NPR’s Michel Martin speaks with Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles, who is retiring after a 50-year career.
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
For 50 years, Tom Toles has been working as an editorial cartoonist, including almost two decades at The Washington Post, where he took over from the legendary cartoonist Herblock in 2002. Now Tom Toles has announced that he is retiring from the Post next week after a long and eventful career at the paper afflicting the comfortable and hopefully offering some comfort to the afflicted. So we wanted to take a look back at his career as well as at some of the rewards and challenges of the work that he does. And Tom Toles is with us now.
Welcome. Thank you so much for joining us.
TOM TOLES: Hi, Michel. Very nice to be with you.
MARTIN: You’ve written a final cartoon, which you were nice enough to share with us. It starts out by saying, I started out 50 years ago at my college newspaper as a long-haired liberal and half a century later as a long-haired liberal (laughter).
TOLES: Yeah. There was a little time in there when I had kids that I looked more like a regular person. I thought I had to, you know, present a little differently. But as soon as they were out of the house, I grew my hair back again and feel much more like myself.
MARTIN: Well, but your views haven’t changed. Your worldview hasn’t changed. Your values didn’t change.
TOLES: In terms of the way I look at the world, no, it hasn’t. I mean, the value system is the bedrock. The policies come and go. They get shaded by different eras and different presidencies, different whole sets of arguments that these change over time. And you see them all a little differently, but you see them always through that same lens of, what do I think makes for a just society? And so that’s always pretty much stayed the same.
MARTIN: It’s interesting that political cartooning is in the news right now as we speak, in part because, you know, yet again, the Charlie Hebdo cartoons in France have sparked this, you know, tremendous – both a reaction and a counterreaction.
I mean, it’s been a hugely traumatic experience with cartoons that were drawn by a satirical magazine in France were strongly objected to by some people who actually killed people at the magazine. And then there was another death recently. And then there’s been a reaction to that, with some people saying that they are showing insensitivity and other people saying that, you know, obviously, this is an attack on free speech. But it’s been a very traumatic event.
And I was just curious, though – over the span of your career, has it ever been that way before, where political cartooning itself has been something of a subject of kind of debate and sort of social interest?
TOLES: Yeah. I mean, the nature of political