Bill Moyers Acts Up : It Isn't Enough Being the Conscience of America; He Wants to Be an Agent of Change, Too

Marshall Blonsky is writing a book about the business and politics of information for Viking Penguin. He teaches semiotics at New York University and the New School for Social Research

The blue and magenta ceiling lights coat a high-tech set at PBS' WETA television studio with a glitzy aura. "On Bill Moyers, OK," says a technician at a console behind me. Moyers, 10 yards away, sits still as statuary, his handsome face turned in profile, a makeup woman spraying and brushing his already perfect hair. He has been through this routine for 23 years, most of them on his own terms, the journalist without a brief except the brief he sets for himself: conscience of America, some would say.

The taping resumes, and an oversize screen to Moyers' left displays Bill Clinton orating. On monitors inside the control room, the wall behind Moyers glows magisterially, like a midnight sky traced with purplish rocket trails. With Moyers as interlocutor, two best-selling political authors, William Greider and Kevin Phillips, are about to take aim at the President and big-money politics.

In quick succession, like knife thrusts, Moyers leads the two--and after them, a group of activists--in delivering the blows. They list the President's ties to corporate America and lambaste his "skimpy" attempt at campaign-finance reform; they lay out the mechanisms of lobbying, the damage done to democracy. It is typical Moyers--discourse interlaced with mini-documentaries.

Then, just after Moyers thanks his final guest, just before the credits roll, he turns toward the camera, his face a study in sober geniality, and lets slip the journalist's mask. In that famous Texas baritone, rich with gravitas , he appeals to his audience to act.

"You can work to challenge the system," he says. "Call this toll-free number. . . . Let me repeat that. . . ."

A few weeks later, "Money Talks" is the opening installment of PBS' "Bill Moyers' Journal" for 1994 and, it would seem, the opening act for the second half of the journalist's life. This is the year that Bill Moyers--in a riposte to critics who have long called him partisan--becomes an activist.

"I really believe our democracy is being auctioned off every day," he tells me days before the taping, "and that unless we address the dominance of money in politics, we're going to lose our democracy. Whatever voters want, donors can trump and negate. One of the consequences of the sabbatical"--Moyers is only recently returned from eight months off--"is to realize it's not enough just to produce television. I have also as a citizen to try to be an agent of change on at least one fundamental issue. And that issue is money politics."

A year earlier, Moyers had called me from New Hampshire. "I'm up here taping Donald Hall, the poet," he said. "He's dying. It's very moving." In those days, he was mentioning death more than a little. "I guess I've outlived my time," he had joked in November, 1992, fumbling with a ticket machine in the Washington Metro. Then, back in New York: "You should watch me interview Agnes de Mille; I want to tape her before she dies." And driving around his hometown, Marshall, Tex., his mood was sometimes funereal. "What breaks my heart," he said, pointing through the windshield at Marshall's faded downtown, "is that this next block and all on around was just one small shop after another, full of mysteries and wonders and goods from all over the world. That hotel was as bustling as Times Square." Now, he says succinctly, "It's dead."

It had been a dark season for Moyers. In October, his grandson, William Henry Moyers, was born with a serious lung defect. Moyers flew back and forth from his homes in New York and New Jersey to Atlanta, where his son and daughter-in-law live, charting the baby's progress, worrying about his namesake's tenuous hold on health. He anchored "Listening to America," a weekly campaign series of round-tables and issue pieces--many of which critiqued image-over-reality politicking--and, when it ended, looked up to see such programs all but declared passe in the supposed era of phone-in talk shows and infomercials. He had a new PBS series set for February of 1993, "Healing and the Mind" (a variation on the theme of death), but when he looked beyond that, nothing was sure.

"In the middle of the path of our life," wrote Dante to begin "The Inferno," "I found myself in a dark wood because the right way was lost." This middle is the moment when death becomes real and it produces a desire for a change of life. At the end of 1992, contemplating his upcoming sabbatical, Moyers told me he was "hoping for an encounter, someone or some experience to indicate a new way. I don't want to go on just repeating myself more efficiently," he said. His franchise, as he put it, had worn not out, but down.

Now, seemingly out of the woods, Moyers explains his new activism as "partly a function of contemplation, partly a function of age." He is charged up, passionate. Rather than retreating, as he had implied he might pre-sabbatical, he told me he is "bountifully blessed" with new plans: In the next few years, he will pursue television projects with less "intensity," but there will still be monthly "Journal" entries, plus a four-hour special on violence and a 10-part look at the Genesis Seminar, a salon at New York's Jewish Theological Seminary of America that focuses on the first book of the Bible.

And Moyers will continue to declare himself an "agent of change." "There are things I want to do other than produce television," he says. One week after "Money Talks" aired, he faxed me. An estimated 20,000 people called the 800 number, his missive said. "At least those people take citizenship seriously."

TRUTH TO TELL, BILL MOYERS POST-SABBATICAL HAS PLENTY IN COMMON with the pre-sabbatical man. The 800 number may be new, but the impulse behind it isn't.

Moyers has made a career of being Citizen Moyers, projecting the image of a private person going public in the Thomas Paine mold. Pre-TV, he might have been a crank writing letters to the editor or printing his own broadsides, a la "Common Sense." But in the postmodern age, he has seized on television (and its corollary soapboxes--book spinoffs, lectures) to pronounce his jeremiads and sing his stories of hope and healing to a never-big-enough audience. (He's sensitive about his ratings; just 2% of the nation regularly tunes into PBS.)

Moyers' life journey started in Hugo, Okla., and Marshall, Tex., where his family moved when he was 3. At the Marshall News Messenger, he was a cub reporter after school, and at the Central Baptist Church, an active member. In 1959, he was ordained a Baptist minister, but he followed instead another calling and became a politician's apprentice, working for Lyndon B. Johnson during Johnson's Senate years and his presidency. After Moyers resigned from Johnson's White House, he became a newspaper publisher, at Newsday in New York, and then a reporter again, at CBS and PBS.

This particular pilgrim's progress, from political actor to observer, has made him controversial--the far right considers him a liberal mouthpiece, the left can't quite forgive him for press-agenting for LBJ. With his history, and his penchant for saying things like "I am a moral agent" and "information is hope," Moyers doesn't quite fit journalism's tabula rasa ideal.

Instead, says a top Washington newspaper journalist, he is "an American type, a morally vain, Bible-toting figure out of the southwest."

"The rap on Moyers is he's too earnest," says ABC News political and media analyst Jeff Greenfield. "I used to write for the National Lampoon; I am incapable of that kind of earnestness. But if you want cynicism and jadedness, hip and ironic, boy, there's enough of that to go around in the media. So a little earnestness? That's fine."

Moyers admits to having "the persona of a scold." Told once that he was considered preachy, he demurred: "Having been called that, I retreat from assertion." Hardly. Moyers retreats only until he cannot bear it, hurling his judgment darts like some banderillero aching to be matador. "In the beginning was the Word," a Gospel starts, and he is a master of words, using them to wound our sense of the way things are.

Consider his off-the-cuff capsule history of recent administrations. "Look," he tells me, "You got Lyndon Johnson campaigning for peace, and we went to war. Richard Nixon, law and order, and we got a gang that tried to steal the Constitution. Jimmy Carter, competence, and we got a maladroit. Ronald Reagan, fiscal responsibility, and we got the largest debt in our history. George Bush, promising a kinder, gentler nation, and we got the culture war, the religious war. How anybody could take seriously the legitimacy of a governing class that has perpetrated, from the Vietnam War right on through, such costly policies on the American people, is a mystifying question to me."

It is his dearest theme: political responsibility. The post-sabbatical Moyers is just much bolder about brandishing it. "The Titantic's captain was indifferent," he says. "I have always likened democracy to the ability of a passenger to go up on the bridge and grab the arm of that captain and say, 'Sir, that's an iceberg out there.' "

Moyers hasn't been shy about hoisting himself onto the bridge of the latest American ship of state. It started with an invitation to Transition Little Rock. Washington Post reporter Howard Kurtz questioned him about the visit while Moyers and I limousined from Washington's National Airport to the CNN studio, where Moyers was about to sit in for vacationing Larry King. "We saw 'A River Runs Through It,' " Moyers purred into the cellular, "and then we went back to the governor's mansion." A pause. "Well, where else was I to go?"

The next day's Post headline tore into Moyers for backsliding, being tempted by the sin of participation: "Listening to Bill Moyers: Objectivity Questioned After Chat With Clinton."

Which didn't deter Moyers, bent on preventing another Titanic disaster. The night before Clinton's inauguration, Moyers delivered the main speech at an invitation-only prayer service for the President-elect. Standing at the lectern, he offered his advice to the new President. "At the core of our (Baptist) faith is what we call soul competency," he declaimed, "the competence of the individual before God. Created with the imprint of divinity, from the mixed clay of earth, we are endowed with the capacity to choose, to be . . . response-able. . . . These beliefs do not make for lawless anarchy or the religion of Lone Rangers. . . . They aim for a community with moral integrity, the wholeness that flows from mutual obligation."

"It may be," Moyers preached to Clinton and Gore, "that this inbred tendency in free church life is one of the best gifts you bring to high office at this most pluralistic, fragmented and perplexed time in our history.

"He kind of lifted at that point," Moyers would remember happily.

Not that he wasn't dubious about the new President. "The Administration has a chance," he said shortly after the election, sitting in a bar sipping a vodka tonic, "if they don't screw up, which I think they will."

Post-sabbatical, Moyers has exchanged the persona of scold for a prophet's harsher tones. "I had high hopes not only for Clinton but for the return of his party to power, for fresh faces, fresh voices and fresh willpower," he says with feeling. "But I've never seen anybody abscond so quickly. It's a year later, after the barricades have been stormed, and that new day of democracy, for democracy, turns out to be midnight."

BILL MOYERS FIRST WENT TO WASHINGTON IN 1954, WHEN HE WAS 20, A COLLEGE intern on then-Sen. Johnson's staff, writing letters to the voters back home. Moyers left after that summer disillusioned with what he had seen--McCarthyism at its apogee. ("It was Edward R. Murrow's"-- Murruh's , in Moyers' soft drawl--"broadcast that made me aware it was not the Senate that first called McCarthy to judgment, but the journalist.") Yet it can't have been a profound disillusionment, for six years later, Moyers came back. Johnson called as he and his wife, Judith, were packing to move from Ft. Worth to Austin, where Moyers was going to add a Ph.D. to his just-finished master's in divinity. He wanted the 26-year-old for the 1960 presidential campaign, as liaison to Jack Kennedy.

"I told Judith," Moyers remembers, " 'Leave everything in the boxes, just cross out Austin and put down Washington. We're going the other way.' "

At 12, he had been baptised, "an affirmation of my desire to be in a right relation with God." At 25 he was preaching, circuit style, in small rural churches. Yet in Washington, he told me, he was instantly at ease with power, even when it was exercised in Johnson's hideaway in the Capitol basement, where Moyers drank Old Capitol Hill bourbon with the best (and worst) of them. ("I sure got drunk on it one night down there," Moyers says, laughing.)

Far from considering those days and nights any sort of lapse, he regards his ease of adjustment as a function of his religiosity. "It didn't cause any moral crisis to be there; it was a natural extension of your being prepared for the world--that's what soul competency means." He doesn't think "the old story"-- in his case, the Christian one--ever ceases to resonate in those it informs, but as one pursues one's life, "a continuing course in adult education" he calls it,"you begin to realize the story's limits and listen for its successor."

In 1961, Moyers was named deputy director of the Peace Corps, where he remained for two years. Then, in November, 1963, he went to Dallas for President Kennedy and returned an aide to President Johnson. "Kennedy's advance men had gone down to set up the November Texas trip," Moyers recalls. "They had blundered terribly, and Kenny O'Donnell, JFK's political adviser, asked me to go down and hold the hands of all the warring factions until Kennedy was in and out of the state. I was young and basically nonpartisan, and they knew that I was kind of a healer. And I told Kenny, 'I can't, I'm in the Peace Corps; the Peace Corps isn't political, so you have to get somebody else.' "

Three hours later, the phone rang, and it was the President. "He said, 'Bill, I want you to go to Texas.' I said, 'Mr. President, the Peace Corps can't get involved in politics.' He said, 'Bill, you go to Texas and worry about politics, and let me worry about the Peace Corps.' "

Moyers did as he was told. Which is how, on Nov. 22, he came to be lunching in Houston at the Forty Acres Club with the chairman of the Texas Democratic Executive Committee. When word of JFK's shooting reached them, they chartered a plane and flew to Dallas. At Love Field, Moyers scribbled a note to Johnson: "I'm here if you need me." A few minutes later, Moyers was motioned up into Air Force One. "We bonded rather quickly," Moyers says. "We spoke a shorthand to each other, and I was useful to him."

His four years with President Johnson were not without their low moments, some of which trail him today. Moyers has publicly apologized for what he says was marginal participation in circulating J. Edgar Hoover's files on Martin Luther King Jr. ("I was a very flawed young man," he told a reporter, "but I have never in my life engaged in character assassination.") He also offers mea culpas about commissioning, on Johnson's orders, the infamous 1964 campaign ad in which film of a little girl plucking daisy petals segues into an atomic explosion: "I wish I could take it back.

"The President said to me, 'You know, Goldwater is making a headlong dash toward respectability. Got to remind the public he's been reckless about nuclear weapons,' " Moyers says. The daisy ad inaugurated the era of special effects, contrived images in political ads, he allows--"which short-circuit the analytic process, which are so harmful precisely because they replace words."

Still, the boss was pleased, and in the summer of 1965, LBJ promoted Moyers to press secretary. "It was a role that I resisted," says Moyers, "but I couldn't say no any more than I could say no to Kennedy when he asked me to go to Texas."

He told Judith, "This is the beginning of the end, because no man can serve two masters." The second master was the press. "The reason I get attacked by fellow journalists is they feel I'm hypocritical. They say, 'Look, when you were press secretary, your administration regularly contradicted the very principles you so mightily espouse now.' And there's no question about it. The two administrations I served, Kennedy's and Johnson's, were brought low by policies conducted in secrecy. Kennedy on Cuba, Johnson on Vietnam.

"Anyway, it's all past history," he says. The next quarter century of his life becomes two succinct sentences: "I resigned in '67 and became publisher of Newsday, stayed there until it was sold in 1970 to the Los Angeles Times, and did (the book) 'Listening to America.' In '71, I was called by some people who were putting together the (news) broadcast called 'This Week,' and that's when I joined public television." In his hurry, he skips over his move in and out of network news--twice he went to work for CBS before giving up on commercial television to start his own PBS-affiliated production company, Public Affairs Television, in 1986.

One Washington observer suggests another reason why Moyers fast-forwards through Life After Johnson: "He could reasonably have dreamed about being President. But he was on a train going a hundred miles an hour--right into the brick wall of Vietnam." Johnson's political collapse was also Bill Moyers'.

MOYERS IS SITTING IN AS HOST OF "LARRY KING LIVE." AT 40 MINUTES before showtime, the phone rings, and Moyers picks it up: "Hey, Larry"--King is calling from Hawaii--"I've rolled up the carpet, the boxes just arrived. I'm going to like it here, buddy." More chitchat. They are somewhat surprising pals--Moyers the prince of the old news and King the celebrity of the new.

A monitor on the desk softly plays the program that precedes King's, "Crossfire," starring Michael Kinsley and John Sununu. Tamara Haddad, King's then-senior executive producer, sits across from Moyers, loosening him up with small talk.

Moyers' eye catches the monitor. The mood goes from light to serious. "That guy"--pointing to President Bush's onetime Chief of Staff Sununu--"should have 'lobbyist' supered over his head every time he speaks." He notices Kinsley. "Look at the eyes," he directs me. "He's arguing with a wink," he says. "These guys are phony."

"Why do you think people even watch them, or Larry?" I ask him. He's aware I've been transcribing the session on a small note pad, and now he gives me a morsel for it: "Some people watch to fill in the blanks, some people watch to fill in the time," he says. I have the sensation that he is dictating, not talking, to me. "People are so lonely, even when they live together, that a third party in the house is always a welcome guest. It's noise in an otherwise empty room."

It will be his turn on the screen shortly. He will host a round-table on gays in the military, with Margarethe Cammermeyer, the National Guard colonel dismissed for revealing her lesbianism, Massachusetts Rep. Barney Frank and retired Rear Adm. C. A. Hill. He will also quiz the Speaker of the House, Thomas S. Foley, and the majority leader, Richard A. Gephardt, on the Clinton Administration's chances for success.

"What do you ask these guys?" Moyers wonders aloud about Foley and Gephardt. "They're not the most inspiring pair."

Indeed, the conversation is not scintillating. Moyers manages to bring it around to what interests him, the notion of a pariah Congress and the President's relationship to it. "Candidate Bill Clinton stayed away from you folks during the campaign," he says, trying to provoke Gephardt. "I mean, you were like lepers during the campaign, members of Congress--a little exaggeration. . . .

"Well," responds Gephardt, "first, we weren't treated that way in the campaign. . . ."

Afterward, Moyers is dismissive. "It's squash, but they don't hit the ball you put against the wall. You hit a red ball there, and they make it yellow and hit it back." They didn't--the show's format doesn't--play fair. Moyers couldn't exercise his customary control. He has already admitted that his own chat shows are a triumph of editing, not straight interviewing. "If you were on my show," he says, "you wouldn't believe that was you talking. I'd shoot 50 hours for the one I'd use."

In the second half of the King show, Moyers encourages, then referees, a nasty point-counterpoint about the military's ban on gays and later delivers another bad review. It was not at all the "conversation of democracy" he had intended. "It was about arguing, not argument. It's a bloodsport," he says.

"I wasn't comfortable," he admits, "and I just think I'd be a rich man today if I were. I'm not. And I'm saddened by that." He sighs.

Such regret rarely passes Moyers' lips. Instead, he says he considers himself well and happily out of the clutches of both the new news and commercial broadcasting. He left CBS--and a big salary--voluntarily, he reminds interviewers. "There are few opportunities in any sphere of our society that can equal the freedom, the mobility, the access, the creativity, the license that I have in my job now," he says. He might also have added: the power and the glory.

He is one of very few journalists whose names crop up as presidential or vice-presidential material. Moyers doesn't always quash such talk. In July, 1991, he coyly told the New York Times that a run would be "fun"; a few months later, he told the Washington Post he hadn't been seduced into electoral politics--"yet."

The mere notion of a Moyers candidacy was the ostensible reason the New Republic made him its cover boy in August, 1991. In a story by Andrew Ferguson, the magazine called Moyers a liberal fraud, accused him of getting privately rich off public broadcasting and generally attacked him for embodying one of the sins Moyers most often rails against--the cultivation of myth to obfuscate venality.

Moyers has always been sensitive to criticism. Now he went ballistic, paying for two pages of ad space to rebut what he told me was "an ideological attack by a journalistic hack." He quarreled over big and small points, saving perhaps his biggest outrage for Ferguson's attack against "history" in linking Moyers directly to the FBI's character assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. in the '60s. "If (Ferguson) were a gentleman," Moyers fulminated near the end of his "Open Letter," "I would challenge him to a duel."

In the resulting tempest in a media teapot, the New Republic piece was widely acknowledged as vicious, but Moyers was chided for overreacting. The words "ego" and "obsessive" came up. At about the same time, conservatives were attacking public broadcasting's budget and casting Moyers as a biased villain in a liberal media conspiracy. Predictably, Moyers fired off more retaliatory letters.

Months later, media writer Jon Katz, once a producer at CBS, weighed in with a witty New York Times piece that jabbed his former colleague--"a brooding, pious pain in the neck," Katz acknowledged--but also praised him.

Moyers didn't let it pass. Seizing on Katz's observation that he was mostly doing "chats," he composed a fact-packed reply proving Katz wrong, ending with a writer's equivalent of a tight smile: "Jon will no doubt think that setting the record straight indicates a thin skin. So be it. I do appreciate his advice that I not run for President. Why should I? As a journalist, I enjoy my work far more than George Bush seems to enjoy his."

MOYERS HAS INVITED ME TO VIEW HIM THROUGH THE PRISM OF HIS HOMETOWN. "Place is the glue on the stamp of time," he says. "Even though I live in New York and New Jersey, I'm stamped." By Marshall, Tex., he means.

We begin at his mother's house. Over a cup of coffee, Ruby Moyers offers up her explanation for the career choice her son made. "Bill had no hobbies as a boy," she says. "To this day he doesn't. He was too small to play football, too thin to play any sport, so he couldn't attract the girls on the basis of an avocation. But he became a reporter for the Messenger and he had the courthouse beat. And at 16, after school, he would go to the courthouse and stand around with the prosecutors, the judges, the defense attorneys--and would you believe it? The girls would be congregated at the courthouse door, waiting for Bill, who was suddenly very popular, because he had the gossip."

"She's full of old stories," Moyers tells me, now at the wheel of my car. We are going 15 miles an hour, sightseeing. Marshall has a population of 26,000, and like Everytown, U.S.A., an outskirts crowded with franchise strips and big, alienating malls. But that's not where we are going. We are headed deep into old Marshall.

"Patsy Findlay lived in that house that is now gone," he points. "That's my church there, Central Baptist. There is the house where Gloria Taylor lived. I was on my first double date with her. We were in the back seat. The couple in the front seat were necking. Gloria threw her arms back and said, "Take me.' And I said, 'Where?' Talk of naive."

Moyers has led this tour before, for the whole nation. His 90-minute "Marshall, Texas; Marshall, Texas" is an oft-repeated PBS staple. He sounds its themes again today; the hometown as teacher, touchstone for good or ill. As he did on film, Moyers doesn't shrink from Marshall's dark side. "This was the theater," he says; we can faintly see the sign: "Paramount." "If you go around the side, that's the entrance for colored. They would go around to the side, and they'd be sitting up there in what we called the buzzard's roost. That's the kind of place it was." He pauses. "I come out of a culture that paid a terrible price for disallowing dissent. I think my scolding comes from being a Southerner who learned how much we suffered because we didn't engage in self-scrutiny and internal dissent."

He pulls over and leads me up the lawn of a well-tended lot next to a restored historic landmark; he shows me a plaque in the grass. It commemorates Georgiana Lale, and, not incidentally, the words on it were written by Moyers, a commentary in her memory he delivered long ago on CBS News:

"She . . . held no office except those stations which citizens must fill to keep things going," the plaque reads. "Trinity Episcopal Church would not have been the same without her . . . nor the Red Cross nursing home volunteers. . . . Nor would the hummingbirds have been fed so lovingly on Fitzgerald Street. . . . I cannot count the ways she mattered, or her kind everywhere. If you look closely at the fabric of civilization which overlays the passions of this race, you will discover it held together with tiny rows of thread stitched by the hands of anonymous folk. No community makes it without them; no school, no church, no neighborhood or society."

In case I don't get it, Moyers makes clear what Georgiana Lale means to him. "I am a self, an authentic self; I truly matter," he says incantatorily. "I signify historically. I am a moral agent." It is a fundamental tenet of fashionable contemporary thought, postmodern thought, that the self is anything but authentic, that it matters so little that scholars speak of its death. Moyers is conversant with postmodernity and its offspring, deconstruction. But he is reconstructive, not deconstructive. He chooses to participate in what Elie Wiesel has called the new secular religion, a global wave of volunteerism, renouncing the aid of government and announcing the necessity of doing things yourself.

"Georgiana," he instructs me, "having fed the hummingbirds, left the garden for the community."

There will be one more stop on this tour. "That's Bowie Street down there, that's Crockett Street," he says, "and this is the house where I grew up." We peer into the front windows of 801 E. Austin St. "That was my bedroom right there, first window to the right." His language is flat now, no rhetorical flights. "Just a four-room house, that's what we had. This was a street of poor people, but you'd never find this."

"What?" I ask.

"The stuff on the front porch"--he waves his hand--"the old refrigerators and stoves, the boxes like this. It was clean and orderly. My mother and father had middle-class values even though they were working-class people."

801 E. Austin doesn't match his ideal of a web of community; the fabric of civilization needs mending all the more.

WHEN THE LIGHTS GO down on the "Bill Moyers' Journal" set, it's lunchtime. Ever the host, Moyers invites me upstairs, where sandwiches have been laid out for the crew and the talking heads. At the top of the stairs, he pauses; he has decided to interview himself. "Is it on?" he asks, pointing to my tape recorder. When I say it is, he says, "Let's go."

"What's disappointing about Clinton?" he queries. "It's that he took a dive in the first round on things that really mattered: fundamental reform of the political system, getting money out of politics. The Clinton White House has put itself on the side of the winners."

"What's the purpose of a political system?" he asks next. "It's not simply to be for the winners, it's not simply to bless the winners, it's not simply to lift the arms of the winners. It's to figure out what to do about the losers."

His anger won't end. He wants to matter in the world, to be a great man in an age that doesn't favor them. And in his own way, Citizen Moyers isn't shy about admitting it. "I felt when my grandson was born that the history of the future is my downstream," he tells me. "You begin to take yourself seriously historically. Not with grandiosity, but you realize, no matter what circle I'm in, I matter. What Kazantzakis said in the end of his wonderful memoir, 'Journey to Morea': 'It's given to each man to serve one circle of ideas and people, and if he can't serve those ideas and those people, he can't save the world.' That to me is what citizenship is all about."

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