Legendary political writer and commentator Charles Krauthammer passed away on June 21 after a long battle with cancer. Krauthammer was 68. Since his death was announced, the media has been flooded with tributes from representatives across the political spectrum. This is no surprise, given that Krauthammer, whose contribution to the conservative landscape, has been equated to that of National Review founder William F. Buckley, actually first arrived in Washington as a Democrat.
Following his graduation from Harvard Medical School, Krauthammer initially joined the Carter Administration as Director of Psychiatric Research and then later served as a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale. In 1985, Krauthammer launched his weekly editorial column for The Washington Post for which he was awarded a Pulitzer Prize in 1987. He was also a long term contributor to The New Republic and The Weekly Standard and commentator for Inside Washington and Fox News.
In 2013 Krauthammer published a collection of his writings entitled Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics which was on The New York Times Best Seller List for twenty weeks. The book’s publicity package referred to Krauthammer as “the country’s leading conservative thinker” who is also “a highly independent mind whose views—on feminism, evolution and the death penalty, for example—defy ideological convention.”
Charles Krauthammer was known for his intelligence, integrity, wit and resiliency. During his first year of Harvard Medical School, he made a last minute decision to go for a swim after playing tennis. This seemingly casual decision proved to be life changing. Krauthammer hit his head upon the dive into the pool, severing his spinal cord and leaving him permanently paralyzed from the neck down. Ironically, two books were found among his personal belongings at the pool The Anatomy of the Spinal Cord and Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux.
After a fourteen-month recovery, Krauthammer returned to Harvard to finish his medical degree and embark upon a career as psychiatrist. Krauthammer assisted with the creation of the American Psychiatric Association’s Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III (1980) before the siren’s song of politics beckoned him to Washington.
Krauthammer was determined to not let the accident and his paralysis define him. Over the course of his career, he consistently de-emphasized his confinement to a wheel chair. “I don’t like when they make a big thing about it,” he told The Washington Post. “And the worst thing is when they tell me how courageous I am. That drives me to distraction.”
Krauthammer, who is survived by his wife Robyn and son Daniel, will be remembered for his incredible life, but he will also be celebrated for the way he dealt with the news of his impending death. On June 8, Krauthammer published a farewell note to readers in his Washington Post column.
Recent tests have revealed that the cancer has returned. There was no sign of it as recently as a month ago, which means it is aggressive and spreading rapidly. My doctors tell me their best estimate is that I have only a few weeks left to live. This is the final verdict. My fight is over.” … “I leave this life with no regrets. It was a wonderful life — full and complete with the great loves and great endeavors that make it worth living.
Very few people get the chance to say goodbye before we take our final rest. If anyone is deserving of that unique experience, it is Charles Krauthammer. RIP.
Image: Excerpted from: Mary Anne Fackelman – https://www.reaganlibrary.gov/sites/default/files/archives/audiovisual/
contactsheets/c33978.jpg, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=69816742