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By Stephen Collins '74
For 50 years Colby's Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award has recognized journalists for their courage, so it ran against type when Tamara Pearl said, "Danny was very cautious," referring to her brother, slain Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, this year's recipient.
Speaking to a hushed Lorimer Chapel audience on a cold, rainy, November night, she drew a distinction between recklessness and courage. Her brother did not court peril, she said. "He was very careful for his physical safety and that of his colleagues." He did his research. He assessed risk. He rejected going into Afghanistan because it was dangerous.
In another way, though, he was courageous, his sister reported. "He did not let anyone or anything intimidate him into abandoning his truth or his search for truth.
"He was not intimidated by anti-American demonstrators burning the American flag. He told one of his colleagues, 'I want to look in their eyes and see why they hate us so much.' In the end he was not intimidated by his captors into lying about his Jewish identity. . . .
"His truth was that of a common humanity. Danny was an ordinary guy with an ordinary sense of decency. But where he was extraordinary was in staying true to himself and his principles," said Tamara Pearl, who came from western Canada to accept the award on behalf of her family and the Daniel Pearl Foundation they co-founded to promote cross-cultural understanding through journalism, music and innovative communications.
"We believe," she concluded, "that Danny is a powerful symbol to inspire people all over the world to reduce cultural, ethnic and religious hatred and to move even beyond tolerance to the kind of acceptance, respect and even celebration that Danny had for people from every background."
President William Adams echoed that sentiment in a citation addressed to the murdered reporter. "Those who took your life hoped to kill that for which you stood. Instead they inspired a worldwide effort to promote your ideals and to honor your memory."
Gary Putka, representing the Wall Street Journal, remembered an extraordinary colleague. "In a culture as steeped in cynicism and competition as journalism, what has utterly disarmed and humbled me in recent months are the stories that have poured forth from his colleagues within the Journal about the full-throttled, wide-open kindness of Danny Pearl," he said.
Praising Pearl's humanity and his talents as a fiercely intelligent and inquisitive journalist, Putka said he couldn't imagine a better choice for the Lovejoy award. "Danny now stands as a symbol and a martyr to our cause--to enlightenment and free expression, a martyr for understanding between peoples and the quest for truth."
This year's convocation marked the 200th anniversary of Lovejoy's birth and Colby's 50th Lovejoy award. Valedictorian of the Class of 1826 at Waterville College, now Colby, Lovejoy was an abolitionist editor who grew increasingly strident in his denunciations of slavery. He was shot by a pro-slavery mob in Alton, Ill., in 1837 and was buried on his 35th birthday.
On November 9 the Town of Albion, Maine, celebrated Lovejoy's legacy with a ceremony at the Lovejoy homestead. Richard Moss, Colby's Gibson Professor of History, led the event, and other events raised money for a Lovejoy monument in town.
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