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Now there's nothing complicated or mysterious about prenatal care and something that doctors know how to get in and out of three and a half million person a year there are seven hundred fifty thousand women in this country who don't have what modern medicine can provide. And that is prenatal care before the check comprehensive adequate prenatal care before the child is born. We don't have enough trained health workers or facilities. We're not preventing all the diseases we know how to prevent. And we're not making health care available where it's needed most in our city ghettos and rural slums where millions of Americans don't have such a thing is called a personal physician in many of the large metropolitan areas of the United States today when a person gets sick the only place they've got to go is an outpatient center in a hospital. That is and what the United States of America believes to be the best way to deliver health care. A fifth problem in our society is the quality of our environment.
In many communities the air we breathe is polluted. Our cities in many cases are becoming jungles of broken down tenements concrete and macadam are rapidly replacing green grass in many places. Barrack cans litter the highways. And we must make our cities and suburbs the place of beauty and the economic social and cultural centers they were meant to be. With easy access to jobs and libraries in art music and outdoor recreation are the rot. In our inner cities is going to result in decay for all of us. A6 problem. And all I'm indicating areas in which there is a communications grap gap in terms of problems but a CICS problem in our society is the communications gap not only among the races but
between the young and the old in our country the poor and the well-to-do. Bearing in mind is still on tap potential of television and radio. I believe we must find a way in the United States to begin talking with each other instead of just talking at each other communicating the desires and ideas and frustrations that people have in this society. And this is a problem for every institution whether it's a college or a university whether it's a business or the federal government whether it's the post office whether it's your family or whether it's the contract bridge group that you play with every institution in our society must begin to see that there is a failure today to communicate among people and the seventh problem. And this may be in its way the overriding problem which mirrors all others is the fact
today that many of our INT's essential institutions in both the private and the public sector are just not able or willing to respond quickly enough or effectively to meet the changing needs of society in this rapidly developing world in which technology and communication are changing the fundamental structures so rapidly that the human personality finds it unable to grapple with it. While many of our problems are rooted in ignorance I believe that we have much knowledge that is not being used. There is a gap. Between the discovery of a workable idea and its general application the gap between knowledge and social policy. To be sure this is not a new problem but in our explosive and complex society we need to close the gap much more quickly. H.G. Wells described many years ago history as a race between
education and catastrophe. Past civilizations have lost that race in our time. Right now who knows we may only be neck and neck. Few people would deny that social policy lags far behind knowledge in nearly every field of human concern. The really tough questions are why does the gap exist and what can we do to decrease it. Why for example in the most affluent nation in the history of the world. Are many millions of Americans struggling in poverty discrimination hunger ignorance and disease. Why is so much time lost between the discovery of new medical techniques and their intensive use for people. Why with a long Gemini we have achieved for the general population are the death rates and the sickness rate so shockingly high in our city ghettos.
Why is there such a long leg between the development of a new idea in education and its widespread adoption by the twenty thousand school districts in our country. Now I don't have all or even most of the answers to these questions. I would like however to review certain aspects of the way in which the political process transforms knowledge into public policy and offers some tentative suggestions about how this process might be accelerated with your help. The political process as I've watched it through which issues evolve into public policy and programs for action can be viewed as a series of seven successive steps. First the initial awareness by someone or some group of people of the need for some kind of action. Second the growth of a general idea on how to deal with it.
Third the development of a specific legislative proposal. And fourth the period that I've spent most of my time in the period of conflict and public debate. If the stage of alliance making in support of the proposal six the legislative debate and resolution of the issue and I democratic society and finally the administration of a working program in my judgment to relate and parts of the process hold the most process promise for closing the knowledge policy gap I'm certain that as broadcasters you will sense the importance of communications at several stages in the process that I have just described. However I would like to call attention particularly to the gap closing possibilities which are related to the first and fifth steps. The awareness of the need for social action and alliance making in our society. Before
public policy can develop people need to know that there is a need for social action. They must become aware of the problems that exist and the alternative solutions to deal with these problems. They need information that is clear and understandable. Social scientists may develop excellent plans for improving the income of people or reducing air pollution and report them in detail 100 page booklets. I have written reports of this type myself only to see them gather dust on bookshelves. I have also gone the other route in tempting to increase public awareness by simplifying detailed ideas in a press conference only to see the central ideas lost or obscured by the presses insatiable need for headlines and quotable sentences. Both routes can be valuable. But a third route to public awareness is also essential.
Between the expert scholarly report and the oversimplification of the news media we need more detailed information more understanding that educational broadcasters can provide that can summarise clearly and precisely the great social needs of our country and the clearer transmittal of that kind of information to the body politic. But gaining public awareness is only the first step. We must also be on broad based support for specific proposals designed to correct the inequities and broadcasters have an important role also in the resolution of this particular problem. The importance of forming alliances become evident when one realizes that in a society such as our pluralistic as the political scientists say so heterogeneous so diverse so large so spread all over it that practically no major piece of legislation has been
enacted by the Congress through the efforts of one single group all by itself to get new public policy enacted into legislation by the Congress by a state legislature or by a city council. Some kind of an alliance or coalition must be formed and it must include many different groups and interests. To be sure and this is a indication of a problem in our society. Single groups can block. Legislation and can block the creation and implementation of new policies and perhaps the best single explanation for the glatt gap between knowledge in policy is that in our present political institutions as a society it is far easier to block the change then to implement it. But the heart of the governmental processes of I have seen it over the past 30 years lies in the delicate process of forming alliances by winning agreement
among key decision makers in all stages. The challenge is to bring together all kinds of people advocates and experts social critics and legislators and lobbyists and lay citizens to start dialogues and to form and maintain coalitions until some action is taken. Specially constructed study groups frequently become very useful mechanisms for narrowing the gap between knowledge and policy a presidential commission or an advisory council to a secretary a governor or mayor or commissions and councils heightened public awareness of the need for action and focused debate on specific controversial proposals. They take a fresh look at problems if they're broadly represented they can courage the process of dialogue and debate an information they help a public official from becoming the prisoner of his own insularity. I know I do not need to overemphasize this point to a group that is aware of the Carnegie Commission on educational television and the effect of its report and recommendations in creating the Public
Broadcasting Act of 1907. We shall all look forward to the recommendations also of the Commission on instructional technology currently at work and response. Title 2 of that act. I feel certain that those of you will have dedicated yourselves and your talent to the field of public education through broadcasting are aware of the great inadequacies and the failure of communications which is such an important factor in this knowledge policy gap. Communication has been less than effective in creating public awareness of our problems in helping to form alliances which can translate ideas into action. Television as all of you are aware is a powerful medium in American life. It is or should be in my opinion far more than a vehicle for juvenile entertainment at its best it can teach
it can persuade and it can inspire. It can be one of the great instruments for uniting on a torn. And often fragmented society. The problem is that TV has rarely lived up to this kind of potential. All too often commercial television serves to widen. Instead of healing the breach. All too often it fans the flames of violence when it could help to dampen them. As you know the Commission on violence is devoting a great deal of thought and attention to the role played by television. Several thoughtful people have appeared before the commission have been outspoken in their denunciation of commercial television as a source of discarding the debates about TV coverage of certain news events of the past six months are still raging and I am imagine they're going to continue to rage for quite some time.
Anyone who is associated with so powerful a communications tool is a broadcaster a producer an educator commentator or an executive must of course exercise intelligent intelligence judgment and responsibility of a very high order. Television can influence our lives and the lives of our children for good or for Rio. So yours is a heavy and sobering responsibility. It cannot be otherwise. Public broadcasting is a public trust. Only when it lives up to that trust can television reach the majority which we hope. I would hope for example that television could deepen the spirit of commitment and involvement in the life of our entire society. We need to understand the meaning of involvement
in a society that will be two hundred twenty five million people shortly and academic knowledge of living conditions in the ghetto is dry and sterile. Until the average middle class American who comes home and eats his dinner and goes out to Buffalo understands what it means to be growing up in a slum going to a slum school and living among the rats in the inner city to share our knowledge we need to become involved and we need to involve the entire community black and white young in all business and labor inner city and suburbs. I happen to believe that Educational Television has a unique and priceless opportunity in this regard at this moment in our nation's history. We need your imagination and your creativity in dealing with these problems.
You can bring to every classroom and to every living room the kinds of knowledge the kinds of different experiences the kinds of deep insights that the press for instance cannot and does not do with the present time that can truly widen the dialogue and help find the common grounds for a solution to the most pressing problems at the most pressing moment in American history. Your growth and achievement in recent years convinced me that you would now be equal to this task. The strength of your operations at the local level increased my belief that you can contribute substantially to the involvement and participation which must converge where the needs and the action are in every local community. In the 3000 counties of the United States. I believe that is you look ahead to the decade of the 1970s.
Our technological capability the speed the vastly increasing speed of communication the spirit of involvement which is now going on among our people will enable us to narrow the gap between knowledge and social policy much more quickly and much more effectively than we have ever done in the past. In 60 days I will leave my present post to become an educational broadcaster myself. For that is exactly what I think a professor is and can be. I ask you here tonight to join me in the quest for knowledge in an equally difficult task of putting that knowledge to work for all of the people in our society the white and the black the Mexican-American and the Puerto Rican the rich and the poor. The Republican and the Democrat the lawless sight the young and the old men and women in what I believe is the greatest
venture of our social system and of our generation. The striving for knowledge and the striving for excellence in a democratic society. Increasingly the foundations of our society rest upon knowledge and the dissemination of knowledge. What James Madison wrote many years ago is even more true today when he said Knowledge will for ever govern ignorance and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives a popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to a Farce or a tragedy or perhaps both. I believe that your organization has the major role of today in our society in bringing the power of knowledge to the American people.
And I just want to promise you that in the 60 days I have left as secretary of ATWT. But more so what I'm going to do in the future. I hope I will be working with you in this great effort. Thank you very much. Thank you on the law. Arab. You have heard Wilbur Cohen speaking at the 1968 convention of the National Association of educational broadcasters held in Washington D.C. in November. Highlights from the NABJ convention were recorded by WMU FM the American University in Washington D.C. for presentation on
any Our national educational radio network.
National Association of Educational Broadcasters convention highlights
Wilbur Cohen
Producing Organization
WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
American University (Washington, D.C.)
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University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
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For series info, see Item 3782. This prog.: Wilbur Cohen, Secretary, Dept. of Health, Education and Welfare. Introduced by William Harley, president, National Association of Educational Broadcasters
Public Affairs
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Producing Organization: WAMU-FM (Radio station : Washington, D.C.)
Producing Organization: American University (Washington, D.C.)
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 68-Sp.6-4 (National Association of Educational Broadcasters)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:20:02
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Chicago: “National Association of Educational Broadcasters convention highlights; Wilbur Cohen,” 1968-12-09, University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed July 25, 2024,
MLA: “National Association of Educational Broadcasters convention highlights; Wilbur Cohen.” 1968-12-09. University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. July 25, 2024. <>.
APA: National Association of Educational Broadcasters convention highlights; Wilbur Cohen. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from