Things That Matter
Charles Krauthammer
Contributed by Nina Calhoun
Chapter 1

Krauthammer begins the chapter by talking about his brother, Marcel, also a doctor, who was once brought to the emergency room in a critical condition. However, he was able to tell the clueless intern what to do to save his life. Growing up, he taught Krauthammer a lot of sports and also shared his friends with him. The two also spent long as well as idyllic summers in long beach. In Krauthammer’s words, they were inseparable. Marcel died of cancer at the age of 59.  He goes on to talk about Winston Churchill, who according to him should have been the Time’s magazine person of the century, and not Albert Einstein. Einstein was a genius with a lot of revolutionary ideas. Without him, however, the world would have still reached these findings sooner or later. One the other, Churchill was indispensable. If it were not him, Britain might have sided with the Nazis, and a rapid decline in civilization would have been witnessed. Churchill saved Western civilization from both Soviet communism and Nazism. It took a nineteenth-century man, Churchill, to pave a way towards a magnificent 20th century.

The third person in this chapter is Erdos, who is described as a brilliant mathematician, and worked till his death at the age of 83. He was a homeless nomad, and he sought the hospitality of mathematicians across the world while offering his brilliant ideas in return. Erdos was a Hungarian Jew, and his family was destroyed by Hitler. He was a gentle, kind, and a gregarious genius. He believed in making mathematics a social activity and was the most prolifically collaborative mathematician in History. In addition to sharing his brilliance with others, he also shared his money. Krauthammer also talks about Ankiel, a rookie pitching Phenom who lost his control during the 2000 major league playoffs, and staggered around in the minors for years until he gave up pitching forever in 2005. However, he finally returned to the Saint Louis Cardinals as an outfielder in 2007, promptly hitting a home run and going on to star at the plate and in the field as well. Rick Ankiel is compared to The Natural’s Roy Hobbs. Just like in the fable – Hobb’s story – there could be redemption and a touch of glory in Rick Ankiel.

Krauthammer takes a conservative approach by arguing that Quincentenary is still worth celebrating regardless of the brutalities it inflicted on people throughout the history of America. The church has blasted the discovery of America by Columbus as “an invasion and colonization with a legalized occupation, genocide, economic exploitation and a deep level of institutional racism and moral decadence” (Krauthammer 29). The association of Indian cultures had plans to sabotage the 500 anniversary in Madrid. Both Catholics and Protestants find themselves at odds, with the former defending him and the latter being anti-Columbus. Attacks on Columbus are two-fold. One side accuses him of being a murderer while the other magnifies his crimes by romanticizing the cultural accomplishments of his victims. The author also talks about Herman Lisco, who he describes as a gifted scientist and a legendary teacher who was born in German and obtained his medical degree from the University of Berlin. He was a quiet man and a key figure in the study of acute radiation poisoning in Los Alamos. He performed an autopsy on the first person to be killed by the radiation, and his findings were a significant scientific milestone since they were the first published account of the effects of acute exposure to radiation on humans and were produced in a landmark UN report on the impact of radiation on both humans and the environment. Lisco later became a professor at Harvard Medical School, becoming the most loved as well as an influential mentor of students. Lisco was made Krauthammer’s career possible. He died in 2000.


This chapter is a collection of very personal columns in which the reader learns a lot about Krauthammer, the man. As an example, Krauthammer mourns the death of his brother Marcel who died of cancer in 2006. Krauthammer also mourns the death of his professor Lisco. Here, Krauthammer also offers a brief explanation of how he was paralyzed during his freshman year at the medical school. By opening up with a column about his brother, Krauthammer instantly creates a connection between himself and the audience. He is able to create this bond and speak so well to the readers due to his authentic as well as conventional writing.

Krauthammer is not shy about why he believes what he does. In this chapter, he includes extensive support of his overarching argument, which is not explicitly stated most of the times until well into the column. When writing about his brother, he does not start the column with a sentence about the manner in which Marcel was a generous and caring brother. Instead, he begins it with a mildly amusing anecdote about the frequent ER visits his brother made. He then transitions seamlessly to their childhood together and explains his brother’s great qualities. This technique of beginning a column with a topic that is different from its primary purpose is excellent in that by the time the reader reaches the controversial point, they have already committed their time to a considerable portion of the column; hence are more likely to hear Krauthammer out. After obtaining the reader’s commitment, Krauthammer then launches into his well-crafted arguments designed to support his viewpoint, while at the same time addressing numerous counter-arguments. In his article about Churchill, he starts by proving that Einstein’s work was impressive but not essential enough to the development. He then explains that Churchill was vital in preventing the success as well as the spread of totalitarianism, supporting his argument further with paragraphs in defense of the social prejudices of Churchill.

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