David Remnick, the editor of the New Yorker spoke at the Daniel Pearl Memorial lecture, http://www.international.ucla.edu/burkle/calendar/showevent.asp?eventid=9129, marking ten painful years since the unbearable torture and subsequent death of Daniel Pearl. What moved me was not Mr. Remnick, although he was an excellent and charismatic speaker, was the Israeli Dr. Judea Pearl, the grieving father of Daniel Pearl. I have no relationship with the Pearl family, and yet, as Professor Pearl spoke about his son “Danny” I felt very connected to him. Here was an extremely intelligent man, Judea Pearl, speaking about his disbelief that anyone would want to hurt his precious son. Clearly he knew how dangerous Danny’s job was. Clearly he knew that after 9/11, our world had changed. As an Israeli, he must have also understood terrorism-the randomness of horror. Yet, he said so sweetly, that he just could not imagine that Danny would not return home. I was so moved by what I perceived to be his grief; his agony over trying to understand how this could happen.
Before the lecture there was a montage, like a celebration, where pictures from Danny’s life were flashed on the screen. There was Danny, the little boy and there was Danny the classical musician. There was Danny’s wedding and there was Danny a little boy again. After that moving introduction to this lecture, it was hard to focus on the following three introductions which ultimately led up to David Remnick’s talk on free speech and the future of journalism. I managed to understand that from Mr. Remnick’s point of view, we live in a good news, bad news environment when it comes to the media. The good news is that the internet has created free speech like we have never had before. The bad news is that no one wants to pay for investigative journalism and so in-depth coverage is likely to be sparse. Yet, my mind kept returning to the Pearl family. There is no good news for them. Sure, his wife was pregnant at the time, and they are the proud grandparents. Sure, the world mourns Daniel’s loss with them, so maybe they don’t feel quite so alone. Still, to be in their presence, even amidst the four hundred other audience members, is to feel the unbearable grief of a parent. Words fail to describe the feeling. At the same time, the series is about how Daniel Pearl believed in the power of words to make the world a better place. Both are true.