Daniel Patrick Moynihan in His Own Words

We're a manufacturing city. If we ever cease to be that we will begin to die. And we are ceasing, we're losing jobs. We can get them back, but only as we understand that is the first priority we have. Jobs, that's the first priority, jobs, that's the second priority. The third priority is jobs.

They read like they could have been spoken by a candidate this morning, but those are words from a 34-year-old TV ad that helped propel Daniel Patrick Moynihan to win the 1976 Democratic Senate primary. New Yorkers then sent Moynihan to the U.S. Senate four times.

Moynihan was one of the most contentious and respected politicians in 20th century New York history—and he weathered attacks from all sides of the political spectrum. In the new book by New York Times writer Steven Weisman, Daniel Patrick Moynihan, A Portrait in Letters of an American Visionary, Moynihan's words speak for themselvesOn WNYC's Morning Edition, Weisman called the book "a glimpse into the interior life of one of the most important New York politicians of the modern era," who often felt misunderstood by the press.

In 1965, in The Moynihan Report, he predicted the disintegration of urban black families. Then, after being slammed in the papers, an earnest Moynihan strove to explain himself on NBC's Meet the Press:
I was trying to show that unemployment statistics, which are so dull, and you read so many of them, and you don't know what they may mean, and they're hard to believe—that unemployment ended up nonetheless with orphaned children, with abandoned mothers, with men living furtive lives without even an address, that unemployment had flesh and blood and it could bleed. That's all I was trying to do.

In addition to his terms in the Senate, Moynihan served as an advisor to four presidents (two Republicans and two Democrats), and he did not shy away from explosive topics. He addressed the major issues of the 1960s and 1970s straight on, including poverty and civil rights. The book he penned, Beyond the Melting Pot: The Negroes, Puerto Ricans, Jews, Italians, and Irish of New York, influenced generations of historians and writers.

On Monday October 18, there's a symposium on Moynihan at the Museum of the City of New York, featuring Steven Weisman, Senator Charles Schumer and others.