By PEGGY NOONAN
Paul Harvey’s ad was terrific. Steve Kroft’s interview was shameful.
So many people this week mentioned Dodge’s great Super Bowl spot, “So God Made a Farmer,” from a 1978 speech by the late Paul Harvey. Here are some reasons it was great:
• Because it spoke respectfully and even reverently of others. We don’t do that so much anymore. We’re afraid of looking corny or naive, and we fear that to praise one group is to suggest another group is less worthy of admiration. So we keep things bland and nonspecific. Harvey wasn’t afraid to valorize, and his specificity had the effect of reminding us there’s a lot of uncelebrated valor out there. It would be nice to hear someone do “So God Created Firemen,” or “So God Created Doctors,” but I’m not sure our culture has the requisite earnestness and respect. We do irony, sarcasm and spoofs: “So God Created Hedge Fund Managers.” Anyway, it was nice—a real refreshment—to hear the sound of authentic respect
• Because it spoke un-self-consciously in praise of certain virtues—commitment, compassion, hard work, a sense of local responsibility. The most moving reference, to me, was when Harvey has the farmer get up before dawn, work all day, and “then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” Notice the old word “town,” not “community”—that blight of a word that is used more and more as it means less and less.
• Because it explicitly put God as maker of life and governor of reality, again un-self-consciously, and with a tone that anticipated no pushback. God, you could say anything in Paul Harvey’s day.• Because it was Paul Harvey, a great broadcaster and a clear, clean writer for the ear, who knew exactly what he was saying and why, and who was confident of the values he asserted. He wasn’t a hidden person, he wasn’t smuggling an agenda, he was conservative and Christian and made these things clear through the virtues and values he praised and the things he criticized.You could like him or not, but you understood that by his lights he was giving it to you straight as he could. He was often criticized as hokey, sentimental and overly dramatic, and sometimes he was. But mostly he was a pro who hit his mark every day, and it says something about his gifts that since he died in 2009, the ABC radio network has appointed a number of successors, but Harvey never really was replaced. Because he was irreplaceable.