A small note of thanks.
At a luncheon yesterday in Manhattan (actually at Harold Evans and Tina Brownâs apartment), The Week magazine gave out its first annual opinion awards. Tommy Tomlinson of The Charlotte Observer won in the local columnist category; Tom Friedman won for Columnist of the year; and Paul Krugman won for Issue Advocacy Columnist of the year.
In a cool development they also decided to make an award in the blog category. And Iâm honored to say that they chose this humble web site. So to the editors at The Week, to Harold Evans, and to the judges on the panel a very sincere thank you.
Thereâs a write-up on it at Editor and Publisher if you want to find out more.
Now there were various luminaries there and it was quite flattering to hear that some of these people have visited the site. But let me share with you a private moment.
Early on I noticed that one of the folks there was Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.
Schlesinger, if youâre not familiar with him, is one of those few people who is quite literally a legend in his own time. I donât know precisely how old he is. But, to give you a sense of the range weâre talking about, the book that made his name as an historian, The Age of Jackson, came out, I believe, in 1946.
Schlesinger is an historian and an advisor to president Kennedy, but also a towering figure in 20th century American political life, particularly in the first phase of the Cold War when his name was almost a shorthand for liberal anti-communism and Cold War Liberalism. The key book here is The Vital Center, published I believe in 1949 --- a phrase and concept of high moment, before it got cheapened in the 1990s to refer to mere political centrism.
In any case, as you can probably see, Schlesinger is a rather big deal to me. So toward the end of the whole event, after most folks had left, I saw Schlesinger and two women standing off to one side. And I thought, this is my chance. How can I let it go by?
So I walked over to where the three were talking and planted myself there like a schoolboy and waited.
And I waited, and waited a bit more until they, a touch awkwardly, turned their attention to me. When they did, I introduced myself and told him what a great admirer I was of his and what an honor it was to meet him and so forth. When I did this I explained that in addition to my semi-reputable work as a blogger I was also a trained historian with a Ph.D. in American history and the works.
Now normally I never mention this, or say such things. And Iâm half embarrassed to mention to you that I did. But given Schlesingerâs merit in the profession, and my limited window of opportunity to play up my admiration, I thought Iâd make an exception for myself in this one case. I probably figured that Iâd be making clear that I knew who he was, that my admiration wasnât just a pleasantry, or perhaps, candidly, that I wasnât just some yahoo.
To be polite Schlesingerâs wife asked me to explain to them just what a blog is. And though I get this question pretty often, it turns out to be a rather challenging one if the people youâre trying to explain it to donât necessarily have a lot of clear web reference points to make sense of what youâre saying.
I ended up telling them that it was something like political commentary structured like a personal journal with occasional reporting mixed in.
Now, as I was explaining and watching the looks on everyoneâs faces it was incrementally becoming clear to me that this was playing rather like saying that something was like a washing machine structured like a rhinoceros with the occasional sandwich thrown in. And, as Schlesinger himself had said rather little through all this, it was also dawning on me that being one of the four guests of honor at this little event was providing no guarantee against making a bit of a fool of myself.
So we let the brief conversation come to a merciful end and they started to walk away. And, as he was turning to leave, Schlesinger said, âAre you Joshua Micah M â¦.â
âYeah, that's me.â
âYou work for Charlie Peters [i.e., for The Washington Monthly]. Iâm an admirer of your journalism.â
Then they walked away.
My day was made.