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Quotes of the day: Alistair Cooke

Published Sunday, March 29, 2015 @ 6:15 PM EDT
Mar 29 2015

Alfred Alistair Cooke KBE (November 20, 1908 - March 30, 2004) was a British/American journalist, television personality and broadcaster. Outside his journalistic output, which included Letter from America and Alistair Cooke's America, he was well known in the United States as the host of PBS Masterpiece Theatre from 1971 to 1992. After holding the job for 22 years, and having worked in television for 42 years, Cooke retired in 1992, although he continued to present Letter from America until shortly before his death. He was the father of author and folk singer John Byrne Cooke. (Click here for full Wikipedia article)


A first rate businessman is- saving some ghastly character flaw- always a success, but a successful man is not necessarily first rate.

A professional is someone who can do his best when he doesn't feel like it.

A wise old talks producer came to me and said, 'Cooke, a word in your ear. Could I give you a bit of advice?' I said, 'of course.' He said, 'don't get too popular... or they'll drop you.

All Presidents start out to run a crusade but after a couple of years they find they are running something less heroic and much more intractable: namely the presidency. The people are well cured by then of election fever, during which they think they are choosing Moses. In the third year, they look on the man as a sinner and a bumbler and begin to poke around for rumors of another Messiah.

As always, the British especially shudder at the latest American vulgarity, and then they embrace it with enthusiasm two years later.

Curiosity is free-wheeling intelligence.

Every sport pretends to a literature, but people don't believe it of any other sport but their own.

Golf is an open exhibition of overweening ambition, courage deflated by stupidity, skill soured by a whiff of arrogance.

In America the race is on between its decadence and its vitality, and it has plenty of both.

In the best of times, our days are numbered anyway. So it would be a crime against nature for any generation to take the world crisis so solemnly, that it put off enjoying those things for which we were designed in the first place: the opportunity to do good work, to enjoy friends, to fall in love, to hit a ball, and to bounce a baby.

It used to be said that you had to know what was happening in America because it gave us a glimpse of our future. Today, the rest of America, and after that Europe, had better heed what happens in California, for it already reveals the type of civilization that is in store for all of us.

Las Vegas is Everyman's cut-rate Babylon. Not far away there is, or was, a roadside lunch counter and over it a sign proclaiming in three words that a Roman emperor's orgy is now a democratic institution. 'Topless Pizza Lunch.'

Man has an incurable habit of not fulfilling the prophecies of his fellow men.

New York is the biggest collection of villages in the world.

People in America, when listening to radio, like to lean forward. People in Britain like to lean back.

People, when they first come to America, whether as travelers or settlers, become aware of a new and agreeable feeling: that the whole country is their oyster.

There is now no gap between the battlefield and the memoirs.

Washington's birthday is as close to a secular Christmas as any Christian country dare come this side of blasphemy.

When Americans are sorely troubled, they turn for official inspiration not to the Quran or Bible but to the colonial scriptures, to the sayings of the Founding Fathers, most of all to the speeches of (George) Washington.


(March 30 is also the birthday of Sean O'Casey.)

Categories: Alistair Cooke, Quotes of the day


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