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W.S. Merwin

Two Pulitzer Prizes for Poetry

When we talk about the extinction of species, I think the endangered species of the arts and of language and all these things are related. I don't think there is any doubt about that. I think poetry goes back to the invention of language itself. I think one of the big differences between poetry and prose is that prose is about something, it's got a subject and the subject comes first and it's dealing with the subject. But poetry is something else, and we don't know what it is (that) comes first. Prose is about something, but poetry is about what can't be said. Why do people turn to poetry when all of a sudden the Twin Towers get hit, or when their marriage breaks up, or when the person they love most in the world drops dead in the same room? Because they can't say it. They can't say it at all, and they want something that addresses what can't be said. I think that's the big difference between poetry and prose. All the arts, in a way, are doing that, they are talking about, "Dove sono? (Where are they?)" What's that? She can't say it, can she? Where are they? Where are they? What has happened to those days?
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James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist

That night, I could not sleep, and I went out on that airstrip on Tontouta. I'll never forget it, about eighteen miles north of where our headquarters was, Noumea. And I walked along the airstrip, and that's when the war hit me, and that's when the phenomenon I spoke of before hit me. I said, "When this is over, I'm not going to be the same guy. I am going to live as if I were a great man." I never said I was going to be a great man because I had no idea what my capacities were. I had no great confidence; nothing in my background gave me a reason to think so. But I was not forestalled from acting as if I were. That is, deal with big subjects.
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James Michener

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Novelist

Associate with people who are brighter than you are. Grapple with the problems of your time. And it was as clear to me as if a voice were telling me to do this: "This is the choosing up point, kiddo. from here on." I had no idea that life was as short as it is. That concept comes very late in any human life, I think. I thought life was immeasurable, extensive to the horizon and beyond. But I did know that my capacities were not unlimited. I had only so much to spend, and let's do it in a big way. And I think that was all the difference.
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George Mitchell

Presidential Medal of Freedom

One of my older brothers, Johnny, was a very famous athlete and went on to great exploits in college. For years, I was introduced as Johnny Mitchell's kid brother, the one who wasn't any good. So I developed very early a massive inferiority complex, and I've told the story often about how that inspired me later in life to get involved in other things, because I couldn't out-do my brothers in sports, and it's a very competitive relationship. So I got into politics, thinking that I might become mayor of our home town someday.
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George Mitchell

Presidential Medal of Freedom

George Mitchell: I was asked to go to the Middle East by Prime Minister Barak, Chairman Arafat, and President Clinton, and chaired an international commission there. The report which we gave to President Bush just about a year ago is one of the few things that the Israelis and Palestinians agreed on, at least rhetorically. President Bush has adopted it as a basis of U.S. policy in the Middle East. But our feeling of surprise and elation at the positive response by the Israelis and Palestinians has created an extra special discouragement at the failure to implement the recommendations in our plan.
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