Former New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof reflected on the most meaningful people and places he has covered over his decades-long career in journalism as part of his final column published in the Times this week.
"In particular, I want to make clear that while I’ve spent my career on the front lines of human suffering and depravity, covering genocide, war, poverty and injustice, I’ve emerged firmly believing that we can make real progress by summoning the political will," Kristof wrote. "We are an amazing species, and we can do better."
Kristof gave shout-outs to several people he has met and recalled stories from far-flung corners of the globe, praising the courage he found in many of them and saying those experiences have collectively inspired him to better the world through public service.
"Good things are happening that we often don’t acknowledge, and they’re a result of a deeper understanding of what works to make a difference," Kristof wrote. "That may seem surprising coming from the Gloom Columnist, who has covered starvation, atrocities and climate devastation. But just because journalists cover planes that crash, not those that land, doesn’t mean that all flights are crashing."
Kristof, 62, a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and reporter with the Times for nearly 40 years, left his job earlier this year and this week officially launched his candidacy for governor of his home state of Oregon.
“I have never run for political office in my life, but I have spent a lifetime shining a light in the darkest corners of the globe,” Kristof said during a video announcement. “Nothing will change until we stop moving politicians up the career ladder year after year, even though they refuse to step up to the problems Oregon faces.”
The veteran journalist said it often "sickened" him to return from international reporting trips to find his hometown of Yamhill, Ore., struggling with poverty and addiction.
"I’m bucking the journalistic impulse to stay on the sidelines because my heart aches at what classmates have endured and it feels like the right moment to move from covering problems to trying to fix them," he wrote.
"I hope to convince some of you that public service in government can be a path to show responsibility for communities we love, for a country that can do better," he added. "Even if that means leaving a job I love."