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Hail and Farewell, Look Back 2023, Resolutions

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley
The Truth Network Radio
December 31, 2023 3:04 pm

Hail and Farewell, Look Back 2023, Resolutions

CBS Sunday Morning / Jane Pauley

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December 31, 2023 3:04 pm

Host Jane Pauley looks back at some of the top news stories of 2023. Also: Lee Cowan presents "Hail and Farewell," our annual tribute to those we lost this past year; David Pogue reports on good news you may have missed; Mo Rocca explores the history of New Year's resolutions; Anderson Cooper discusses freeing yourself from the burden of grief; historian Douglas Brinkley celebrates 50 years of the Endangered Species Act; and comedian Jim Gaffigan offers a decidedly premature memorial to himself.

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Savings Accounts by Goldman Sachs Bank USA Member FDIC. Terms apply. Good morning. I'm Jane Pauley, and this is a Sunday morning for the very last day of the year, 2023. Tomorrow begins a new year with the promise of a fresh start, but this morning we'll begin by looking back at the year that was. That includes, to be sure, no shortage of bad news, but we'll also be taking note of the good with some help from our David Pogue. In 2023, good news was everywhere, if you knew where to look. What a view. It's really hard to make an electric aircraft.

It's even harder to make an electric aircraft that takes off and lands vertically. The next 10 years could be the best decade in human history. It's the good news of 2023, arriving soon on Sunday morning. We're driven to make them and almost always break them. With Mo Rocca, we've resolved to take a closer look at New Year's resolutions. Christmas might be over, but for a lot of us, New Year's is a time for making a list and checking it twice. Do you think this is in us innately, this desire to resolve to be better? Every year, people optimistically want to change their lives and believe that they can.

Later on Sunday morning, the surprisingly old tradition of New Year's resolutions. It's been our tradition for more than four decades and counting. On this last Sunday of 2023, we say hail and farewell to those who left us in the year gone by. Lee Cowan helps us look back. We've lost some true greats this year, from those who made us laugh. Well, despite the yummy bagels and palpable tension. To those who made us think.

I've never asked anybody for help in being turned down. And to those who made us sing. We say a final goodbye to all those whose gifts made us a bit better.

Coming up on Sunday morning. Historian Douglas Brinkley has good news about the Endangered Species Act. Plus, thoughts from Anderson Cooper, humor from Jim Gaffigan and more this last Sunday morning on the last day of the year, 2023. And we'll be right back.

Hey, it's Ryan Holiday, host of the Daily Stoic Podcast. When I bought my first house in 2013, part of the way I paid for it was we would rent it out on Airbnb in Austin when there was South by Southwest or F1 or ACL. And then later, when that tiny little house became my office, I would work there and do my writing during the week. And on the weekends, we'd rent it out to people who were coming in from out of town on Airbnb. And you may be sitting on an Airbnb and not even know it.

You've probably had the same experience. You stayed in an Airbnb and thought, this is doable. Maybe I could rent my place on Airbnb.

And it's really that simple. You can start with a spare room or you can rent your whole place. Maybe you're traveling to see friends and family for the holidays. While you're away, your home could be an Airbnb. Your home might be worth more than you think.

Find out at Airbnb dot com slash host. Hey there, it's Mary Harris and I host Slate's daily news podcast, What Next? It's a show I made because I was grappling with this question. Why is the news everywhere? And I have no idea what to pay attention to. My daily short podcast is here to help you make sense of things from fleshing out new angles to uncovering stories that have largely gone unreported. When the news feels overwhelming, I'm here to help you answer what next.

So subscribe wherever you're listening right now. In 2023 and every year, there's certainly no shortage of the dark, grim and depressing. But sometimes that obscures the light uplifting positive developments the year brought to people the world over. David Pogue is here to make amends.

Good morning. Well, you'd never guess it from the headlines, but 2023 was a great year for good news. For starters, inflation is finally slowing down and may even lead to lower interest rates in the new year. It looks like the Federal Reserve might have pulled it off, cooling inflation without triggering a recession. Plus, just look at all these exciting graphs, violent crime rates, property crime rates, Americans getting college degrees, carbon dioxide emissions per capita. But if you like your good news with a little more flash, we go now to correspondent David Pogue.

David? For decades, we could only envy the rail systems in other countries. That's why this might surprise you. So this is Bright Green. It's coming in from a trip that started probably three and a half hours ago in Miami. Michael Reininger is the CEO of Brightline, which has just built the first new privately owned American rail line in 100 years. It makes 16 round trips a day between Orlando and Miami. There's a lot of easy to grasp advantages to taking a train.

It's faster, it's safer, it's cleaner. But on top of all of those, you get the gift of time back by taking the train. So welcome on board. And Florida is only the beginning.

Just last month, the government contributed $8.2 billion toward rail projects in 44 states, including the country's first bullet train, LA to Las Vegas at 200 miles an hour. Others are going to jump in as well. And so this really is, we think, the icebreak moment for what will be a new transformation in train travel in America.

Thank you, David. Sometimes good news means reversing bad news. And there was a lot of that in 2023. Brazil's previous president burned down 8.4 million acres of the Amazon rainforest, the largest carbon sink on the planet. But the new president has slowed that deforestation by 48% in only eight months. There's hope for these trees, too. California's giant redwoods can live for over 2,500 years.

So it was devastating when the 2020 wildfires burned up Big Basin Redwoods State Park, leaving nothing behind but blackened trunks. But this year, something amazing. New green buds growing back.

It turns out that for centuries, these trees have been harboring a secret reserve of buds beneath the bark, a little insurance for worst case scenarios. But as good news categories go, the big winner this year was medicine. We got the first ever over-the-counter birth control pill.

New treatments approved for Alzheimer's, RSV and muscular dystrophy. And then the game changer in obesity and diabetes, the mainstream arrival of drugs like Ozempic, Zepbound and Wegovi. Particularly what it does is it slows away food moves through your gut. So you feel less appetite, you feel less cravings. Clinical trials have shown it from Wegovi average weight loss of around 15% and with Zepbound up to 20% or more. Of your body weight?

Yes. So these are really significant. Reshmi Srinath is the director of obesity medicine at Mount Sinai Hospital in New York. You know, many of my patients, they are eating better than I am. They are exercising a ton. They are doing everything right. And that's where, you know, patients who come and have really tried their best to fail lifestyle measures could really benefit from some of these drugs. Best of all, it's not just about losing weight.

Whether it's their blood pressure, their cholesterol, their diabetes, you know, being able to say, oh, you don't need your blood pressure medicine anymore. So really these are tremendous, tremendous gains and something that is really a breakthrough. 2023 was the year artificial intelligence got real. Software like ChatGPT set off waves of terror about jobs and misinformation and humanity's future. But there's more to the AI story. For example, AI can now spot breast cancer tumors that people miss. In California, within two months, a new AI program spotted 77 wildfires forming before any person had a clue.

And in L.A. and New York, AI hooked up to traffic cameras is changing stoplights in real time to keep traffic flowing. As Stanford professor Eric Brynjolfsson points out, Not only is it not the end of the world, I think we're going to have potentially the best decade of flourishing of creativity that we've ever had because a whole bunch of people, lots more people than before, are going to be able to contribute to our collective art and science. Finally, air travel is one of the last great challenges in decarbonizing the planet. Airplanes pump out about a billion tons of carbon dioxide every year. And of course, as we all know, there's no such thing as a clean electric plane.

Or is there? We go now to David Pogue. It's a beautiful day to fly in Burlington, Vermont. And off the wing of our chase plane, we're observing a striking new airplane.

Isn't that beautiful? All electric. You can add for the future. It's an electric plane made by Beta Technologies. It seats six and can fly for a couple hundred miles on a charge.

There are four lifting rotors. And according to Beta founder and CEO Kyle Clark, that's only the beginning. Every year, batteries get better and better. That means in seven years, we'll double that.

And in another seven years, we'll double that again. So you think before you and I die that we will fly on an electric-powered jetliner? Yes. Absolutely.

No question. Beta expects to begin flying cargo in 2024, passengers in 2025. But it's just one of over 300 companies working on electric planes. Quieter than gas planes, simpler to maintain, and much cheaper to fly. Many of them can take off and land vertically. And you know what that means.

Where we're going, we don't need runways. David. Thank you, David. Well, that's all for today.

Actually, that's nowhere near all. But remember, bad news breaks suddenly. But good news happens everywhere, all the time. Good night, everyone. Good night, everyone. Good night, everyone. Every day, I am going to do one thing I have never done before. That, my friends, is my New Year's resolution. Ooh, that's a good one.

Mine is to pilot a commercial jet. That's a good one, too, Phoebs. Now all you have to do is find a plane load of people whose resolution is to plummet to their deaths. Bring in the new, a Sunday morning on New Year's Eve.

Here again is Jane Pauley. Every New Year offers the promise of a new you. The person you'd become if only you could just stick to those all-too-easy-to-make New Year's resolutions.

Easier said than done, as our morocca knows only too well. The clock is ticking down once again to a new year, and millions of Americans are right now making promises they probably won't keep. Once again, getting into shape was the number one New Year's resolution. Well, if you haven't already given up on your New Year's resolution to try to eat healthier, listen, I have faith in you out there. And if your New Year's resolution was to become rich, well, it's not too late. Studies show most New Year's resolutions are bound to fail. But did you know that we've been failing at them for thousands of years? Even if we go very far back in history, we can find people trying to kind of orchestrate a fresh start at the New Year's through resolutions.

Candida Moss is a historian and professor of theology at the University of Birmingham. She says annual attempts at self-improvement are about as old as the celebrating of New Year's itself. Ancient Babylonians had a big celebration almost two weeks long where they celebrated the New Year around springtime in March or April and would make resolutions.

And they were small, so pay off like small debts. They would make sort of small vows about better behavior, and the Romans would do the same thing. In 46 B.C., Julius Caesar created a new Roman calendar that started the New Year on the first day of January. January was named for the Roman god Janus, whose two faces look forward and back. That's really important for how we think about New Year's as a kind of taking stock and starting again. Were these kind of traditions about making the people happy or making the gods happy? These are primarily about making the gods happy, and that's really what New Year's is about.

It's a kind of supernatural spring cleaning. Over the centuries, traditions changed. For many in the West, New Year's lost much of its religious significance.

The advent of electricity helped turn the celebration into a nighttime affair, complete with champagne toasts and midnight kisses. But through it all, the ritual of the New Year's resolution remains. In only a few days now, this year will be over, and a new one will begin. Mo Rocca and Nancy Giles share some New Year's resolutions. And back in 2008, my friend and colleague Nancy Giles and I publicly acknowledged our own resolutions. How much do I love New Year's resolutions? I've had the same three for the last nine years.

We got together 15 years later to see how they held up. Number one, learn to speak Spanish fluently. Number two, read the Bible cover to cover.

I just can't get past the Leviticus. And three, complete a back handspring unassisted. It is weird to look back at this stuff, and I did have the same resolutions over and over and over again. Those are such noble resolutions and that you stick to it, so how's the Spanish going? Ah, si, ah, si.

I never quite, I never quite, and I have not been to un cunacio for a long time, so the back handspring, I don't know that it's ever going to happen now. Wouldn't it be better to approach our New Year's hopes very, very quietly so that we're all less humiliated when we don't get there? I try to make my resolutions more specific, realistic, doable, take salsa lessons, roll out more paper. I was worried, I was sure I was going to say a lot of things that down the line I hadn't done, but kind of being cool and being content with one's life and living quietly, I can do that, and I can still do that. What grade would you give yourself on those resolutions?

Yeah, I'd say maybe a B, maybe B minus, the paper thing is still really, but I'm working on it. What kinds of resolutions are more likely to succeed? Small resolutions, and a psychologist will tell you small baby steps. Don't revolutionize your life, just overnight. New Year's is arguably the most optimistic holiday, and New Year's resolutions, succeed or fail, have a lot to do with that. After all, there's no chance you'll achieve a goal if you never set one in the first place.

I think everyone struggles with, you know, just the problem of not living up to the person they want to be, and funnily enough, the whole system is based on the idea that you'll inevitably fail, but it doesn't matter because there's always next year. Five, four, three, two, one. Cheers. Happy New Year.

Happy New Year. Hey, everybody. Stephen Colbert here. I have my own, the show has a podcast, The Late Show Pod Show, and I'm here with the producer, Becca. Becca, what are we doing?

What is this? So, The Late Show Pod Show, it's everything you love about The Late Show, the monologue, the lead guest. Am I correct about this, that you actually get things in the podcast often that aren't on the show, because we had to cut things for time, and so you get more guests, or you might even get some jokes or some more meanwhiles or something like that, we didn't get a chance, or certainly conversations with Lewis and the band that you don't get. So you get more stuff, so if you don't listen to the podcast, you're losing money.

It's true, it's true. TV, you can only put so much, you've got to get those commercial breaks in, but the podcast, we can keep going. That's the great thing about podcasts, is that the real estate is enormously cheap, and so you can just shovel anything in there, and people go, thank you? Listen to The Late Show Pod Show with Stephen Colbert wherever you get your podcasts.

I use the internet. It was one of the headline news events of the year gone by, but for our David Pogue, it wasn't just news, it was personal. Most of the time, an obituary makes the headlines because of how a person lived, but every now and then, it's because of how they died. That's certainly the case for the five men on the Ocean Gate Titan submersible, which imploded this past June on its way down to see the Titanic. One of them was Ocean Gate CEO Stockton Rush, who had also designed the sub. He certainly enjoyed playing the Maverick. I don't know if it was MacArthur, but somebody said, you remember for the rules you break, and that's the fact.

There were a lot of rules out there that didn't make engineering sense to me. But during the ten days I spent with him last year for a Sunday morning story, I found him to be funny, whip-smart, and driven. My whole life I wanted to be an astronaut, I wanted to be sort of the Captain Kirk.

I didn't want to be the passenger in the back. And I realized that the ocean is the universe. That's where life is. I also got to know P.H. Nargelay, one of the most experienced Titanic divers who ever lived. Thirty-seven times you've been down to this ship, is there any amazement and awe left? Yeah, you know, I have to say, each dive is a new experience.

I open my eyes like that when I'm in the sun. He also dived that day, along with their three passengers, Hamish Harding, Shezada Daywood, and his son, Suleiman. I'm tempted to say something here about how risk is part of the game for thrill seekers like these, or maybe even the whole point. Or about how Stockton Rush was trying to innovate to make deep-sea exploration more accessible to more people.

Or about how science doesn't move forward without people making sacrifices. But none of this would be any consolation to the people these men left behind. To their wives, their children, their parents.

P.H. had grandchildren. For them, it's just absence now, and grieving. For these men, and for the dreams they were chasing.

We have this universe that will take us centuries to explore, and suddenly you see things that no one's ever seen, and you realize how little we know, how vast the ocean is, how much life is there, how important it is, and how alien. Some of their names are familiar, others obscure. They made us laugh, they made us think, made a difference.

They came from all walks of life, and their accomplishments are as varied as their stories. With Lee Cowan, we say hail and farewell. For all the glories of the season, as we bid farewell to 2023, there are a lot of tears, too. But we find hope in those who left us comfort in the best way they knew how. What the world needs now. Some with song.

Some sweet love. Why are these songs rediscovered? I don't know, why are people still singing them? Like Burt Bacharach, whom we lost at 94. Because I guess they have durability.

In class, they have some sophistication. Raindrops are falling on my head. He even made cloudy skies seem a little less gray. Nothing's worrying me. Jimmy Buffett never seemed to worry about anything. He melted our cares like the salt on the rim of a margarita.

I got into it years ago to have fun and to meet girls for no other reason. I was supposed to have been a lawyer, thank God I didn't pursue that. What a laid-back lawyer he would have been. Buffett kept our feet in the sand until the age of 76. We're the second oldest profession with profit's immense prostitution. Well, sort of.

We're talking defense. Our politics today could use a couple of stiff shots of satirist Mark Russell. Do they ever get offended?

God, I hope so. What channel is Cronkite on? Channel 2, Archie. The one we don't watch because you always say Walter Cronkite is a communist. Speaking of offending, Norman Lear's character, Archie Bumper, was the undisputed king. And who said Santa Claus was white?

Come on now, I had the same argument with you about Jesus. There's nothing that unites people more or better than laughter. Norman Lear was 101. It's the Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.

The Smothers Brothers had their style of social commentary too, especially Tommy Smothers, who went to battle against this very network over censoring his jokes. Our government is asking us as citizens to refrain from traveling to foreign lands. Okay, all you guys in Vietnam, come on home.

There was never premeditation or anything we ever did. We just did it, and if it got attention, I said, I'll do it again. Maybe we'll get some more attention. Tommy Smothers, the other half of the pioneering duo, left us laughing until he was 86. It was such a fascinating era for television. The Woodstock Music and Art Fair. And, of course, for music. That's when the sweet sounds of Crosby, Stills and Dash were born.

It's been a long time coming. David Crosby had a way of putting social angst into lyrics that have certainly stood the test of time. One of the good things about being a singer-songwriter is you get to leave a legacy.

And I feel like I'm going to leave a good one. He left us at 81. He provided the soundtrack for a generation. A generation that saw so much change, especially for women. Dianne Feinstein became the first female mayor of San Francisco in 1978. And she went on to become our longest-serving female senator. America takes a little mothering every now and then.

That's not so bad. She was a fixture in Washington, bringing change one vote at a time. Just as Sandra Day O'Connor did, as the first woman to be appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court. She answered the nation's most vexing constitutional questions with steady determination and confidence. My policy was not to look back and try to second-guess it and say, Oh, did I do the right thing? Should we have done something else? So I put the effort in up front, made a decision, and then went forward.

The stigma of mental illness coupled with the stigma of old age can have devastating results. At the White House, First Lady Rosalynn Carter fought for those so often overlooked by government. But she also had a hand in the business of global peace.

I've never asked anybody for help in being turned down. It was she who suggested inviting Egyptian President Anwar Sadat and Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to Camp David. Where the Israeli-Egyptian peace agreement was hammered out. An agreement for peace in the Middle East.

I try to think things through before I act on them. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, under President Richard Nixon, helped pave the way for that agreement. His style of diplomacy wasn't always agreeable, however. When it came to Vietnam, at first he wanted to escalate it, but then later tried to end it. Historians are still sorting it all out.

You shouldn't ask the people who were active to define what their legacy is. They tend to exaggerate. Songwriter Barrett Strong summed up the frustrations many had about the war.

And those lyrics could just as easily apply to those fighting a war of a different kind. A racial one. Yes, there is a racism in the NFL.

No doubt about it. Jim Brown, one of the best in the NFL, was also a passionate voice for social activism. You must reach out and be conscious of bringing in other people.

And whenever we reach out in our society, people prove to be up to par, up to standard, or even superior. He left the NFL for a career in acting. His personal life was troubled, but he wanted to use his celebrity for change. Just as others were doing. What do you really do with this celebrity? What do you really do with this power? Mr. Belafonte and I are just returning from Paris. You put it in the service of those from whom you just came. Harry Belafonte was a humanitarian first, a singer second.

People in the strangest places feel the need to say, Déo! Although the Banana Boat song made him famous on stage and on screen, his passion was righting the world's wrongs. Racial injustice is still our crippling burden and America's shame. His platform only grew once he got into the movies and on Broadway. He did well there, but as that song goes, Broadway can often be a merciless place. That song was written by Cynthia Weil, along with her collaborator husband Barry Mann.

And it gave voice to all those trying so hard to make it on the Great White Way. That's what songwriters live for, knowing that they've touched someone and helped them in some way. The song will never stop loving.

Cynthia Weil took wing this year at 82. There were so many in the movies we lost, like Ryan O'Neill, who will forever be remembered for his role alongside Ali McGraw in Love Story. Love means never having to say you're sorry. He called Love Story movie magic. For actor Michael Gambon, there was a bit of sorcery at work, too. Words are, in my not-so-humble opinion, our most inexhaustible source of magic. For Triwizard time!

He embodied Albus Dumbledore, the headmaster at Hogwarts, who it always seemed had wisdom to spare. But I understand what you're saying and I really sense your pain. On the small screen, we had our share of notable departures, too. Back to defend its title as the worst show in the history of television. Talk shows were never the same after Jerry Springer.

Highbrow, it wasn't. But that, in Springer's view, didn't make it trash TV either. Look, television does not and must not create values.

It's merely a picture of all that's out there, the good, the bad, the ugly. Oxyvene Richardson, come on down. You're the next contestant on The Price is Right. The Price is Right was a different stop on the daytime dial, and for nearly four decades Bob Barker was at the helm. What really gives the show its personality are the people. They are the main ingredient of the show, and what I can help them to put across on television, I think, is what makes our show entertaining. Not only do those who won the Showcase Showdowns have him to thank... Help control the pet population. Have your pets bathed or neutered. Good night, everybody.

So do pets everywhere. Bob Barker was 99. There was nothing quite like Friends, a cast who became real friends themselves. OK, should we get some coffee? Sure.

Where? Which is what made the passing of Matthew Perry so very hard. See, it pays to know the man who wears my shoes. Me. He had his demons, but was always committed to helping others who were struggling as well. What do you think is the biggest misconception that people don't understand about addiction?

I think that people don't understand that it's a disease. A friend to the end, Perry was just 54. What's love got to do, got to do with it? What's love got a second-hand devotion?

I think love has everything to do with everything. Just how do you sum up the talent? It was Tina Turner. The performer with endless energy, who often sang about her personal struggles.

Sadly, there were plenty. You're simply the best. The queen of rock and roll was indeed better than all the rest. Better than all the rest.

She left us at 83. Nothing compares to you. We lost another provocative singer, Sinead O'Connor, who never minced words or deeds.

Fight the real enemy. Hey now, you're an all-star, get your game on. And then there was Steve Hartwell, the mouth behind Smash Mouth. It ain't no joke. He left us at only 56.

He was an all-star through and through. Right foot, two stops. All those musicians with songs in their hearts. You know you make me want to stop. Our lives have been better for your gift. Take a ride in the sky, on a ship at the side.

All your dreams will come true. From some 238,000 miles away, the first human space flight to orbit the moon. Commanded by none other than Frank Borman. God bless all of you.

All of you on the good Earth. He left us at 96. Is there any way a wife can prepare herself for a critical situation like that?

No. Marilyn Lovell watched her husband Jim Lovell go to space four times. Never knowing if he'd come back. He always did though. Now, she's in the stars, and he's the one looking up.

Marilyn Lovell was 93. So, when you look back at it all, would you do it over again, if you had a chance? Sure.

Yeah. Fly me to the moon. The death of friends, loved ones, those we admire, those we knew, even those we didn't. They affected us all. And young or old, losing Tony Bennett hit hard. You know, you hear a song and say, God, what a, you know, it just gets you.

You know, you just get that tingle down your spine, and you feel, not only do I love it, but I think the audience is going to love this. He did what he did, the way he did it, with style, class, and grace. And he did it for decades.

That's why the lady is a tramp. He was as timeless as the songs he sang, the gold standard for crooners everywhere. I left my heart in San Francisco. We can't remember them all, of course, but our hearts are left wanting more from so many, for their talents, their ethics, their passions. We are forever grateful to all of them. We bid a very fond hail and farewell. Golden sun will shine for me.

Thank you very much. Since so much of our broadcast is devoted to those we're leaving behind, it seems the right time to consider the question of grief. Anderson Cooper's CNN podcast is called All There Is and asks the question, do we move on from grief or simply learn to live with it? He shares some thoughts. Grief, when it comes, is nothing like we expect it to be. Joan Didion wrote that, and boy, was she right.

It's nothing we expect, and it's different for everyone. I've spent much of my career as a reporter in wars and disasters stepping into other people's grief, but I've also spent most of my life running away from my own, and I haven't gotten very far. For the last few years, I've been going through dozens of boxes of photos and papers belonging to my mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, who died in 2019, and to my dad, Wyatt, who died when I was 10, and to my brother, Carter, who died by suicide when I was 21. I'm the last one left from the little family I was born into, the last one who remembers our stories and the life we shared. I found letters and journals, old seating charts for dinner parties, postcards from Truman Capote, even telegrams from Frank Sinatra, the one my mom was dating in the 1950s. Sifting through these boxes, these memories, it's been overwhelming and lonely, and I'm not sure what I'm supposed to do with it all.

I can't just get rid of these things. It's all that's left of them, and I'm not ready to let them go. The truth is, none of us is alone in our grief, though it certainly feels like we are.

The path we're on is well traveled. The person sitting next to you on the subway or in a cubicle at work, everyone has felt the pain of loss or will. It is a bond we can share, but we rarely do. Instead, we shroud our grief in silence. Why is it so hard to talk about? Why must we keep it hidden away, crying in private, speaking the names of our loved ones in hushed whispers only we can hear? I've done that my whole life, and the price I paid is high. When you bury your grief to mute your sadness, you mute your ability to feel joy as well.

You can't have one without the other, and I see that now. Talking about grief and hearing from others who are living with grief as well, it's the one thing I've found that's helped me feel less frozen by it and less alone in it. I'm not a fan of New Year's resolutions, but this year I'm going to try and give up carrying my grief in silence.

I've been doing that since I was 10 years old, and the weight of it is just too much to bear. 2023 was a major anniversary for the Endangered Species Act. It's now 50 years old. With historian Douglas Brinkley, we mark a milestone. When Theodore Roosevelt was president, he lamented that the North American bison, once 40 million strong, had been nearly wiped out by commercial hunters. An avid bird watcher, Roosevelt also mourned the fact that hunting and habitat loss had killed some 3 billion passenger pigeons in the 19th century alone, driving the species to extinction. Roosevelt roared from his bully pulpit, The wildlife in its habitat cannot speak, so we must and we will.

It would take another six decades, though, before the United States caught up with Roosevelt, but when it did, it went big. On December 28, 1973, Richard Nixon put his presidential signature to the far-reaching Endangered Species Act, which for the first time provided America's iconic flora and fauna with serious legal protection. The remarkable success of the Endangered Species Act is undisputable. An astonishing 99 percent of the threatened species first listed have survived. Due to the heroic efforts of U.S. government employees, bald eagles now nest unmolested along the Lake Erie shoreline, grizzlies roam Montana's wilderness, and alligators propel themselves menacingly across Louisiana's bayous. Whether it's protecting a tiny Kirtland's warbler in the Jack Pines of Michigan or a 200-ton blue whale in the Santa Barbara Channel, the Endangered Species Act remains the most dazzling and impactful environmental feat of all time. In Northern California, the Yurok tribe has successfully reintroduced the California condor back to its ancestral lands.

Recently, a federal judge approved the reintroduction of gray wolves in Colorado. And while America is still mourning musician Jimmy Buffett, his conservation legacy lives on with the Save the Manatee Club in Florida. Upon reflection, what President Nixon said in 1973 still holds true.

Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed. Newton Minow, not exactly a household name, but a towering figure in the 1960s media world. A man who will be forever remembered for just two words.

...is a vast wasteland. However, it was Newton Minow who, as chairman of the government's Federal Communications Commission, became an outspoken critic of commercialism on TV. Minow served for just two years in the administration of President John Kennedy. He helped pioneer communications satellites, arguing presciently that satellites would be much more important than sending man into space because they would send ideas into space. He also broadened the channel spectrum, helping spark the rise of nonprofit educational TV stations, the predecessors of PBS.

But it was at a gathering in 1961 of the National Association of Broadcasters that Minow observed. When television is good, nothing. Not the theater, not the magazines or newspapers, nothing is better.

But when television is bad, nothing is worse. A vast wasteland, he called it. Newton Minow died last May. As for that vast wasteland, is it better or merely vaster?

You decide. Now to Jim Gaffigan, who remembers a great American. Upon the close of another December, we often look back on the people we've lost during that year.

Today I'd like to honor the passing of a great American who was not just my North Star, but in many ways the single most influential person in my life. I'm of course talking about myself. You might find it unorthodox for me to do my own memorial commentary.

Some of you may find it gauche. How can one even give an objective assessment on their own life? Wouldn't a self tribute just come across as delusional or bragging? Well, don't worry. I'm not going to use this time to talk about my offbeat good looks, what a great father I was, or my humbleness.

I'll let the president do that in his impromptu televised address. Another issue that might hinder the integrity of this self memorial is the fact that I'm still alive. Therefore, this memorial is certainly incomplete. Sure, as of today, I'm a grossly underappreciated comedian and actor, but maybe in the future I'll be acknowledged. I mean, probably not, but I might receive the respect I deserve. It is possible a reviewer will be able to describe one of my acting performances as something other than surprising. You may wonder if this self memorial will lead to confusion and distress. I don't want anyone coming to one of my shows after watching this and thinking they're watching a ghost perform stand up comedy.

I'm not that pale. If people had thought I had passed away, would an enormous portion of the country take a personal day or two to grieve, thus causing an unpreventable strain on the worldwide economy and possibly a supply chain disruption? Well, don't worry. I'm alive. Well, then again, I could have suddenly passed away prior to the airing of this commentary. Then this memorial ought to include my uncanny predictive abilities.

Who am I kidding? When I die, I'm sure Sunday morning will dedicate an entire show to me and my humble life. I can just hear Jane Pauley now.

We lost our Jim Gaffigan this week. Wait a minute, who? But either way, I'm still alive.

I think. Happy New Year, everyone. I'm Jane Pauley. We wish you the very best in 2024. And please join us when our trumpet sounds again next Sunday morning. Or you can listen ad-free with Wondery Plus in Apple Podcasts. Before you go, tell us about yourself by completing a short survey at Wondery.com slash survey.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-31 16:13:36 / 2023-12-31 16:30:11 / 17

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