Charles Krauthammer is my VIP for this week for several reasons. One reason is that he is a brilliant man who made life better and/or interesting for millions of people. A second reason is his announcement that he has only few weeks to live.
Krauthammer was born in 1950 in New York City. His father was from Ukraine, his mother was from Belgium, and his only brother was four years older. Both of his parents were Orthodox Jews, and they educated their two sons at a Hebrew school. The family spoke French in their home and moved to Montreal when Krauthammer was five years old.
Krauthammer graduated with First Class Honours in 1970 from McGill University in Montreal. Since McGill University had a lot of political activism, he learned to avoid extremism – whether far left or far right. A year after graduating from McGill, Krauthammer studied as a Commonwealth Scholar in politics at Balliol College at Oxford. He then returned to the United States to attend medical school at Harvard.
During his first year of medical school, Krauthammer suffered a serious diving board accident and was left paralyzed from the neck down. He was in the hospital for 14 months and used a wheelchair the rest of his life. In spite of his injuries, he continued with his studies and graduated with his original class in 1975.
Krauthammer was a resident in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital from 1975 to 1978 and served as the chief resident during his final year. While a chief resident, “he noted a variant of manic depression (bipolar disorder) that he identified and named `Secondary Mania.’ He published his findings in the Archives of General Psychiatry. He also coauthored a path-finding study on the epidemiology of mania.’”
In 1978, Krauthammer moved to Washington, D.C., to direct planning in psychiatric research under the Carter administration. He began contributing articles about politics to The New Republic and, in 1980, served as a speech writer to Vice President Walter Mondale. He contributed to the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. In January 1981, Krauthammer joined The New Republic as both a writer and editor. In 1983, he began writing essays for Time magazine, including one on the Reagan Doctrine, which first brought him national acclaim as a writer.
In 1984, he was board certified in psychiatry by the American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology. His New Republic essays won the `National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism.’ The weekly column he began writing for The Washington Post in 1985 won him the Pulitzer Prize for commentary in 1987. In 1990 he became a panelist for the weekly PBS political roundtable Inside Washington, remaining with the show until it ceased production in December 2013. For the last decade, he has been a political analyst and commentator for Fox News.
Krauthammer, now 68 years old, has been silent, or nearly so for most of the past year. He revealed on Friday, June 8, 2018, that he is in the final stages of cancer and has just weeks to live. This is his statement:
I have been uncharacteristically silent these past ten months…. I had thought that silence would soon be coming to an end, but I’m afraid I must tell you now that fate has decided on a different course for me.
[He stated that recent testing showed that his cancer is back.] 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. I am sad to leave, but I leave with the knowledge that I lived the life that I intended.
I began listening to and reading the words of Krauthammer some years ago. I did not know of his academic or writing successes, much less about his diving accident. I did not realize that he lived his life in a wheelchair – much like my beloved nephew who was also a quadriplegic from an accident. I will miss the wisdom of Krauthammer’s words.