Pulitzer Prize-winning Cartoonist David Horsey Speaks on Political Cartoons

David Horsey: I’m David Horsey. I’m the political
cartoonist and columnist for the Los Angeles Times and I’m here in Kyiv, Ukraine to help
open a new exhibit, American Political Cartoons, both historic ones and cartoons of my own.
We’re here at the Arsenal Gallery – which is a big, beautiful art exhibition space in
Kyiv – and we’re in the small gallery, and this is where all of the cartoons appear. In this room are cartoons from the entire
of history of the United States, starting with what is regarded as the first political
cartoon ever done in the United States by the famous American publisher and statesman,
Ben Franklin. He did this cartoon labeled “Join or Die”, which was a call for the colonies
in America to unite to fight for their independence against Great Britain. And so that, we begin
with that and continues around the walls. This cartoon is the one that really was the
genesis of the donkey as the symbol of the Democratic Party in the United States. It
was actually a negative symbol with President Andrew Jackson riding this donkey, I’m sure
he referred to it as a jackass and it was meant to be disparaging. But Jackson just
decided to just take hold of that symbol and make it his own. So ever since then, the donkey
has been the symbol of the Democratic Party. Thomas Nast, who was a German immigrant, was
probably the godfather of all American political cartoonists. Among the many symbols he created,
that we still use today, is the elephant to represent the Republican Party. Early in the republic, Uncle Sam became the
symbol of the country in cartoons, both in America and around the world. This is probably
the most famous version of Uncle Sam in a recruiting poster for the army in World War
I. Uncle Sam has been used in very positive ways and very negative ways. During the Cold
War, Russian cartoonists loved to use Uncle Sam as a negative figure, carrying missiles
and ready to blow up the world. I have the honor of having been picked by
the State Department as the modern American cartoonist to represent my form of artistic
journalism to the people here in Kyiv. And if you come to this exhibit, you’ll see that
many of the symbols that started out in the 19th century in cartoons are carried out today.
Here’s Uncle Sam again and also the Statue of Liberty, which is another popular symbol
that cartoonists use to represent the United States. Usually they’re employed in different
ways, usually if it’s the Statue of Liberty, they’re saying something positive. Uncle Sam
ends up in all sorts of situations. The Statue of Liberty is in this cartoon,
talking about the new freedoms in the Middle East and how they might be limited by people
who aren’t so excited about the idea of freedom. On this wall, there are a lot of cartoons
looking at the struggle the United States has had over the last 10 years since the 9/11
attacks. This cartoon, which also features Uncle Sam again, looks at how that one day
changed the United States from the peaceful, happy place to one that was suddenly on alert. Barack Obama here, the fellow who has inherited
or adopted the Afghan War. President Bush holding his baby, the Iraq War. And here once
again the Republican elephant and the Democratic donkey trying to put out the fire on the stove
that’s labeled Iraq. One part of this exhibit is cartoons that
I did during the Cold War era. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without having one
of my drawings of the bear that I used to represent the Soviet Union. Just as Soviet
cartoonists used Uncle Sam a lot, American cartoonists used bears; bears, bears everywhere. Some of the cartoons, though, really look
more closely at the end of the Cold War and the changes in the Soviet Union, the break-up
of the Soviet Union, the new economic system and the struggles that people went through
in all the former Soviet Republics. Of course, my preoccupation now as an American
political cartoonist is the presidential election that is in full swing in the United States.
So, I have plenty of cartoons dealing with that; cartoons about Mitt Romney and Barack
Obama and just touching on the ins and outs, the craziness, and the debates that are going
on in the United States as we choose another president. We’ve got quite a few cartoons here about
the contemporary political scene in the United States; the battles in Congress between President
Obama and the Republicans, the national party conventions, the primaries, as well as looking
back at a few of the earlier elections, especially the one between George Bush and Al Gore that
ended in a very split decision. As well as looking at President Clinton, who was a great
subject for cartoons. The reality of political cartoons and of political
satire is that it is, basically, a negative sort of art: you’re always poking fun at a
politician or just being critical of some legislation or of some event that gets the
cartoonists blood flowing. But once in a while, I actually manage to do a cartoon that’s positive
and this is one of those and this has really become the theme of this exhibit. It’s one
I did reflecting on the United States Constitution and the first three words of that document,
“We the People.” And it’s feeding the tree of liberty in the United States and the little
boy is saying “Wow, what a tree!” and his dad says, “It’s the roots, son.” So this is
really the heart, not only of this exhibit, it’s the heart of what America is and it’s
kind of the reason I am able to do what I do. Without the protections of the Constitution,
I could end up in jail like a lot of cartoonists around the world. So this exhibit of American Political Cartoons
will be here in the small gallery at the Arsenal in Kyiv until October 23rd. I invite you to
come down and learn a little bit about the history of the United States through these
great historical cartoons and getting an idea about what contemporary American politics
is like from the display of my cartoons in the next gallery. Anyway, I think you would
enjoy it. I’ve certainly enjoyed being here in Kyiv and sharing my cartoons with everyone.