The Happiness of Self Expression
TRIBUTE TO JOURNALISTS AND COMMENTATORS
By RAYMOND GRAM SWING, Radio Commentator
Delivered over Blue Network upon acceptance of the Alfred I. DuPont 1943 Radio Award
(Not dated. Assigned May 31, 1943.)
Vital Speeches of the Day, Vol. X, pp. 541-542.
THE bestowal of the DuPont Radio Award is an action in which I participate with a full appreciation of its general intent, in that it is a recognition of a profession and of its vital part in our national life and focuses attention upon one special quality of the work of that profession, its responsibility. For my part, I feel indeed honored to be considered one of those who have served the profession responsibly, and to be identified tonight as a representative of the many who have done so. The gathering and analysis of news for a nation is no
less a part of its existence than the passage and enforcement of its laws, and the administration of its national affairs. The freedom of a nation can be judged by the freedom of its legislature and judiciary; it can be judged just as clearly by the freedom of its press and radio. Indeed, legislature and judiciary cannot be free where public discussion is not free.
It is in the nature of a democracy that its formally-chosen servants are answerable to the public, and can be removed at the polls, or if need be by legal procedure. Yet there is no removal for custodians of free expression. They have to qualify for their vital role in democratic life by their individual sense of responsibility. Journalists without this conscience can prey upon the life of a nation and seek to curtail its liberties. And H the liberties of a people are safe, as the liberties of this country continue to be, this is because individual journalists have known their responsibility, and have measured the fullness of their freedom to the measures of their responsibility.
To some extent, all professions are both highly individual and highly interdependent. Law and medicine, for example, are a composite contribution of innumerable individuals. This is still more true of journalism. The gathering and distribution of news is the work of many myriads of persons, each one of whom must adhere to right standards if the truth of the whole is not to be impaired. Even what may appear as the most individual of all the journalistic functions, the analysis of news, is utterly dependent on professional cooperation. No man's judgment is his own in a creative sense. It is a compilation of the judgments of many individuals, who in turn have compiled and adopted and modified the judgments of still more individuals. And what a man thinks becomes his own only in the sense that he accepts responsibility for it. That being so, an occasion like this one, is a recognition of the work of a great army of public servants. This army, being unofficial, does not come before the nation at stated times for approval or disapproval. And if does its work, in the main, not for honor or thanks, but for the happiness of self-expression. If we can look out tonight upon America, troubled though it is, and find it exercising its liberties, a part of its safety must be attributed, not only to its constitution, its laws and its government institutions, but to the individual standards of its journalists.
In the war, in which the continuation of our free life is at stake, the journalists of this country have gone about their work with the enlarged effort and the increased willingness to sacrifice which the crisis has called for. American correspondents have died at the front, many have accepted unspeakable hardships in the line of duty, not suffering for their newspapers or press associations or networks, but in the performance of their work as free men, finding the service of this freedom being worth any cost whatever, the risk of life. included. To them, then, is honor to be paid as the bright heroes of their profession and of the nation. They have demonstrated their responsibility. They have cared about individualism, personal initiative and the service of Americanism with quiet, unadvertised devotion, and they are part of the conscience of the rest of us in the profession, who will strive to be responsible like them. better life for all.
The unfolding of these possibilities is going to be long nd slow and a rather painful process. But if we face up > our postwar responsibilities with the same resolution, mrage and will to win that so many men and women have splayed during the past four frightful years, ft will at ast be possible to avoid much of the suffering and chaos Mt previously characterized the transition from war to ace or shall we say from war to war. The proceedings of this Conference and particularly e conclusions which have been reached convince me, as
I am sure they convince the world that this responsibility is fully and widely accepted. Let us not deceive ourselves as to the difficulties which lie ahead. Serious men and women will see these difficulties, will determine to overcome themó will devote to this task all the goodwill, the energy, the skill, imagination and inventive genius at their command.
There will be times when the problems seem insoluble. There were times during the Conference when the prospects of reaching general agreement on the road that should be followed seemed remote. Yet there was scarcely a major issue discussed in Committees, in Plenary Sessions, in Group Meetings, on which in due course an accepted basis of agreement was not reached.
As the days passed, and the work of the Committees continued, understanding between the delegates grew more and more. This growing understanding, I believe, was reflected in the spirit with which the Committees carried out their work. It also contributed tremendously to the completeness with which the Committees reported on the matters referred to them and to the surprising unanimity with which theit recommendations were accepted.
These recommendations and reports will, I believe, have greater significance in relation to postwar economic and social policies than the decisions of any previous international Conference of a similar kind.
It is difficult to single out any one particular achievement for special mention. It seems not too rash to predict, however,