Saturday was Bob Herbert's last column for The New York Times. The Times, the world of journalism, and all of us who want to make the world a better place, are the poorer for it. We can only be comforted by the fact that he has clearly signaled his intention to keep writing and working on behalf of ordinary people.
I have been an admirer of Bob Herbert, and of his columns, for so many reasons. Here are just a few of the qualities that have made his writing so important:
- He listens, truly listens to the stories, lives, and voices of ordinary people. He writes about people unjustly accused by the criminal justice system, of people unjustly victimized by the predatory practices that characterize so much of our economy, of the lives ruined by war.
- He writes about what is important, and fundamental, like the people whose dream of a middle class life for themselves and their children is slipping away, and the "unconscionable" ways inequality is eating away at our society and our soul.
- He refuses to heed the constraints of the world of "excluded alternatives." The fact that some ideas -- like raising taxes, expanding services for poor and working people, ignoring the deficit hawks in favor of real social investment -- are "off the table" in our political debate is exactly why we have needed journalists like Bob to try to expand those boundaries and help us do the right thing as a nation.
The work Bob Herbert has done and will continue to do should be honored by us all. I am proud to say that on June 7, Demos will present Bob Herbert with a Transforming America Award at our annual event in New York. So we'll have lots more to say about him then. But today seems like a really good day to start saying "Thanks, Bob."