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November 13, 2002
Good evening. Hello. Some of you may not know that Danny was a pretty fair fiddler and I'm going to make a plug right now, which somehow I think he would have wanted me to make, for a concert that is coming up in his honor in Boston this Saturday evening at 7:30, proceeds to benefit the Daniel Pearl Foundation, which was set up by his family to promote cross-cultural and intercultural awareness. To those of you, especially those of you in the Boston area who might attend, might be inclined to attend, it would be greatly appreciated by the foundation.
As we have mourned Danny Pearl at The Wall Street Journal, so have we celebrated his life. His stories have been collected in a book. A musical colleague has written a song, you can find it on a CD. But in a culture as steeped in cynicism and competition 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-throttle, wide-open kindness of Danny Pearl. Invite Danny to dinner, reporters in Washington and London will recall, and you can always count on setting a couple of extra plates because Danny would often invite along some stranger in distress that he might have met on the streets. His circle in London, my old friend and his former boss reports, included, and I quote, "a Bulgarian shoe salesman who asked Danny for the time on the London subway, a heavy-drinking, often unemployed Scottish construction worker named Andrew, an Irish fiddle player, a Belgium bassist and a Slovakian singer who jammed with Danny at a blues bar in SoHo."
When Brian Greely, a colleague of Danny's, joined the bureau in Washington his first byline was a gift from Danny who took a few of Brian's paragraphs, added all the critical context and background, and handed in a perfect story refusing any credit. When Brian took over Danny's beat he says he was utterly flabbergasted that the hand-off included hundreds of source names, phone numbers, story leads, copious notes, not the boiler plate sources for those of you that have any experience with journalism, the unattributable kinds of sources that a lot of reporters are very reluctant to part with.
I could go on about the humor of the man who once had a feature from Russia on caviar completely in verse--"Surgeons, Sturgeons." It was about fish that were getting sowed up again. Unfortunately the feature was spiked, as it happens, by a very ruthless and mirthless New York editor. I could talk about his real accomplishments in music having played in a band, The Ottoman Empire, that once opened for The Kinks. Danny recorded a CD with his band. But what I would really like to tell those of you who have not read his stuff is that Danny was also the real deal in journalism. He was as capable of writing a probing, devastating investigative piece as he was of writing light features, as I think the book would reflect. And for those of you that may doubt that, read if you would one of his last stories, a brilliant story on how al Qaeda's tentacles into the world of trading tanzanite helped finance their evil.
This brings me to Danny's courage for which he's rightly honored tonight. I've heard the view from people familiar with the story, friends, acquaintances, that Danny was naive--a gentle soul really, a lamb. I reject this view. Danny Pearl was well acquainted with the dangers he faced if even only in a general way. He prepared for them, he pondered them and he chose, he chose to accept these dangers to pursue the truth. I don't think there could be a better definition of courage or a better person to receive the Lovejoy Award. Danny fought his captors. What did they get out of all this? They sought in their vicious cunning a symbol for their cause. Instead they got the opposite. For 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. So, thank you Colby and members of the selection committee on behalf of The Wall Street Journal.
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