It's a huge honor to receive a prize named in memory of Herblock. But, ladies and gentlemen, I knew Herblock. Herblock was a friend of mine. Ladies and gentlemen, I'm no Herblock. On the other hand, I'm not even half way through the length of Herb's career, so I've got time to improve. I mentioned this to one colleague who responded, "Thomas Nast isn't half-way through Herb's career.
I want to thank my wife Eliza, and my daughters, Katie and Emily, often my first sounding-boards, who when they roll their eyes, I imagine are doing so with love. I also want to thank my mother, no longer with us, who entered my sickroom when I was bedridden for a year and a half at the age of five, with pencils, crayons and paper, and said: "You should learn to draw. You might enjoy it. It's magical." She was right.
Most importantly, I wish to thank The Philadelphia Inquirer, which for 34 years, and under the leadership of a variety of editors and publishers has been nurturing, encouraging and tolerant when I've come very close to, or actually gone over the cliff. Amanda Bennett, the current editor of The Inquirer, is one of the relatively small number of editors in the country who understand that the best cartoons are, by definition, going to infuriate some of our readers. She has defended my independence on numerous occasions, and has a long history as a defender of outraged cartoonists, and some would say outrageous cartoons. When she was editor of the Lexington Herald-Leader, hers was one of only five papers in the country that published Pat Oliphant's memorable drawing on the child sexual abuse scandal in the Catholic Church entitled "Celebration of spring at Saint Paedophilia's , the annual running of the altar boys." She was the only editor to have published that drawing who didn't apologize for having done so, and she actually published it again on a page devoted to angry letters denouncing the cartoon and the Herald-Leader.
To Chris Satullo, editorial page editor of the Inquirer, and my colleagues on the editorial board, I owe a deep debt of gratitude. Chris loves our mission, civic dialog, and the struggle to make sense of the world. He knows the value of bold, irreverent graphic commentary and is the target of much abuse because of me. He is a collateral damagee.
And, of course, I want to thank Herblock, whom I first became aware of when I was twelve. Talent, commitment and intelligence times longevity is the measure of a cartoonist's success and impact. On that score Herb was unique. The campaign he waged for more than seventy years is without parallel in the annals of American graphic commentary. His contributions to editorial cartooning and journalism cannot be overstated. And thanks to the foundation he has endowed, that contribution will continue. It is said that Herb never married, and that he had no children. That's not quite right. There is not a political cartoonist in America who has not been influenced by Herb. We are all his children. And as Herblock's heirs, today's political cartoonists have an obligation to carry on his legacy of honest, fearless commentary on the issues of our time. No politician, no bureaucrat, no self-anointed "opinion leader" was ever safe from Herb's pen, and none should be safe from ours.
Our job is not to amuse our readers. Our mission is to stir them, inform and inflame them. Our task is to continually hold up our government and our leaders to clear-eyed analysis, unaffected by professional spin-meisters and agenda-pushers. In these times, when those of us who are members of the "reality-based community" are under relentless attack from both the right and the left, we must encourage, and our work must reflect, independent and non-ideological thinking. Herb would expect no less of us.
These days we have a lot to work with. This is truly a target-rich environment. It's wonderful for me today to come to Washington, the Mother Lode of cartooning inspiration. No wonder Herb mined this vein for over seventy years - it was just too rich to let go. I don't expect to be able to do this as long as Herb, or as well, but I want you to know that I'm having a wonderful time trying.