(b. Tulsa, Oklahoma, 16 Mar. 1927; d. Washington, DC, 26 Mar. 2003)
US; US ambassador to India 1973–5, ambassador to the United Nations 1975–6; US Senator 1977–2001 Moynihan was educated at City College, New York. He graduated BA from Tufts University in 1948 and from Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy he graduated MA in 1949 and Ph.D. in 1961. He is the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards and in 1950–1 was Fulbright Fellow at the London School of Economics.
In the 1950s he moved from an academic career to one in the public service. Serving first as acting secretary to the Governor of New York State 1955–8, and then after a two-year appointment on the Syracuse University government research project, he was appointed special assistant to the Secretary of Labor 1961–2, and promoted to executive assistant in 1962. A year later President Johnson appointed him Assistant Secretary of Labor, a post which he held for two years. In 1966 he returned to an academic career, first in the post of professor of education and urban politics and then, in 1973, professor of government, at Harvard. Whilst at Harvard he continued to work for the federal government in the capacity of assistant to the President for urban affairs 1969–70 and counsellor to the President 1971–3. President Nixon appointed him US ambassador to India in 1973, a post which he held until 1975 when President Ford appointed him ambassador to the United Nations. His fervently pro-Israel stance whilst serving in the UN subsequently helped him to attract the Jewish vote, which helped him to gain election as US Senator for New York in 1976.
Moynihan, a Democrat who has specialized in family and welfare policies, has frequently been at the centre of controversy. He was accused of racism for views expressed in the ‘Moynihan Report’ prepared for President Johnson in 1965. Intended to justify increased aid to black families, the report asserted that many of their problems were rooted in slavery, which had discouraged the emergence of strong father figures.
By the 1970s Moynihan shrugged off his former association with Johnson's Great Society programme and embraced neo-liberalism. But in the 1980s he returned to his liberal roots and led a successful Senate fight against Reagan's social security cut-backs. He also modified his past staunch anti-Communism, urging instead arms reduction and opposing Reagan's interventions in Central America.
Moynihan's consistently independent and outspoken views were as irritating for Democrats as for Republicans.