Longing for Lippmann: Where Are the Pundits of Light and Leading
By Janice S. Ellis
For nearly a half century, through books and a syndicated newspaper column, three generations were “led through the maze of political affairs” by Walter Lippmann’s concern, his vision, his analysis. He felt a moral obligation to be a man of light and leading.
Lippman wrote in A Preface to Morals that “one function of the moralist is not to exhort men to be good but to elucidate what the good is.” And if the moralist “is to be listened to, and if he is to deserve a hearing among his fellows, he must set himself this task which is so much humbler than to command and so much more difficult than to exhort: he must seek to anticipate and to supplement the insight of his fellow men into the problems of their adjustment to reality. He must find ways to make clear and ordered and expressive those concerns which are latent but overlaid and confused by their preoccupations and misunderstandings.”
Lippmann believed that issues and politics mattered. He held the conviction that men could live a life of reason, that they could achieve understanding and direction through the process of reasoning. And he was committed to the process of reasoning and felt that those with a special gift for analysis and understanding of issues and problems had a responsibility to do what they could to illuminate the path for others. “The hallmark of responsible comment is not to sit in judgment on events as an idle spectator, but to enter imaginatively into the role of a participant in the action,” he wrote in tribute to a renowned newspaper editor. “Responsibility consists in sharing the burden of men, directing what is to be done, or the burden of offering some other course of action in the mood of one who has realized what it would mean to undertake it.”
Walter Lippmann assumed that responsibility and spent his life deliberating about what was the good or best end for contemporary man to pursue in fostering the good society.
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Contact Janice Ellis today to learn more about her work. She writes about social issues affecting people in Kansas City, Missouri, and throughout the country.