Daniel Patrick Moynihan

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Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Daniel Patrick "Pat" Moynihan (March 16, 1927March 26, 2003) was a four-term U.S. Senator, ambassador, administration official, and academic. He was first elected to the United States Senate in 1976 by the citizens of New York as the nominee of the Democratic Party and re-elected three times, in 1982, 1988, and 1994. He declined to run for re-election in 2000 and was succeeded by Democrat Hillary Clinton. Clinton began her campaign for the Senate at Moynihan's farm in upstate New York. Moynihan supported her bid for his Senate seat.



Moynihan was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma and brought by his family to New York City at the age of six months. There he was brought up in a poor neighborhood, shined shoes for money, and attended various public, private, and parochial schools before graduating from Harlem High School. He studied at the City College of New York, which at that time provided free higher education. He went on to graduate from Tufts University; received graduate and law degrees from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy; studied as a Fulbright fellow, London School of Economics and Political Science and served in the United States Navy. He became a professor at Syracuse University.

Public service

Prior to his years in the Senate, Moynihan was a member of four successive presidential administrations, beginning with the administration of John F. Kennedy, and continuing through the administrations of Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Gerald Ford.

Moynihan was an Undersecretary of Labor for policy in the Kennedy administration, and in the early part of the Johnson administration. In that capacity, he did not have operational responsibilities, allowing him to devote all of his time to trying to formulate national policy for what would become the War on Poverty. He had a small staff including Paul Barton, Ellen Broderick, and Ralph Nader who at 29 years of age, hitchhiked to Washington, D.C. and got a job working for Moynihan in 1963.

They took inspiration from the book Slavery written by Stanley Elkins. Elkins essentially contended that slavery had made the blacks dependent on the dominant society, and that that dependence still existed a century later. This was the beginning of much of the philosophy that the government must go beyond simply ensuring that members of minority races have the same rights as everyone else, and in fact give minority members benefits that others did not get on the grounds that those benefits were necessary to counteract that lingering effects of past actions. Moynihan found data at the Labor Department that showed that even as fewer people were unemployed, more people were joining the welfare rolls. These recipients were families with children, but only one parent (almost invariably the mother). The laws at that time permitted such families to receive welfare payments in certain parts of the United States. Moynihan's report was seen by people on the left as "Blaming the Victim", a slogan coined by William Ryan. He was also seen as propogating the views of racists, because much of the press coverage of his reports focused on the discussion of children being born out of wedlock.

By 1964, Monynihan was supporting Robert F. Kennedy, (the brother of the assassinated president who had appointed him). For this reason he was not favored by then president Johnson. He left the Johnson administration in 1965. He ran for but did not win the presidency of the New York City Council. He then became an academic, but continued to write about the problems of the poor in the cities of the North Eastern part of the United States. With turmoil and riots in the United States he wrote that the next administration would have to be able to unite the nation again. Connecting with President elect Richard Nixon in 1968 he joined Nixon's White House Staff as an urban affairs advisor. He was very influential at that time, as one of the few intellectuals in Nixon's inner circle. He later served as the ambassador to India from 1973 to 1975, and as the United States Representative to the United Nations, serving a rotation as President of the United Nations Security Council in 1976. He remained a member of the Democratic Party, although he feared that the party had moved too far to the left at that time.

He once wrote in a memo to President Nixon that "the issue of race could suffer from a period of benign neglect". He argued that Nixon's conservative's tactics were playing into the hands of the radicals, but he regreted that he was misinterpreted as advocating that the government should neglect minorities.

In 1976, he was elected to the U.S. Senate, defeating Representative Bella Abzug in the Democratic primary, and Conservative Party incumbent James Buckley in the general election.

Academe and authorship

In addition to his distinguished career as a politician and diplomat, Moynihan was a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Wesleyan University, and Syracuse University. After completing a tour of duty in the United States Navy in 1947 which he began in 1944 during World War II when he was 17 years old, Moynihan used his GI Bill benefits to attend Tufts University. He then received a Fulbright Fellowship to study at the London School of Economics. He authored some 19 books, including Beyond the Melting Pot, an influential study of American ethnicity which he co-authored with Nathan Glazer in 1963, followed by The Negro Family: The Case for National Action otherwise known as the Moynihan Report in 1965, Family and Nation (1986), Came the Revolution (1988), On the Law of Nations (1990), and Secrecy (1998).


Moynihan died at the age of 76 after complications suffered from an emergency appendectomy about a month earlier. He is survived by his wife of 39 years, Elizabeth Brennan Moynihan, three grown children, Timothy Patrick Moynihan, Maura Russell Moynihan, and John McCloskey Moynihan, and two grandchildren, Michael Patrick and Zora Olea.

In 2004, Michael Bloomberg, the mayor of New York City, announced plans for a replacement of Penn Station as the city railroad hub. Built a block away at the old Farley Post Office Building, it would be named for Moynihan.



  • "From the wild Irish slums of the 19th century eastern seaboard, to the riot-torn suburbs of Los Angeles, there is one unmistakable lesson in American history: A community that allows a large number of young men to grow up in broken families, dominated by women, never acquiring any stable relationship to male authority, never acquiring any rational expectations about the future -- that community asks for and gets chaos." (1965)
  • "Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts."
  • "The Department of State desired that the United Nations prove utterly ineffective in whatever measures it undertook [with regard to East Timor ]. This task was given to me, and I carried it forward with not inconsiderable success." (A Dangerous Place, Little Brown, 1980, p. 247)
  • "If the news papers of a country are filled with good news, the jails of that country will be filled with good people"
  • "The amount of violations of human rights in a country is always an inverse function of the amount of complaints about human rights violations heard from there. The greater the number of complaints being aired, the better protected are human rights in that country." (see Moynihan's Law)


This article draws from from the book "The Promised Land" by Nicholas Lemann, Bill Clinton's statements when awarding Moynihan the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000, and statements by senators on the occasion of his death in 2003, as well as the sources noted below.

External links

Preceded by:
John A. Scali
United States Ambassadors to the United Nations
Succeeded by:
William W. Scranton
Preceded by:
James L. Buckley
U.S. Senator (Class 1) from New York
Succeeded by:
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Preceded by:
Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr.
Chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Finance
Succeeded by:
Robert W. Packwood

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