Pat Moynihan: Where are you when we really need you?
Described as a scion of a real estate dynasty, Daniel Rose is the chairman of New York-based Rose Associates. He was also one of Pat Moynihan’s closest friends. On the evening of June 2, 2011, in the future site of Moynihan Station, Mr. Rose spoke about the senator’s legacy, saying that “in an age of widespread and increasing tunnel vision, Pat Moynihan brought to his deliberations the knowledge of institutions of a political scientist, the knowledge of societies of a sociologist, the depth and breadth, the time sense and perspective of a historian, the knowledge and sense of numbers and of data of an economist.” Mr. Rose is also a longtime friend to the 2011 Daniel Patrick Moynihan Prize winner, Diane Ravitch. Speaking about Dr. Ravitch, Mr. Rose described her research as “rigorous’ and “keeping with Moynihan’s dictum.” Below is a transcript of Daniel Rose’s remembrance of Pat Moynihan and his introduction of Diane Ravitch.
Pat Moynihan, where are you when we really need you? Friends, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, whose ideas and whose career we celebrate tonight, was a brilliant, erudite, complex thinker whose lessons for us are many and which we would do well to remember. In an age of widespread and increasing tunnel vision, Pat Moynihan brought to his deliberations the knowledge of institutions of a political scientist, the knowledge of societies of a sociologist, the depth and breadth, the time sense and perspective of a historian, the knowledge and sense of numbers and of data of an economist. He brought the love of teaching of a professor, he brought the values of a philosopher, and he brought the hard-nosed appraisal of realistic possibilities of a vote-counting politician. Moynihan viewed cities through the lens of a master urban planner and transportation as a regional planner. He studied architecture with the eyes of an aesthete and a historian, and he approached the subject of traffic deaths as an epidemiologist. A true polymath, Pat Moynihan could have echoed the great Max Weber’s comment and replied to a questioner, “What am I, a cow that I must have A field?” This man transcended fields. As a shrewd observer of government he understood the destructive potential of secrecy, of excessive and misused secrecy. He understood that the military buildup of the 1980s, America’s military buildup of the 1980s was as much designed to starve our other government expenditures as it was to frighten the Russians. Pat felt deeply the importance of a stable family since he, himself, had been a middle-class child fallen on hard times because of a deserting father. And he never, also, forgot the role that government scholarships played in his own undergraduate and graduate degrees and foreign travel. As a wit, a master coiner of the apt phrase – and I believe “defining deviancy down” was one of the all-time greats – and as a true son of Blarney Castle, he delighted academic and political audiences. Above all, as a Roman Catholic and as an F.D.R. New Deal-style Democrat and a proud member of an ethnic minority, this good and decent man never forgot who he was or what he stood for. That, simply stated, was an incorruptible devotion to the common good.
The Moynihan prescience was legendary; some have called it his ability to see around corners. For example, after the collapse of the Soviet Union Henry Kissinger sent him a brief note, “Dear Pat, Your crystal ball was better than mine.” And Pat’s ability to spot promising young people and to advance their public careers was remarkable, and a number of those promising youngsters decades later are here tonight, many, I will not mention any names for fear of leaving out others, but this man was a master in finding and nurturing worthwhile talent. Other tributes, accolades: Today our cars have seatbelts and padded dashboards because of Pat Moynihan. Washington’s Pennsylvania Avenue is now a source of national pride rather than embarrassment. With seventy-two percent of American black babies born this year to unmarried mothers and with an increasing number of white babies being born to unmarried mothers, Pat’s 1965 study The Negro Family: The Case for National Action is at last being recognized for its inspired insights.
Pat was profoundly hurt by his professional colleagues’ failure to support him on the Moynihan Report. He understood that wonderful ancient Greek word parrhesia, wonderful word, parrhesia, which is speaking the truth even at great personal risk. But Pat frankly never anticipated the firestorm of public disapprobation, he never anticipated the lack of public and professional support. Pat, being Pat, probably reflected on a similar lack of support for Giordano Bruno as he was burned at the stake or Galileo as he was forced to retract. Pat knew he was right. As U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Pat fervently defended American values with the U.S. often in opposition. He vigorously and eloquently attacked the concept of Zionism as racism to the dismay of the old State Department types who felt that he was always rocking the boat. Now, always a lover of the appropriate quotation, Pat would probably have described our current congressional performance on the economy with the lines from his revered William Butler Yeats, “The best lack all conviction while the worst are full of passionate intensity.”
I miss this man very much, I think we all do. When I first visited Pat’s study in the schoolhouse in Pindars Corners, I thought of Michel de Montaigne in his tower study. When I looked out the window of the Moynihan’s Washington apartment, I recalled the shabby souvenir shops and fast food stands B.M., before Moynihan. When I taste curry I think of the memorable party that Liz and Pat threw in India to celebrate the five-hundredth birthday of the Mughal Emperor Babur, whose garden Liz had just discovered. When I pass Pat’s favorite corner table at the Century Association in New York, I recall his almost apoplectic anger one day at the just-released healthcare bill that Ira Magaziner had prepared in secret hearings for Hilary Clinton, over a thousand pages long and fearfully complex, its provisions would devastate New York’s great teaching hospitals, Pat raged. He felt the bill was doomed to failure and he bemoaned the fact that an important opportunity would be lost. I remember his saying, “If we don’t do it now, who knows when the chance will come again.”
The fundamental importance of education had always been a major Moynihan belief and he studied the subject carefully. James Coleman’s 1966 landmark report Equality of Educational Opportunity blazed fresh trails and its impact stayed with Pat permanently. Coleman’s thesis, backed by massive statistical analysis, demonstrated that money was but one of many complex factors influencing education. Pat remained skeptical of glib theories unsupported by detailed research and he would have cheered Diane Ravitch’s courageous change of positions when research demonstrated that the excessive emphasis on charter schools and the simplistic reliance on standardized test scores advocated by the No Child Left Behind program – and previously supported by Ravitch – had become counterproductive. This was the kind of thinking that Pat Moynihan admired, the ability to say, “I may have been mistaken.” Honest and dispassionate analysis of appropriate data should be the bedrock of the social sciences, Moynihan felt, and he would have been proud to see this year’s Daniel Patrick Moynihan Award go to Diane Ravitch.
Diane has been a good friend of longstanding – I no longer admit to having old friends, only good friends of longstanding – and I have followed her career closely. Diane’s specialty could be called “America’s fruitless search for an educational quick-fix.” Our society that values vitamin pills over the full, well-balanced meal, keeps looking for an educational equivalent, some cheap, instantly effective elixir that will suddenly transform dysfunction children into Nobel prize winners and we have not found such a quick fix yet. Diane has been a close student of that subject.
As a nation we just refuse to acknowledge what a fearfully complex subject education is, how many factors are involved, and how little we really know about them. In 1967 for the Carnegie Foundation Diane studied the expensive and painful fiasco of the Ford Foundation’s intervention in the Ocean Hill-Brownsville controversy in New York, and that resulted in her brilliant and very important classic volume in 1974, The Great School Wars. Diane later studied the history of educational fads and enthusiasms across the twentieth century in a book that everyone should read called Left Back: A Century of Battles Over School Reform. In her latest book, she analyzes the dubious results (and she cites chapter and verse), the dubious results of the Gates, the Walton, and the Broad Foundations’ sometimes counterproductive efforts as they still search for the one big idea that will turn all children into A students. And I have suggested to Diane that the title for her next book be “The Educational Emperors Have No Clothes.”
Now, Diane’s services to the field of education have been remarkable. The dozen books she has written and another dozen that she has edited, her term as Assistant Secretary of Education, and her countless papers, conference appearances, and blogs – in this day and age blogs are the way you get out to the public and she is a master bloggist – through those Diane has stimulated thinking throughout field. Her research is rigorous in keeping with Moynihan’s dictum and her facts are everyone’s facts and she has done them nobly.
Diane and I and Dick Ravitch worked with Pat and Liz, Pat’s superb campaign manager throughout his career, in 1976 on Pat’s first senatorial campaign, the primary being a very close race against the awful Bella Abzug, and that is a whole long story in itself. I am certain that Pat Moynihan, who admired Diane so much, would have been delighted to have been here tonight to award this year’s Moynihan Prize personally to Diane Ravitch. Thank you.