America has lost a true patriot with the death last week of British-born broadcaster, lecturer and author Alistair Cooke.
In September, 1974, Cooke experienced one of the proudest moments of his life: he addressed a special session of Congress to help kick off the body’s bicentenial celebration. He offered these wise words about history repeating itself:
“Practical men usually distrust history…as a false guide. And they’re right if they think that anything ever repeats itself in the same way. It’s rather the tendency of history to repeat itself in every way but one. And the new element is unfortunately and usually the one that matters.”
Cooke’s first exposure to Americans came during World War I as GI’s moved through England. He would eventually move to the United States where he became a naturalized citizen in 1941. In March, 1946, he was asked to produce a series of 15-minute radio broadcasts, “Letter to America,” for the BBC in which he could give the British a taste of what it was like to live in America. The producer of the show told him this was to be only a 26-week arrangement. The series would go on to become the longest-running speech-radio program, 58 years long and 2,869 broadcasts in all, ending just last month when Cooke’s failing health forced him to end it.
What never did end was his love of this country and its people:
“Americans are all activists in the sense that they have always believed that tomorrow is going to be at least as good as today and certainly better than yesterday.”
Alistair Cooke was 95 years old.