What Charles Krauthammer taught me about friendship

Our best self is when we teach and care for others the way Charles did

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The holidays tend to become a little less joyful, and a little more somber as one grows old. The one thing you want most can’t be gifted nor bought—more time with the people you have loved and lost. Over the last few years, it seems everyone has lost someone.  

For me, that person is Charles Krauthammer.

30 YEARS AS LEADING VOICE OF AMERICAN CONSERVATISM

After a late speaking event in April 2015, Charles was waiting in Phoenix to catch a flight back to Washington, D.C. He nodded and waved to a couple of senators who were also waiting for the flight, but the pressing thought on his mind was to get on the plane and sleep. 

It wasn’t until Charles saw a man enter the boarding area that his mind switched from rest to excitement. He quickly began maneuvering through the obstacle course of people, baggage and babies lying in wait between them. Laughter and conversation quickly ensued between the two men.  

While boarding the plane, Charles turned to me, his traveling assistant, and commented, "After we take off, I want you to find that gentleman and exchange seats." In the more than 200 flights Charles and I had taken together the last 13 years of his life, he had only asked me to move once for another passenger: a baseball player—Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza.

After arriving at Reagan National airport and on the drive back home, I asked whether the gentleman he sat with was a senator? Charles responded, "No, he’s a mensch." 

That mensch was the Washington Post’s longtime editorial page editor, Fred Hiatt, who died earlier this month. Fred’s leadership was first class. His edits were handwritten. His messages were encouraging and uplifting. He consistently made time for others. He kept things simple.

The relationship between Charles and Fred started at the Washington Post. Regardless of origin, what makes theirs or any companionship special is growth. I was fortunate enough to assist Charles with his travels, and on these trips I learned that the education from special individuals like these never stops.

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What Charles taught me in the wake of Fred’s passing during this holiday season, is that the best gift we can give each other and ourselves is their example. They each had a gift which was to make others feel welcome, and that they were not alone. The gift to make others feel like they belonged. And the gift to help others be more confident to take on life’s challenges and be their best self.  

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Our best self is when we teach and care for others the way Fred and Charles did for each other—and everyone around them.