?”

    The truth is, there’s nothing new about any of this. A famous New Deal-era cartoon in THE NEW YORKER shows Manhattan swells in black tie urging neighbors to, “Come along. We’re going to the Trans-Lux to hiss Roosevelt.” And as financial historian Charles Geisst told the TIMES, “To hear [FDR] referred to as Comrade Roosevelt during that period was not unusual.”

    But although Obama embraces FDR analogies, in some respects he’s a piker by comparison. THE COLUMBIA JOURNALISM REVIEW linked to a chart from the National Taxpayers Union and noted, “The top marginal rate of 39.6 percent that Obama is proposing is actually low by historical standards—he may be adopting FDR-style rhetoric, but his tax plan isn’t in the same ballpark. And it wasn’t only Roosevelt. Throughout the Eisenhower administration, top tax rates exceeded 90 percent. Under Nixon, they never dropped below 70 percent. Even for most of Ronald Reagan’s term, they were at 50 percent. Those presidents aren’t often thought of as ‘class warriors.’”

    Nor did Democrats or progressives fire the first shots in any so-called class war. As the recently poorer multibillionaire Warren Buffet said a couple of years ago, “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”

    America wasn’t founded as a nation where winner takes all but over the last couple of decades, that’s the way it has turned out. The central vision of “We, the people” has been distorted and manipulated by the powerful and privileged doing their damnedest as they wage class war to sustain their way of life at the expense of everybody else, even in this current crisis.

    “Sold Out: How Wall Street and Washington Betrayed America,” a report released last week by the non-profit citizen’s group Essential Information and the Consumer Education Foundation finds that “from 1998-2008, Wall Street investment firms, commercial banks, hedge funds, real estate companies and insurance conglomerates made $1.7 billion in political contributions and spent another $3.4 billion on lobbyists, a financial juggernaut aimed at undercutting federal regulation.”

    According to Harvey Rosenfield, president of the Consumer Education Foundation, “Depression-era programs that would have prevented the financial meltdown that began last year were dismantled, and the warnings of those who foresaw disaster were drowned in an ocean of political money. Americans were betrayed, and we are paying a high price – trillions of dollars – for that betrayal.”

    The truth of the matter may be that, as Nate Silver wrote at FiveThirtyEight.com, “The stock market is engaged in something of a pity party – the prevailing emotions being fear and loathing. It is concerned about policies which might be burdensome to equity holders in large corporations while perhaps nevertheless being boons to economic recovery.”

    Add to that a heavy dose of petulance, arrogance and malice stirred further by any attempt at curtailing their rice pudding days. While the dives in the stock markets are real enough, the screams and rending of bespoke garments carry more than the hint of self-inflicted wounds, in the manner of spoiled kids saying “I meant to do that,” when they break a toy, even though this administration is seeking solutions by joining hands with the very financial institutions that got us into the jam in the first place – including private equity firms and hedge funds.

    Cries of Socialism! – with their insinuations of sedition and Bolsheviks under the bedstead – ring hollow, especially with the threat of global Communism 20 years past and many in the financial world opting for expediency over ideology. The basic truth is that there are no easy answers, no quick fixes, no kiss to the body politic that will make it all better.

    Nonetheless, they lash out, flailing madly, saddling up straw horses and conjuring memories of McCarthy-like witch hunts, desperate to point the finger at anyone but themselves.

    Please note that the views and opinions expressed by Michael Winship are not necessarily the views and opinions held by Bill Moyers or BILL MOYERS JOURNAL.

    Bill Moyers Booklist

    Bill Moyers shares the books on his current reading list:

    John Grisham's THE ASSOCIATE. A posse of investigative journalists would be hard pressed to dig out the truth about our legal system revealed in a riveting read of fewer than 400 furiously turned pages.

  • View Bill Moyers interview with John Grisham

    THE GREAT FINANCIAL CRISIS: CAUSES AND CONSEQUENCES, by John Bellamy Foster and Fred Magdoff. With all the charges of "socialist" hurled at Barack Obama from the howling back benches, I decided it was time to find out what some real socialists are saying about the crisis of monopoly capitalism. It's a short book long on insight.

  • More on the financial crisis

    THE FIVE LOST DAYS, by my colleague William Petrick, a fine journalist turned novelist whose story of filmmaking in the jungles of Guatemala makes me grateful for all the close calls I avoided in a lifetime of reporting documentaries. It's quite an experience he concocts, utterly believable -- and downright scary.

    Charles Taylor's A SECULAR AGE. Because I'm planning to interview the author, winner of the 2007 Templeton Prize (and protege of Isaiah Berlin), I began this 900-page tome as an act of professional duty, only to discover, with much delight, that every page is a baptism of insight. It will take months to finish, obviously, but this is not a subject to be hurried. Taylor writes as if he is sitting across the table, taking you as seriously as he does the real world of faith and reason.


    Also, check out what books viewers suggested for the new president's bedside table -- and tell us your own required reading by commenting below.

  • March 6, 2009

    The Enduring Power of Poetry

    (Photo by Robin Holland)

    This week on the JOURNAL, Bill Moyers spoke with actor and author John Lithgow about his work and the enduring power of great poetry. Lithgow, best known for starring in NBC's hit show 3RD ROCK FROM THE SUN as well as a wide array of other roles on stage and screen, said:

    “The magic of archaic language, I think, [is] it sort of takes us back in time. It’s the beauty of Shakespeare, it’s his turn of phrase in a language that’s 400 years old, and it’s like music. I’m an actor, I’m a performer and an entertainer. Almost everything I do in these areas is using words, and there are these three aspects to a turn of phrase: the meaning, the emotion, and the music... Shakespeare has the line “Ay, but to die, and go we know not where; to lie in cold obstruction and to rot.” That’s language of 400 years ago, but the music of that language and the emotion and the thought is just as compelling. It’s just a very different type of music – it’s like listening to Eric Satie and Bach.”

    What are your favorite poems?

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