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With Deepest Gratitude
I'm lucky, and don't I know it.
Thank you all.
I wanted to step away from the immediacy of politics and the state of the world for this Sunday’s essay to mark an upcoming occasion and use it as a means to share some personal thoughts, hopes, and even a few wistful memories with all of you.
January 22 will mark the one-year anniversary of the first Steady newsletter. Our first installment, entitled A New Chapter… (see below) actually wasn’t a newsletter so much as an invitation (some might call it a sales pitch) to join me for a new adventure.
My longtime collaborator Elliot Kirschner, who founded Steady with me, convinced me to launch it with this picture of yours truly with the Muppets. I was reluctant. “Is this how Edward R. Murrow got started?” I asked (a jestful question those around me have heard often). “People love the Muppets, and people love you,” he responded. Of the first part I have no doubt. I have much evidence to the contrary for the second half of his statement.
Nevertheless, a lot of you signed up that first day, and in the days that followed. A lot more than I expected. Elliot has known me long enough not to have shared his expectations. Better not to leave an anchorman disappointed. But I wasn’t disappointed. I was overjoyed. And that joy has only grown over the last 12 months. I hope a lot of you who signed up when all this was just a leap into the unknown will think it worthy of renewing your subscription.
After that first post, we were off. Not surprisingly much of our early offerings dealt with the aftermath of January 6, still raw then. And still raw now. Our first actual essay was entitled America the Beautiful: Reflections on the echoes of January 6... It started with the story behind that famous song (from the start, music and history have been a big part of Steady), and then pivoted into thoughts of that day of insurrection, and the impeachment and inauguration that followed.
“This country has a lot of scars, but also has had a lot of healing. It’s not because we somehow walk blindly with God’s grace upon us. It’s because those who came before us toiled, sometimes to their very death, for progress. It’s because of hard work, of action, of organizing, and voting. We don’t believe, or at least damn well shouldn’t believe, that our presidents are anointed. That’s the talk of monarchies and cults. We elect our leaders. We must know they are flawed, like all of us. But buoyed by communities of conscience, we can forge progress and nurture hope.”
We had no way of knowing at the time, but “communities of conscience” is a wonderful way to describe what we are building here, together. It soon became clear that if this endeavor was going to thrive, if it was going to emerge as anything more than an aged newsman in search of an audience, it was going to be because of all of you. We started reading your comments, and we were floored, with pride. The outpouring of lucid prose, filled with wisdom, empathy, personal histories, thought-provoking questions, and so much more, is inspiring and hope-inducing.
Over the year, we have shared more than 200 newsletters (this is number 204, but who’s counting?). We have smiled together, and we have cried together. We learned about some of the holes in our history and even walked among the wildflowers. We have been thankful, and downright incensed. But most importantly, like a family in the best of senses, we have done it together.
To my newer subscribers, and even for those of you who have been here since the beginning, I suggest you scroll through past posts and click on a few (you can find them all here on the website). We went back ourselves to prepare this retrospective, and it was an interesting journey to re-read passages that reminded us of all we have been through.
I must confess that this year has been a difficult one…
I must confess that this year has been a difficult one, for me personally and for the nation and world that I love. I have had some health struggles, but I am back in good form, far better than an old Buick with the kind of miles I have on it can expect. I worry deeply for my country and the threats, internal and external, to our system of government. I am saddened by a pandemic that has taken so many lives, has further torn at our social fabric, and has kept us apart from friends and loved ones.
These trendlines were already apparent a year ago when we started Steady. They have since taken turns in ways we could never have expected. But that’s always the way life works. And that’s why I wanted to call this venture Steady. It was a favorite word from my father, etched in my memory as he comforted me when I tossed with rheumatic fever as a child. “Steady, Danny. Steady.”
Steady is about recognizing that progress is possible, even when it feels ungraspable.
Steady is about taking the world as it comes, trying to control what you can but recognizing much is beyond your ability to shape. It is about joining with others to leverage the power of collective action. It is about caring for yourself when you need to regain your footing. It’s about understanding that others have struggled in the face of injustice and despair. Steady is about recognizing that progress is possible, even when it feels ungraspable. It is also about having the humility to understand that joy can be fleeting, so you need to find it and hold on to it when you can.
I don’t know what the next year holds in store, for me, for you, or for our country and our planet. I hope it is one of greater justice, peace, and health. I know that it will undoubtedly be one of challenges, in ways we can predict, and in ways that are unknowable. I remain an optimist because of people like you. I have seen challenges that seemed insurmountable conquered in the past, when the will was there to find solutions. I see that will in you, and the millions of others who are determined to fight for progress.
For the next year at Steady, we will try to keep doing what we’re doing under the old mantra, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” We will also try some new features that we’re planning but not quite confident enough to share. We want to hear from you about what you like, and more importantly what you might not like, or might want to see. One thing we hope to do is share more ideas of how we can act to save and protect what we hold dear.
Folks, this newsletter is now the primary focus of my professional life. I still like to dabble on social media but even a lot of that is in service to what we’re doing here. When I look back at my career, I do so with a profound sense of appreciation. Boy was I lucky, and don’t I know it. This new chapter may be a lot different from sitting behind the anchor’s desk. The audience may not be as large, the pace as fast, the rush of adrenaline as immediate. But that was a different time, and a different me. I know my days of chasing datelines and deadlines around the world have come to an end. I am at peace with that, even as I miss it.
…a gift I never could have anticipated.
What Steady is, however, is a gift I never could have anticipated. It is fulfilling, and on its best days I hope it is meaningful to you. It certainly is to us. Not many people have the privilege of building something new, let alone in the ninth decade of life.
And here, if you will excuse me, comes that gentle sales pitch. If you are a paid subscriber, please consider renewing. If you are really enamored, you can even give a gift subscription to others. If you are a free subscriber, value what we’re doing here, and can afford a paid subscription, please also consider doing so. But this is the most important message of this paragraph. If you love what we’re doing, and money is tight, please stick with the free membership. Thanks to our paid subscribers, we will keep the vast majority of our content free and open. This is a new model for journalism, and I hope our example can prove it works for others.
With that behind us, I wanted to return to where I began. Thank you. You will never know how much this means to me. My eyes grow misty as I think of the gift you have given me. I promise that, for as long as I am able, tending to this community will be my passion and my joy. So here’s to a new year, full of new possibilities, made possible by your presence and generosity.