Honoring Charles Krauthammer
In his final column for the Washington Post, which appeared on June 8, 2018, Charles Krauthammer thanked his colleagues, readers, and viewers for, among other things, giving “consequence to [his] life’s work.” As he wrote, "I believe that the pursuit of truth and right ideas through honest debate and rigorous argument is a noble undertaking. I am grateful to have played a small role in the conversations that have helped guide this extraordinary nation’s destiny."
It is in this spirit—of pursuing truth through honest, rigorous argument—that the Krauthammer Fellowship was established. Charles was not announcing his retirement in his final column, but rather the sad news of his likely death. He explained to his readers that his doctors had told him that he had only a few weeks left to live; he passed away on June 21, 2018. In those intervening weeks, virtually every major news outlet in the country paid tribute to Charles as a great writer, thinker, and patriot. In 2019, the Krauthammer Fellowship was created, as a way of honoring Charles’s legacy by encouraging a new generation of American leaders.
Charles led an extraordinary life. While in his first year at Harvard Medical School, he became permanently paralyzed from the waist down following a diving-board accident. After spending 14 months recovering, he returned to medical school and went on to become an influential psychiatrist; among other things, Charles joined the Carter administration in 1978 as director of psychiatric research. During this time, he also served as a speechwriter to Vice President Walter Mondale.
While working in the Carter administration, Charles began contributing articles to the New Republic magazine, where he eventually became a full-time writer and editor. For his work at the New Republic, he received the 1984 National Magazine Award for Essays and Criticism. Also in 1984, Charles launched his syndicated weekly column at the Washington Post. In 1987, he received the Pulitzer Prize for “his witty and insightful columns on national issues.” Over the course of his journalism career, these columns would appear in over 400 newspapers worldwide.
In 1990, Charles became a panelist for the weekly PBS political roundtable “Inside Washington,” a position he held until the show stopped production in 2013. He also served as a regular contributor on Fox News, appearing nightly on “Special Report with Bret Baier.” From 2001 to 2006, Charles served on President George W. Bush’s Council on Bioethics.
Charles turned his writings into two books: Cutting Edges: Making Sense of the ’80s (1988), and Things That Matter: Three Decades of Passions, Pastimes and Politics (2013). His son, Daniel, posthumously published The Point of it All: A Lifetime of Great Loves and Endeavors, in 2018.
Charles turned his prodigious talents toward service of his country without losing his distinctive Jewish identity; his life is one example of a great American Jewish story. Through the Krauthammer Fellowship, we hope to inspire rising leaders to think similarly about their own contributions to American and Jewish life.
Program Associate, Young Professionals Programs