After almost 18 years, a unique, compassionate voice and champion for the nameless, faceless downtrodden will be silenced. Bob Herbert wrote his last column for the New York Times on Friday March 25th. Who will replace him and become that voice for those who need one most?
How appropriate that his last column was entitled "LOSING OUR WAY". Through the years Bob traveled near and far to shine a much needed light on an individual or a community that had lost its way and was no longer sharing in the American dream, a dream now becoming more and more elusive. His writing elicited graphic images that stirred the soul, like a hungry child in a cabin in Georgia, an abused teen anywhere, a decaying city, an ill member in a desperate family unable to afford medical care, a wrongfully jailed innocent. Endless stories of those who would otherwise be forgotten, yet we came to know all of them by name through his words. He made us pause and think and care; we found a little more of our humanity in every Herbert story.
In his closing column Bob wrote of the growing distance between the haves and have nots, and the disgrace of no taxes being paid by corporate giant GE last year, despite profits of $14.2 billion. GE is just one of the many corporations that continue to plunder our nation, aided by offshore money laundering scams that rob our nation of the resources we need to take care of our own and build a better society.
He further noted the redistribution of wealth upward, aided by a willfully blind and compliant Congress. America has lost its moral compass with endless and increasing wars, staggering unemployment, unprecedented corporate power and our obsession with foreign oil -- the issues seems to mount daily. Bob lists an extensive laundry list of national transgressions, and while we remain a nation of incredible wealth, most of the workers who create that wealth are left out, with little to show for their efforts beyond low and declining wages and a rapidly fading American dream. Bob has never been wrong in saying it like it is, and for that we should all be grateful.
At the end of his column he noted: "New ideas and new leadership have seldom been more urgently needed." A sobering final statement.
Now, he is off to write a book and continue working for a better tomorrow for the poor and those who "struggle in our society." No one will replace Bob Herbert at the Times, and that is our great loss, for his kind of journalism is a rarity. But, we will be watching and waiting to see what this journalists' journalist -- and our friend -- comes up with. I suspect it will be worth the wait. Could it mean even a run for office?
Good luck, Bob Herbert, and happy trails. Thanks for a great final column -- even if it was bleak and depressing -- and for your e-mail address. Our expectations of you will remain high, and we will remain in touch.