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Reflecting on Lippmann

Published: Thursday, Oct. 10, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

To the Editor:

Joseph Morton’s column (“Lippmann was great author, poet,” Sept. 23) returned me to 1964, when I was a college freshman.

I was sitting with Walter Lippmann in his living room in Washington, D.C.

“Is this real? I should pinch myself,” I was thinking.

He offered me tomato juice; I offered him my first question.

“Why do you ask me that?” he said.

His question triggered my brain into warp speed.

“Oh, Randy,” I thought to myself. “You’re so shallow; he’s so deep. Abandon frivolous questions; be substantive.”

Lippmann was patient. He had agreed to meet with me while I was in Washington, D.C., studying the press corps. He shared anecdotes, offered philosophy and deeply inspired me.

At 20, Lippmann graduated from Harvard. He advised presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson.

He was arguably the most influential political journalist of the 20th century.

He was Lyndon Johnson’s nemesis.

“I cost someone a Cabinet position,” Lippmann told me. “The president was ready to announce his nomination, but when I forecasted it in my column, Johnson appointed someone else just to discredit me.”

Credibility, rationale and insight were pillars of his being.

Walter Lippmann taught me a conversation is more meaningful and more revealing than a simple question-and-answer interview.

Now when I interview, I try to question, react, follow up and observe in ways that contribute to a conversation. It’s the best way for an interviewer to return some of the benefits he receives from the interviewee. Both can learn, be inspired and benefit from time rendered.

Randy Swikle

Johnsburg

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