"You Know What the News Is…"

COMMENTARY Civil Society

"You Know What the News Is…"

Nov 15th, 2005 2 min read
Edwin J. Feulner, Ph.D.


Edwin J. Feulner is the founder and president of The Heritage Foundation.

"May I have your undivided for just a moment," veteran radio newsman Paul Harvey will say, before announcing what "this day's news of most lasting significance" is. As Harvey frequently notes, it probably isn't found on the front page of your newspaper.

Well, the biggest story of Nov. 9 may be this: Paul Harvey won the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation's highest civilian award. As President Bush explained during the 2004 ceremony, the medal is "given to men and women of exceptional merit, integrity and achievement."

That description certainly fits Harvey.

He's been broadcasting coast-to-coast since 1951 on the ABC radio network and is now heard on more than 1,200 radio stations, including 400 Armed Forces Network stations worldwide. His Web site describes Harvey as "the largest one-man network in the world," and there's no doubt that's true. And while Harvey himself would probably be too humble to say anything more, that's not "the rest of the story."

The famous voice and popular catch phrases Harvey coined are familiar to just about anyone, even to those who don't listen regularly. But plenty of us do tune in daily. Indeed, Harvey's a trusted companion to an estimated 22 million people each week. We tune in to be informed and entertained, and Harvey succeeds every day. It's always a pleasure to be greeted, "Hello, Americans, this is Paul Harvey. Stand by for news."

His morning "News and Comment" segment combines his unique brand of midwestern conservativism with an uplifting optimism. "How are things?" he'll ask, before reading the latest job numbers, economic forecast or poll results. His answer, supported by the facts, usually amounts to: Things are very good. Harvey's a pleasure to listen to partly because he's the opposite of the network evening newscasts. He presents the news, good and bad, without a sense of impending doom.

Perhaps that's because Harvey is the ultimate believer in progress. "Every pessimist who ever lived has been buried in an unmarked grave," he says. "Tomorrow has always been better than today, and it always will be." Even when events force him to report bad news, Harvey will often continue by inviting listeners to "wash your ears out with this," then present a positive story.

Those stories often involve a couple celebrating an anniversary. "They've been happily-ever-aftering for 72 years," he'll say, noting that's "a good start." The same thing could be said about Harvey's career. He's been on the air, somewhere, since 1933. A good start, and he has no plans to step down. "Retiring," he says, "is just practicing up to be dead. That doesn't take any practice."

And that's a good thing. A few years back, America had a brief taste of what the world would sound like without Paul Harvey. A rare viral disease stole his voice and kept him off the air for months. While others -- quite talented others -- kept his seat warm, regular listeners rejoiced when the real deal reclaimed the microphone.

Though now 87 years "young," Harvey's ABC Radio contract runs through 2010. His Web site bills him as "The Voice of the New Millennium," and it would seem he intends to keep working until the next one rolls around.

As a Presidential Medal of Freedom honoree this year, Harvey's in good company. The 14 other winners include Carol Burnett, Robert Conquest, Aretha Franklin, Alan Greenspan, Jack Nicklaus and Rwandan hero Paul Rusesabagina. No doubt if Harvey hadn't been receiving an award, he'd have wanted to be there just to report on the ceremony.

"I think of myself as a professional parade watcher who can't wait to get out of bed every morning and rush down to the teletypes and pan for gold," Harvey told CNN's Larry King a few years ago. And the rest of us can't wait to listen to what he comes up with.

Congratulations, Paul Harvey. And "good day."

Ed Feulner is president of The Heritage Foundation (heritage.org), a Washington-based public policy research institute.