Utne Reader Visionary: Ray Suarez

We need to say what we mean and mean what we say

| March-April 1996

Nimble, formidably well-read, and thoughtful, Ray Suarez is the anti-Limbaugh, a thinking person’s talk-show host. On more than a hundred public radio stations in the United States (and throughout Europe via syndication), Suarez’s Talk of the Nation call-in show invites experts and callers into genuine interchange on matters of political and cultural substance, from Bosnia to the legacy of Jerry Garcia. Unlike the shock jocks of right-wing radio, Suarez bends over backwards to be fair to all callers; he considers it his responsibility to the medium and its democratic purpose. Yet he admits that it can be hard to rein in his strong convictions, which include a Christian faith rooted in compassion for the poor and a belief that citizens ought to call the corporate media to account for their abuse of the public airwaves.

“The sham of public discourse around the country and especially in Washington, D.C., where I live, is doing great damage to our ability to solve problems and to look at America as a shared enterprise. Whether or not I’m a big fan of Bill and Hillary Clinton, I think that the Speaker of the House calling them ‘the enemies of normal people’ shows you the level that the debasement of language has reached. Are they really the enemies of normal people? Come on! That’s not the kind of talk that’s going to get us anywhere—it’s like doing ten thousand rpms with the accelerator pedal pressed to the floor, going nowhere. If the Republican Medicare plan is not actually an attack on America’s elderly, don’t get up in front of a microphone and say it is. That doesn’t help the people on the other side of the microphone make up their minds about it.”