David Moats, A Vermont Treasure

In this week when new Pulitzer Prizes were awarded to outstanding reporters and courageous news organizations, I want to take a moment, on behalf of all Vermonters, to recognize and thank an earlier Pulitzer Prize winning journalist, Vermont’s own David Moats. Until earlier this year, David has been the editorial page editor and the editorial page voice of The Rutland Herald.

David Moats is a Green Mountain treasure. John Walters of the newspaper Seven Days called David “a beacon of quality” in Vermont journalism. He represents and gave voice to ideals, the aspirations, and the decency that characterize Vermont’s vibrant, outward-looking and engaged citizens.

On July 1, 2000, our brave, small state again stepped up to tackle a difficult and momentous issue. That is when Vermont became the first state to offer to same sex couples the same legal rights and responsibilities of traditional marriage. Vermont’s law was written, debated and approved by the Vermont Legislature.

David Moats documented and illuminated the debate that led to that breakthrough. He won a Pulitzer Prize for his series of 20 editorials that were published throughout that difficult and groundbreaking debate.

The Pulitzer Committee honored David Moats, in their words, “For his even-handed and influential series of editorials commenting on the divisive issues arising from civil unions for same-sex couples.”

In 2004, he wrote a book about this debate, “Civil Wars: A Battle For Gay Marriage.” Ted Widmer, writing in the New York Times Book Review, said this in his review:

“Near the end of ‘Mr. Deeds Goes to Town,’ the Vermonter played by Gary Cooper dishes out a series of homespun metaphors for how government is supposed to treat people, from helping to push a car up a hill to saving a swimmer who's drowning. Obviously, life isn't quite that simple. This will take time. But in the long run, the question will be answered in the vast middle where most Americans live, and where they privately decide what is right and wrong.”

David Moats served as editorial page editor of The Rutland Herald since 1992. Previously he had worked as the newspaper’s wire editor, state editor, assistant managing editor, and city editor. Earlier in life he served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Afghanistan.

He is also the author of 11 plays, has made his home in Middlebury, Vt., and is the father of three children, Jared, Thatcher, and Nina Moats.

David, we thank you, and we wish you and your family all the best as you write your next chapter.

I ask that these excerpts from an editorial titled, “Legacy,” in The Rutland Herald last month, be printed in the Record.

From “Legacy,” an editorial on March 3, 2018, in The Rutland Herald:

“A consistently reasoned voice is difficult to find. It's challenging to hear in these polarizing times, and it's even harder to find it on the everyday occasion of an editorial page. The distillation of issues into comprehensible, authentic points is a skill few writers can pull off, certainly not with any regularity.

“We all know a man who has come to make the blend of opinion and language an art form.

“Vermont has been blessed for decades by David Moats' compassionate approach to measured debate and thoughtful provocation. In this very space, David has wrestled to submission some of the most gut-wrenching issues of our times, insisting upon a more controlled, solution-based dialogue. He has celebrated our triumphs. He has challenged the parties in power (much to their chagrin), and he has endeavored to teach us - as readers and participants in our communities - a bit about ourselves by shining truths on flawed thinking or highlighting the arrogance made against a public trust. He has broken our hearts in tribute, and he has - time and again - called us to action, whether it was spurring us to vote, raise our own voices, or simply by being engaged and showing up.

“David has won scores of accolades for swinging his mighty pen, including the coveted Pulitzer Prize in 2001 for his body of work on civil unions. In that case, David not only informed, he shaped policy and rewrote history.

“For Vermont, he has been advocate, champion, instigator — and friend. His editorials (and commentaries on Vermont Public Radio) have generated a loyal following. Liberals and moderates have come to quote from his editorials, while conservatives regularly condemn his words as out of step. But David has more friends then enemies, conservatives among them. That's how the deepest respect works.”

(The editorial continues:)

“David Moats has graced these pages with deliberate conscience, pouring his heart into the collective of Vermont. His insights and opinions have — and will — continue to underscore what defines us as Vermonters, and what passions and principles drive us to stand up for that better life for our best selves.

“We are all indebted to David Moats for being our mentor, our leader, and our voice. We have needed him, probably more than we even know.

“Vermont is a better place because of the man and his words.”

Press Contact

David Carle: 202-224-3693