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I was honored to be able to introduce Dr. Charles Krauthammer tonight at the Milwaukee Public Library.

 

In this age of tweeted selfies, twerking and Miley Cyrus, Charles Krauthammer is that rare and essential thing: a public intellectual.

He is, by most estimates, the nation’s leading conservative commentator, noted for his insight, his wit, and his clarity of mind.

An alumnus of McGill, Balliol, and Harvard, trained as a doctor, along the way he re-invented himself as a writer. He has described his life story as improbable and characterized by serendipity and sheer blind luck.

He is the originator of the phrase “The Reagan Doctrine”, and he has been a keen observer of, and indeed, a profound influence on American foreign policy for over three decades.

He is distinguished by being, in his own words, “the only entity on earth, other than rogue states, that has received an apology from the White House.”

And he is a fierce opponent of the errant comma.

His most recent book, Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics, is a collection of his columns. It is a wide-ranging demonstration of the breadth of his interests and the fluency of his thinking, all built on the fundamental premise that politics is just a means to an end; That it exists only to make possible the things that matter: friendship, love, art, philosophy, baseball, science, chess, nature.  Politics, for all its banality, is the essential platform for these real things. And if politics goes wrong, all these things—the things that matter—are destroyed.

 In reading Dr. Krauthammer’s book you will learn—if you hadn’t already known it—that he is a man of deep feeling. The ringing simplicity of his eulogies to his brother, his mentor, his friend, the subtlety of his humor, and his relish for the ridiculous make his writings both companionable and engrossing.

And if the underlying compassion of his essays is not evidence enough of his character, Dr. Krauthammer is a dog lover. At the passing of his son’s black lab, Chester, he wrote:

Some will protest that in a world with so much human suffering, it is something between eccentric and obscene to mourn a dog. I think not. After all, it is perfectly normal, indeed deeply human to be moved when nature presents us with a vision of great beauty.

Should we not be moved when it produces a vision—a creature—of the purest sweetness?

And should we here tonight not be privileged to encounter a man of such depth and fundamental humanity?

 

March 6, 2014

Centennial Hall

Milwaukee, Wisconsin