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When Language Becomes a Legacy

Written By Jon Budington

December 9, 2021

I’ve been busy for the past few months working with our creative team as we launch our new website. I’m supposed to be writing a blog that explains our thinking on what we designed and how it’s different. But I’ve been at a loss for words this week. I lost a dear friend and neighbor. His name was Fred Hiatt.

You probably know the name. In addition to being my neighbor, he managed the Washington Post’s editorial page. He and his family were the first to welcome us as we moved in across the street. And over the past 20 years, we would talk about our kids, the local schools they attended together, changes in the weather, and of course, politics.

Fred built and oversaw the nation’s most diverse editorial page. Every day, you can read opinions from the far right, far left, and the compromising center. Local opinions, global opinions and woke opinions all sharing the same real estate in print or pixels—a quaint idea In today’s world of gated news communities and social bubbles of like-minded rhetoric.

I’ve been reading tributes to his life and work along with criticisms of his opinions all week. Most compelling have been those from his diverse and disparate staff. As Donald Graham wrote in Monday’s Washington Post, “Today, in this space, you can read opinions from everyone from Marc Thiessen to Katrina vanden Heuvel.” Yes, and these people—who possess almost no shared beliefs—universally valued their relationship with Fred.

It’s hard to process my personal feelings of loss as I come to realize the impact Fred had on our national political dialog. I often write about the power of words. Yes, they do matter, but Fred’s mattered more than most. I will miss his friendship, the world will miss his voice of reason.