It was the summer of 2012 when I returned home after finishing my sophomore year at Columbia College Chicago, a school that truly puts the “liberal” in “liberal arts.” My parents had already been loyal Fox News viewers and whenever they had it on TV, I previously had tuned it out. But with a presidential election just months away, I figured I might as well start informing myself on current events.
Going to college is supposed to open your mind to different thoughts and ideas that you haven’t been exposed to before. But the overwhelming liberalism of the student body and teaching staff at Columbia College repelled me, especially during an election year. And the only way for me to embrace my inner conservatism while I was in school was with my DVR in my apartment, where I had several Fox News shows recording on a nightly basis.
There are plenty of Fox News personalities that I could thank for helping me get through college without losing my mind. I enjoyed watching to the lively conversations on “The Five,” Bill O’Reilly’s “talking points memo,” and Megyn Kelly’s poignant analysis of the big headlines. But there was one person in particular that always stood out to me among the dozens of hosts and pundits I’d watch every evening — Dr. Charles Krauthammer.
Listening to Krauthammer on the “Special Report” all-star panel was like listening to an ancient Greek philosopher. He always put everything into perspective and presented things in the big picture. Not only did he give his opinion, he expressed why things mattered (he literally wrote the book “Things That Matter”).
Krauthammer lived an incredible life and he was able to do so because he confronted death when he had his near-fatal diving accident at 22-years-old. After receiving his doctorate in psychiatry, he drastically changed his career path by becoming a liberal columnist and a speechwriter for Vice President Walter Mondale. But it was President Ronald Reagan that inspired Krauthammer’s conservatism, which he shared with The Washington Post and Fox News for decades. Despite being paralyzed from the waist down and wheelchair bound for his entire adult life, he never felt sorry for himself.
President Trump recently ranted about the “political elite” at his rally in Minnesota. Krauthammer was surely a member of the political elite, but he never acted like it. Often when you hear pundits or politicians speak, there’s a level of condescension that becomes apparent. One of the reasons why Krauthammer was beloved by millions across America was because he was one of very few elites that didn’t allow his status to define his worldview. He was a man of class but identified as a commoner, a rare trait in the political bubble.
There has been a huge void in his nearly year-long absence and during that time, I thought about what was missing in the national dialogue that Krauthammer specifically possessed. They were civility and integrity.
We live in such divisive times, when cable news outbursts and irrational tweets have become the norm. And debates on current events often lead to shouting, name-calling, and hyperbole. Krauthammer never resorted to such childish tactics. He’d make his disagreements clear to a fellow panelist without stooping to the levels people seem to go on a regular basis. He was the epitome of a gentleman and a scholar.
Krauthammer was also a man of principle. In the era of Trump, tribalism has tainted countless individuals who once were respected professionals. Either you support Trump so much that you’re blinded from his wrongdoings or you hate Trump so much that you’re blinded from his good deeds. Krauthammer never boarded the Trump Train during the election. In fact, he strongly opposed Trump’s candidacy. However, in the first several months of this presidency, Krauthammer was able to weigh in on every news cycle fairly and rationally, something very few people have done successfully in their coverage of Trump.
Ever since he wrote the letter announcing he only had weeks to live, I’ve been asking myself what would Krauthammer say to what’s happening today, a moment I’d have multiple times a day. I imagine him giving sobering analysis of things like Trump’s summit with Kim Jong Un and the Mueller probe and he’d be appalled by all the Holocaust and Nazi comparisons that have been made recently regarding the separation of illegal immigrant families at the border.
But perhaps trying to think exactly like him isn’t the way to honor his legacy. To me, the best way for us to keep his legacy alive is to emulate his thirst for knowledge and understanding of different perspectives and to show respect for those we don’t agree with, because ultimately, it was his humility that made him a lovable guy.
I never had the privilege of meeting Charles Krauthammer, but if I had, the first thing I would have said to him is, “Thank you.” It wasn’t until recently that I realized that he had made such an impact on my worldview. I will forever look up to him. After all, he was a giant.