You can get better and better with age

On the occasion of Katharine Graham’s passing last week, I was motivated to once again watch “All the President’s Men.” It had been years since we had seen this adaptation of the book by Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein.
It’s a gripping story as the two reporters tell about uncovering the Watergate scandal. A story that turned the Washington Post, under the direction of publisher Katha-rine Graham, into a world-class newspaper.
However, I was mildly disappointed by the movie this time. I expected to see some evidence of Graham herself, but strangely enough, this remarkable woman was missing.
Nevertheless, no one has forgotten Katharine Graham’s role in winning the Pulitzer Prize for the paper.
After her death, Mike Wallace of CBS called her “one of the giants of journalism.” And President George Bush said, “The nation’s capital and our entire nation mourn the loss of the beloved first lady of Washington and American journalism, Katharine Graham.”
So prominent was Graham that she gave a dinner party to introduce President George and Laura Bush to Washington’s powerful and elite. Said Bush, “Presidents come and go, and Katharine Graham knew them all.”
Louis D. Boccardi, president of the Associated Press, said, “Kay Graham was a hero for the inspiration she provided to other women.” Graham was the first woman elected to the Associated Press board of directors in 1974.
Dominated first by her father, then by her husband, Graham was thrust into a man’s world–after 20 years as a mother and hostess–when her husband died in 1963.
Years before, her father had purchased the Washington paper at a bankruptcy sale and later be-queathed it to her husband. Now, at age 46, this timid woman committed herself to keeping the newspaper in the family.
Ten years later, Katharine Graham had transformed The Washington Post from a mediocre paper to one of international prominence and respect. She went on to amass a profitable conglomerate of newspapers, broadcast, and cable properties and magazines, including Newsweek.
In her 1998 autobiography, Graham recounted the difficulty she encountered as a woman. “I was so painfully new–the unpleasantness of being condescended to and the strangeness of being the only woman in so many rooms got mixed up in my mind.
“It took the passage of time and the women’s lib years to alert me to the real problems of women in the workplace, including my own.”
In spite of that shaky beginning, by 1980 Graham was No. 1 on the World Almanac’s list of the nation’s 25 most influential women. At her death, Senate Majority Leader Thomas Daschle praised her ability to “change people’s perceptions about the role women could play in journalism, in business and in the world.”
Katharine Graham also was a role model for older people. At age 84, she was still serving as chairman of the executive committee for the The Washington Post Company and was attending a conference when she took the fall that resulted in her death.
Yet she had time to write her autobiography, “Personal History,” and at age 81, acquired her second Pulitzer Prize. The Pulitzer for her autobiography was the highlight of her life.
So whether you are a woman or a man, you can learn from Katharine Graham to grow better and better throughout life. And never be afraid to take on new challenges–no matter your background or your age.
Marie Snider is an award-winning health care writer and syndicated columnist.

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