With more than 300 of his peers, close friends and family members in attendance at the National Press Club, Austin Kiplinger received “The Fourth Estate Award,” given annually by the Washington club’s board of governors to a person who “has achieved distinction for a lifetime of contributions to American journalism.” Club president Rick Dunham made the presentation.
The Nov. 10, black-tie dinner event was a mixture of heady stuff and light banter.
VACILLATING FROM poignant remarks to unabashed humor, roasters and toasters gave the former 30-year editor of The Washington Kiplinger Letter a good going over.
In her role as one of several “toasters/roasters,” Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, who received a thunderous, standing ovation, both before and after her remarks, admitted, “I avoid the press like the plague. I just got to know him (Kiplinger) as a friend.” She bestowed on him “The Supreme Court Seal Of Approval’’…… “for being the person you would most likely, like to be around, most of the time. We don’t give these awards to many people and even he got it by a 5-4 decision,” she emphasized. On a more serious note, she concluded by thanking him, “for raising the bar in the fourth estate.”
During the evening a huge screen behind the podium flashed old photos of Kiplinger’s earlier days to present times. White House Correspondents Association president, Ann Compton, tilted her commentary toward numerous of the flashbacks, including Kiplinger’s stint in television reporting in Chicago. “He actually had a lot of hair then,” was heard from the audience. That was 1956!
Ted Miller, with the Kiplinger organization for a half-century, summed up his experience as one of pure pleasure working for “a man like Kip.” As if to indicate some people never change, Miller provided the crowd with some inside information. “He (Kiplinger) is writing his memoirs on an Underwood manual.”
Lending credence to Kiplinger’s many years as a journalist, Hugh Sidey, former White House correspondent for Time Magazine, suggested he was giving advice to President Ulysses Grant. “I was just spoofing Kip for having been around so long. He is such a fixture. There are some people in the country who make it run. He is a big part of the success of this nation,” Sidey remarked.
The most touching moment of the evening occurred when Knight Kiplinger, who succeeded his grandfather and father as editor of The Kiplinger Washington Letter and is now president of the company, looked his dad straight in the eye and told him how much he admired and loved him and how grateful he was to have him as a father.
FOLLOWING A moment of composure, Kiplinger, approaching the dais, announced, “My turn!”
Prior to turning toward a personal note, he offered words to the wise. “Everyone needs an editor, no matter how well you write and every editor needs a good staff.” He rejected the rumor that Grant was the first president he “gave advice.” The first president he saw was Coolidge, he acknowledged. He also recalled seeing FDR “struggling into the press club on the arm of his son.” Referring to the Kiplinger publications he later said, “We don’t quote sources. We give you what we think, based on all available evidence.”
Paying tribute to Justice O’Connor, a jovial Kiplinger said, “She was the first Supreme Court Justice I ever danced with and probably the last, now that she is going off in the sunset with Alan Greenspan.”
On a personal note he praised his wife, Gogo, seated at a nearby table with John O’Connor, Manning Muntzing, Shirley and Albert Small and Mardelle Richey; and toasted his son, Todd, vice chairman of the Kiplinger organization, who was celebrating his 60th birthday. Austin Kiplinger’s 45 years of riding with Potomac Hunt was not on the front burner this night of his professional acclaim.
However, his concluding remarks were reminiscent of the sagacity and wit that has marked his six decade career. “If you hang in there long enough people will take your longevity for merit!”