.....a lawyer by training, has also served as a speechwriter for President Richard M. Nixon, has to date authored sixteen books (both novels and non-fiction efforts), and continues to write editorials and columns for a number of prominent publications. He is perhaps best known to the world at large, however, for his in-front-of-the-camera work as the dreadfully dull economics teacher in the film Ferris Bueller's Day Off (and his similar role as the monotonic science teacher Mr. Cantwell on the TV series The Wonder Years) and as the keenly competitive host of the Comedy Central game show Win Ben Stein's Money. Mr. Stein currently offers occasional commentaries for the CBS Sunday Morning news program, and the item quoted is based on one such commentary, entitled "Confessions for the Holidays" and delivered by Mr. Stein on that program on 18 December 2005, one week before Christmas. However, the version widely circulated via e-mail includes some transcription errors and modifications that were not part of the piece as originally aired. Here is the full version as broadcast, taken from a CBS News transcript of the program:
CHARLES OSGOOD, host: We all have our own thoughts about the holidays. Here's Ben Stein with his.
BEN STEIN: Here at this happy time of year, a few confessions from my beating heart. I have no freaking clue who Nick and Jessica are. (Footage of People magazine; Us magazine)
STEIN: I see them on the cover of People and Us constantly when I'm buying my dog biscuits. I still don't know. I often ask the checkers at the grocery stores who they are. They don't know who Nick and Jessica are, either. Who are they? Will it change my life if I know who they are and why they've broken up? Why are they so darned important? (Footage of People magazine)
STEIN: I don't know who Lindsay Lohan is either, and I don't care at all about Tom Cruise's baby. (Vintage footage of congressional hearing)
STEIN: Am I going to be called before a Senate committee and asked if I'm a subversive? Maybe. But I just have no clue who Nick and Jessica are. Is this what it means to be no longer young? Hm, not so bad. Next confession: I am a Jew and every single one of my ancestors was Jewish, and it does not bother me even a little bit when people call those beautifully lit-up, bejeweled trees Christmas trees. (Footage of Christmas trees)
STEIN: I don't feel threatened. I don't feel discriminated against. That's what they are — Christmas trees. It doesn't bother me a bit when people say 'Merry Christmas' to me. I don't think they're slighting me or getting ready to put me in a ghetto. In fact, I kind of like it. I shows that we're all brothers and sisters celebrating this happy time of year. It doesn't bother me one bit that there's a manger scene on display at a key intersection at my beach house in Malibu. (Footage of manger scene; menorah)
STEIN: If people want a creche, fine. The menorah a few hundred yards away is fine, too. I do not like getting pushed around for being a Jew, and I don't think Christians like getting pushed around for being Christians. I think people who believe in God are sick and tired of getting pushed around, period. I have no idea where the concept came from that America is an explicitly atheist country. I can't find it in the Constitution and I don't like it being shoved down my throat. Or maybe I can put it another way. Where did the idea come from that we should worship Nick and Jessica and aren't allowed to worship God as we understand him? I guess that's a sign that I'm getting old, too. But there are a lot of us who are wondering where Nick and Jessica came from and where the America we used to know went to.