Rarely do we have a human cross our path who leaves such an impact on us as has Charles Krauthammer.
He interacted in our lives in two very significant ways. First was the way he lived his physical life. He became physically paralyzed from the neck down caused by diving into a swimming pool. Many of us would have given up, but not Charles.
Although confined to his wheelchair for the remaining 68 years of his life, he went on to and graduated from medical school only to give it all up do something he knew virtually nothing about, namely to write. In addition, and amazingly, he managed to have a successful marriage of 35 years to the love of his life, and raise a son as well. The stamina, drive and perseverance required to do all of this is beyond most of our comprehension.
Each of us has some affliction or another, although nothing to compare to Charles, but do we decide to live with it, find ways around it, persevere sufficiently to “live the life we intended,” to paraphrase Charles?
This should give each of us a style to copy for our own lives. Although our own problems and stumbling blocks pale in comparison, they nevertheless often do cause us to slow down or even stop living the life we wanted. Unfortunately, some of us give up and decide to leave this life prematurely.
The ability to persevere is the main lesson I hope we survivors will take from his life.
The second was the way he impacted our lives through his unique written and verbal communication skills. We can rejoice that he used his life to give us this gift. Through these skills he conveyed his wisdom, his ability to analyze complex problems, compose solutions and communicate them so clearly and succinctly.
Despite his having changed from being a liberal to being a conservative, he was able to communicate without rancor or anger, with evenhandedness and without disdain for others, so that large numbers of us, no matter what our beliefs, could understand and mostly agree with him.
His writing and verbal skills were just amazing, especially when you learn just how he developed them. He decided to abandon medical practice and to get into the writing business, for which he had no experience or training. Despite this, he got a job with the New Republic, and with the same lack of experience went on to become a speechwriter for Walter Mondale, who was Jimmy Carter’s running mate.
He learned how to compose an essay in his head, dictate the entire 3,000 words, have it typed by a stenographer, and then edit it five or six times. Then he slept upon it, and once having awakened, he would make further corrections to make it just right. By this he meant that he would remove or change wording or a phrase that he felt would unduly offend his readers. Such dedication and perseverance is what made his writing so special that he won a Pulitzer Prize.
Sadly, we and the world have lost what we need most at this time, namely, a person who can help us through the cacophony of the screaming and yelling that confuses and obfuscates, thus prohibiting us from agreeing on almost anything. One questions whether our great democracy, which has been the envy of the world, can survive without such a clarifying voice as that of Charles Krauthammer.
(Wayne Pearson lives in Smethport, Pa.)