This week I found much to celebrate. We wrapped up our final two Cru launches in DC and New York before I traveled to Simmons University in Boston, where I serve on the board. I was thrilled to visit the new Gwen Ifill College of Media, Arts & Humanities, named after the trailblazing journalist who died two years ago after a year long battle with cancer. Her archives are held there, along with precious memorabilia like the jackets she wore to moderate two vice-presidential debates in 2004 and 2008. In February 2016, just months before her death, she moderated the Democratic national debate between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders.
Ifill was born in 1955 in Queens, New York. She moved frequently during her childhood as her father was the pastor of various churches, which taught her the value and skill of engaging new people across boundaries. She graduated from Simmons in 1977 with a degree in communications and landed her first job at the Boston Herald-American. She had interned there the summer before and when she took a note someone left on her desk that read "nigger go home" to her manager, the editors at the paper were so horrified they offered her a job. She used the opportunity to build a career that earned her the esteem of everyone who understood her work. In 2008, John McCain, the Republican Presidential nominee, told an Ifill critic live on Fox news that, "She will do a totally objective job because she is a highly respected professional."
Ifill worked for the Baltimore Evening Sun, The Washington Post, and the New York Times before making her way into television. In 1999 she became the first black woman to host a national political talk show, Washington Week in Review on PBS. She went on to earn a Peabody Award and 41 honorary doctorates. Ifill left us a legacy of excellence, curiosity, and honoring everyone's humanity. Two years before her death she wrote that, "We can talk-and we can listen—if we only give each other a chance." That dialogue feels more difficult now than it ever has before, but I'm inspired to channel Gwen Ifill and try.