Remembering William Safire

P121506SC-0220.JPG William Safire was born at New York City on 17 December 1929 and died from pancreatic cancer last Sunday. He graduated from Bronx High School of Science, then attended Syracuse University for two years. Despite dropping out, he delivered the commencement address there in 1978 and 1990 and became a member of the board of trustees. He worked in radio and television, first as a producer and later as a correspondent, including a two-year term in the Army. While working in public relations he organized a display of American home products at Moscow in 1959, then maneuvered Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev into the "kitchen debate." After operating a PR agency he went to work in the Nixon White House, writing speeches for Nixon and Spiro Agnew. (Nattering nabobs of negativism was his.) In 1973 he became a political columnist for the New York Times, in 1979 he added "On Language", a weekly column for the New York Times Magazine.  In 2006, President George W. Bush awarded him The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Below are some of his more notable quotes, being a scientist, my favorite is the first one.

“What we don't need to know for achievement, we need to know for our pleasure. Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.”

“To communicate, put your words in order; give them a purpose; use them to persuade, to instruct, to discover, to seduce.”

“Ears are sloppy and eyes are precise; accordingly, speech can be loose but writing should be tight.”

“It is in the nature of tyranny to deride the will of the people as the voice of the mob, and to denounce the cry for freedom as the roar of anarchy.”

“Knowing how things work is the basis for appreciation, and is thus a source of civilized delight.”

“No one flower can ever symbolize this nation. America is a bouquet.”

     All from William Safire, 1929 – 2009

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James A. Restucci is the author of this blog. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 Internal License.

2 Responses to Remembering William Safire

  1. TVNews says:

    Mr. Safire, you did turn a word now and then.

  2. Libby says:

    …”Nattering nabobs of negativism”…My favorite! Although Safire was of the conservative political bent, I take that expression and apply it to today’s political climate with no problem!