This will not be a New Year’s diatribe about all that is
wrong with the world. No one near a television or computer screen needs any
reminding of the tenuous state of human affairs in so many places on this Earth
nor the fact that despite greed, racism, incessant war, income inequality, and
global warming, we are all so lucky to be living in America.
Instead, I want to touch upon the very first episode of what
has become my favorite TV show of all time, The Newsroom.
In that episode, in front of assembled students at NYU, the
below is the monologue delivered by Jeff Daniels as news anchor Will McAvoy. He
is a part of an instructional panel at the school of journalism.
Newsroom is really the story of Will’s journey from multi-million dollar talking
haircut and ratings hog, back to his roots as a prosecutor and real
honest-to-God truth telling Republican man that is the arc of this show.
And the key word there is man, for in just the 30 or so episodes of The Newsroom
that will ever be, Will goes from a better-looking than Charlie Rose Manhattan
bachelor about town to a real journalist, man, husband, son and father.
you are willing as a man or woman to embrace your strengths and weaknesses,
foibles and humors, to face your history and true belief system of right and
wrong, you are just a suit walking through meeting after meeting, clinic after
clinic, class after class. You may be materially rich and powerful, but you are
The Newsroom is Will’s odyssey from Armani tux pretty boy to prison jump-suited wise man guided by the love of a great woman and true
life-partner (Emily Mortimer) and an
even wiser, old, heavy-drinking brawler (a brilliant Sam Waterston) who would
sooner give Will a bloody fat lip and knock out a molar as in the Iron John
legend (see Robert Bly) than let him off the hook for an extra 2 share points
in the ratings. (Jane Fonda’s occasional appearances as the CNN-like network owner by
marriage (art imitating life) are equally brilliant.)
This series has resonated with me so deeply because I was a
suit like Will for so long. I would do anything for a ratings point, paper or
grant. It took me 60 years to become exactly what my parents wanted me to be. A
man. That’s all.
blog has been the most therapeutic of modalities to get there. You will need to
find your own.
is the moment Will McAvoy shed his lizard-skin suit and began his journey to his
Will McAvoy: And with a straight
face, you’re going to tell students that America is so starspangled awesome
that we’re the only ones in the world who have freedom? Canada has freedom,
Japan has freedom, the UK, France, Italy, Germany, Spain, Australia, BELGIUM
has freedom! Two hundred and seven sovereign states in the world, like 180 of
them have freedom.
Moderator: All right…
Will McAvoy: And yeah, you…
sorority girl. Just in case you accidentally wander into a voting booth one
day, there are some things you should know, and one of them is: There is
absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country
in the world. We’re seventh in literacy, twenty-seventh in math, twenty-second
in science, forty-ninth in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, third in
median household income, number four in labor force, and number four in
exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated
citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense
spending, where we spend more than the next twenty-six countries combined,
twenty-five of whom are allies. None of this is the fault of a 20-year-old
college student, but you, nonetheless, are without a doubt a member of the
WORST-period-GENERATION-period-EVER-period, so when you ask what makes us the
greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about!
Will McAvoy: [pause] We sure used
to be. We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, we passed
laws, struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor
people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our
mouths were, and we never beat our chest. We built great big things, made
ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases, and we
cultivated the world’s greatest artists and the world’s greatest economy. We
reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence; we didn’t
belittle it; it didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by
who we voted for in the last election, and we didn’t scare so easy. We were
able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed.
By great men, men who were revered. The first step in solving any problem is
recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world
Will McAvoy: [to moderator] Enough?
(With eternal gratitude to Aaron Sorkin)
And my point to begin 2015 is this. The same that Will says
about America can be said about MD Anderson. Now when the heck are you folks
who still work there going to do something about it?
God knows I took my journey from ratings hog and Vice
Presidential lackey to Washington, DC, Smithville and back before finally
saying I had had enough and I had done enough. All I contribute now is this
It’s all I have, but it’s enough. Now, go to the nearest
mirror and look deep into those eyes that used to belong to a true believer and
ask yourself, isn’t there just a bit more I can do to return MD Anderson to
being the greatest cancer center in the world and not be so intimidated by the
potential loss of your BMW or the good graces of some unelected leaders of seriously doubtful abilities?
And don’t worry. Even USN&WR says we aren’t number one, so
you can, too.
Happy New Year. Now go get the bastards! If you think those
folks inhabiting the top floors of Pickens aren’t the bastards, go back and
look in the mirror, because it is either they or you.