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tin all photos by Alan Pogue FEATURE A Conversation with Bill Moyers The text of Moyers’ speech at the Observer’s September 30 Austin fundraiser BY BILL MOYERS 1111111 hank you for coming out tonight. Thanks for this second chance. Judith and I were looking forward to being with you last December for your 50th anniversary celebration when she experienced a sneak attack of Lyme Disease that persisted for several weeks. All’s well now but we were both deeply disappointed that we couldn’t be here to celebrate with you. It would have been a double celebration. The first issue of The Texas Observer appeared in December 1954 one week before Judith Davidson and I were married. We had transferred here to the University of Texas from North Texas State and were renting a garage apartment that has totally disappeared from a block of East 18th Street that no longer exists. So many landmarks of our lives have come down that it’s a joy to come back and find one that stubbornly and gamely remains true to its mission. Although many people would have also buried The Observer under the rubble of time, a good idea is as hard to kill as a good marriage. And this little newspaper was a good idea. As Ronnie Dugger reminds us in his epilogue to the book Fifty Years of The Texas Observer, those were the days when “there was a silence in Texas about racism, poverty, and corporate power.” We ranked dead last among the major states and next-to-last in the South in education, health care, and programs for the poor, and we were “as racist, segregated, and anti-union as the Deep South from which most of our Anglo pioneers had emerged. Mexican Americans were a hopeless underclass concentrated in South Texas. Women could vote and did the dog work in the political campaigns, but they were also ladies to be protected, above all from power. Gays and lesbians were as objectionable as communists. And the daily newspapers were as reactionary and dishonest a cynical gang as the First Amendment ever took the rap for.” So here comes an upstart named Ronnie, backed by an angel named Frankie, to poke a thumb in the eye of orthodoxy. Ronnie summed up the mission in his lead editorial in that very first issue: 6 THE TEXAS OBSERVER NOVEMBER 4, 2005