Conversations with Bill Moyers are not just a must-watch; they’re also a good read. Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues, Bill Moyers’ hand-picked collection of conversations from his unique and award-winning public affairs series Bill Moyers Journal, is now available in paperback.
Covering some of the most relevant and memorable moments from the show, the book also features new introductions for each guest, written by Bill Moyers. The diverse guest list includes Howard Zinn, Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Jon Stewart, Wendell Potter, W.S. Merwin, John Grisham, Jane Goodall, James K. Galbraith, Barbara Ehrenreich, and Louise Erdrich. (See a full list of Conversation guests)
More than just a standard collection of interviews, The Conversation Continues encompasses a remarkable three years in American history: not just the final years of the Bush White House, but the turbulent 2008 presidential campaign culminating in the election of our first African American president; the first 15 months of the Obama administration with is fierce debates over health care, financial reform, and escalating the Afghan war; and of course, the financial collapse. Many of the ideas were remarkably prescient about events that lay ahead.
The ideas expressed cover a vast variety of disciplines in the arts and humanities, science, politics and economics, philosophy and theology, including great poems by Nikki Giovanni, Robert Bly, W.S. Merwin and Martin Espada; pioneering animal research of Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson; and the wit of Jon Stewart. These are people whose views you don’t often hear in the mainstream media. Here, they’re given time to talk — a chance you don’t often get in this world of the ten-second soundbite.
Below is official introduction to Bill Moyers Journal: The Conversation Continues. The book is available at bookstores, as well as online sites including Amazon.com, Powell’s, and Barnes & Noble.
by Bill Moyers and Michael Winship
As the French aristocrat Alexis de Tocqueville came off the boat in New York in 1831 to begin his famous tour of the fledgling America, he was greeted with tumult. Had there been a tourist bureau at the dock, the banner of greeting might have read: “Welcome to democracy! Protect your own sanity. Bring your own earplugs.”
Even now, all these years later, that tumult – the cacophony of a fractious, insatiable and rambunctious people – is no less bewildering. Our national dissonance continues to play havoc with journalists trying to make sense of it. When we returned to PBS with Bill Moyers Journal in the spring of 2007, we knew, as always, that we were in for a romp, arduous yet invigorating. And our time on the air coincided with momentous events: the final years of the Bush White House, the turbulent 2008 election campaign that culminated in the election of America’s first African-American president, the first fifteen months of the Obama administration (including fierce national debates over health care, financial reform, and the escalation of the war in Afghanistan), and the worst global economic meltdown since the Great Depression.
We covered all of these as journalists, not oracles, our eyes fixed on the moment. But events that seemed singular, even isolated, turned out to be part of a procession with consequences not immediately discernible. Yet it is now evident that the independent thinkers we kept talking to foresaw much of what the country is experiencing today. Simon Johnson and James K. Galbraith told us that in the aftershocks of the financial earthquake those responsible for it would continue to prosper, resisting new regulations and picking profit from the ruins of the lives they had helped shatter. Wendell Potter, the health insurance executive turned health care reformer, prepared us for the glass-half-empty compromise that would follow. The physician-turned-activist, Margaret Flowers, while heartening in her willingness to organize and advocate, anticipated the futility of fighting, much less hoping, for public health insurance that would make Medicare available to all.
The Washington Post’s Robert Kaiser described how the power of money and lobbyists, given their greed and political clout, would undoubtedly frustrate true reform. The historian Andrew Bacevich, West Point graduate and Vietnam veteran, warned that the excesses of empire and hubris were reaching a point of no return. Sam Tanenhaus, Victor Gold, Ross Douthat and Mickey Edwards spoke about the death of traditional conservatism but saw in its throes the rage that emerged in Tea Party candidacies and the resurgence of the Right in the 2010 midterm elections.
This is a book of ideas and – we hope! — stimulating conversation, one into which you can dip in or out of at will. It exists because the issues and ideas we discussed remain pertinent in the here and now; their significance did not end when the closing credits rolled. We still must struggle with the corruption of power and money so deep and systemic within our government and society, and the vast chasm of inequality between rich and poor that is the consequence of that corruption. As James K.Galbraith said recently, our democracy increasingly is one ruled by an “extremely small number of the extremely fortunate, which is not a democracy at all.”
These stories and conflicts do not die. The health care reform story is far from over, as the Republican leadership and the insurance industry vow to have it changed or completely repealed – read, “destroyed.” And we continue to debate and despair as young American men and women die n faraway places; we worry about poverty, hunger and the quality of the food we eat; the degeneration of our cities and the education system; race politics and injustice; human rights and torture during an age of terrorism; the war between Palestinians and Israelis; aging in America; capital punishment and a blighted penal system; the conflict over gay marriage and the politicization of our courts. All of these and more are reflected in these pages.
But we also know that too much tumult is hard on the nerves. And while the political upheavals and economic woes were foremost on just about everyone’s minds, we at the Journal took regular breaks to protect our – and our viewers’ – sanity. Indeed, our first guest was Jon Stewart, whose wit is a contagious conveyor of wisdom; our last was the writer Barry Lopez, who never mentioned politics but left us thinking about how to endure the bleakness it sometimes visits upon us and how to seek the justice that truly should be its end. In between these two, Robert Bly, Nikki Giovanni, W. S. Merwin, Martín Espada and John Lithgow read poetry and opened breathing room amidst the clamor and dissonance around us; Jane Goodall brought a smile to the heart as she talked about what chimpanzees teach us about coping with the tumult; Maxine Hong Kingston quickened our longing for books of peace; and E. O. Wilson reminded us, amidst all the clashing of political egos and gnashing of pundit teeth, that it’s “the little things that run the world.” When we did return to politics, as duty so often required, there were harbingers of hope – from the historians Howard Zinn and Nell Painter, to the populist Jim Hightower, who spoke of Americans in our past who did not give up when democracy was on the ropes. Their “fighting spirit” might once again turn the past to prologue.
These are a few of the conversations awaiting you within these pages. There were many more on the Journal – especially those focused so exclusively on the week’s events – that we could not include. All were of value and we are thankful for each one.
This book, like the Journal itself, is the love’s labor of many. Neither would have happened except for the leadership of our executive editor, Judith Davidson Moyers, and our executive producers, Judy Doctoroff O’Neill and Sally Roy. They fielded a remarkably talented team of so many standouts that we can’t mention them all, but we are especially indebted to Rebecca Wharton and Ana Cohen Bickford for their ability to recognize and recruit some of the best thinkers in the country to appear on the broadcast. Helen Silfven and Ismael Gonzalez worked for months to help bring this book to fruition. Robin Holland took the wonderful portraits that graced the broadcasts, our Website, and now these pages.
There wouldn’t have been a Journal in the first place except for the individuals and organizations that provided the funding and asked nothing in return but the best journalism we could offer. They include John and Polly Guth and The Partridge Foundation; the Park Foundation; the Marisla Foundation; the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation; the Fetzer Institute; the Herb Alpert Foundation; Marilyn and Bob Clements and The Clements Foundation; The Kohlberg Foundation; Bernard and Audre Rapoport and the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation; Barbara Fleischman; Lillian and Jon Lovelace; the Orfalea Family Foundation; the Public Welfare Foundation; The Cornelia and Michael Bessie Foundation; and our sole corporate sponsor for 20 years, Mutual of America Life Insurance Company.
The Public Welfare Foundation, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Herb Alpert Foundation and the Marisla Foundation provided special funding for the creation and publication of this book. We are deeply grateful to Marc Favreau and the team at The New Press for wanting to continue the conversation.