The impact and legacy of journalist Daniel Pearl
Tuesday, February 14, 2012
An oil panting of Daniel Pearl by artist Elaine Heller that sits in the Pearls’ dining room. - Elitza Batchiyska
While many witnessed the life of journalist Daniel Pearl as one that was rich in honesty, journalistic passion, musical ability and the arts, eyes should be opened to the morals of virtue, trustworthiness and pride that he expressed. To this day, Pearl’s legacy lives on as one who searched for the truth and excelled in all his pursuits.
Pearl put his life at risk for the love of journalism, for the purpose of integrity. It was on Jan. 23, 2002 that the Wall Street Journal reporter and Birmingham High School graduate was abducted and on Feb. 1, of that same year, that he was murdered by Pakistani militants.
However, it is today that his inspiration is embedded in the walls, spirits and students of Daniel Pearl Magnet High School (DPMHS).
The enthusiasm Pearl portrayed for journalism was well upheld by his connection to people, strangers and loved ones alike. This began as he was introduced to different cultures at a young age, living in Israel for a year and learning Hebrew during his parents’ Sabbatical.
“Danny spent his life reaching out to others. He tried to understand other cultures and why people behave the way they do,” Mariane Pearl, the wife of Daniel Pearl, said in an email. “He worked a lot toward that aim, but I think it made him happy as he felt he was constantly growing as an individual so that you can reflect that growth in the way you interact with society.”
Pearl was exposed to many worldly perspectives as a child, along with his siblings. His parents, Ruth and Judea Pearl, encouraged them to learn musical instruments, escorted them to the library and allowed them to participate in chosen sports. An open-minded child and an unprejudiced adult, Pearl flourished with broad horizons.
Pearl was the epitome of living life for the love of what you do. He visualized his career path during his days at Stanford University, where he co-founded a newspaper and DJ’ed for the campus radio. He decided on his career path during his interning days at the Indianapolis Star.
“It was natural, of course, to pursue journalism as a core program to counter the hatred that took our son’s life,” said Ruth Pearl, Daniel Pear’s mother. “The journalism community resonates strongly with our mission and believes, like we, that through education and communication we can change hearts and minds. One journalist can enlighten 100,000 minds.”
Each aspect in the school that bear’s Pearl’s name is divided among his hobbies and the way he lived his life to the fullest. From the World Music Days held in October to the blooming journalism and communications program that thrives off of the morals students are taught.
“We feel true kinship to the DPMHS students. I can see how the principal feels toward them. She pours her soul into her work so they will carve a better world for their children,” Ruth Pearl said.
Every year, the Pearls attend the World Music Days performance and speak and communicate with the students about their stance as good influences on the world and their part in making it a sound place.
According to Ruth Pearl, this past year, over 1,700 concerts were held in 82 countries. When these recitals take place, they always feel as if peace and admiration is resonated across the crowd and conveyed for the entire world.
“I think that for young people today, it is crucial to discover which values are most important to them,” said Mariane Pearl, who is also a journalist and was pregnant with their son when Daniel Pearl was killed. “They should not be afraid to live with a passion and should strive to believe in themselves and how much they can influence the world even in such a pessimistic atmosphere.”
The impact of his absence resulted in people uniting all over the globe in the search for Daniel Pearl. Friends approached the media to speak about him, emails were sent and lastly, condolences were received.
“Ten years later, we still get emails about the deep impact that Danny is making on many people lives,” Ruth Pearl said. “Some converted to Judaism, one became a nun and many decided to live life to the fullest the way Danny did.”
Nevertheless, the legacy of Daniel Pearl and the impression he left on the lives he touched are depicted today with the creation of the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
A few days after his death, the foundation was established with the help of Dow Jones, the parent company for the Wall Street Journal, who contacted the Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher law firm. Ruth Pearl says that the goal of the foundation is to reduce the hatred that ultimately took their sons life, and then, they will feel as if they have succeeded.
“Follow his reverence for the truth and his mission to look at all sides…have this in the back of your mind and the world will be better off,” Judea Pearl said.
With their goal and message in mind and their upkeep of the strong sense of humor that their son Danny passed around the family, the Pearls manage to get up every morning and keep their strength. To this day, they marvel at the wit and humbleness he withheld.
“(Maintaining strength), it’s not a matter of choice,” Ruth Pearl said. “You have to rise up to the occasion. You either give up or give in, but you can’t let evil win.”