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Al Eisele

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Ode to an Amazing Daughter

Posted: 03/ 1/2012 4:34 pm

Please forgive me for bragging about our children, but my older daughter Kitty is amazing.

She clearly has a feel for history. When she was six weeks old, she underwent surgery at the University of Minnesota Hospital for premature closure of her cranial sutures on the same day that President Kennedy was assassinated, and later became a friend of John F. Kennedy Jr. when they were students at Brown.

And in a remarkable coincidence, when I interviewed former Sen. Bob Dole for The Hill last month, I discovered that the neurosurgeon he credited with helping him recover from serious injuries suffered in World War II was the same surgeon who performed the successful operation on Kitty.

Before graduating from Brown, she spent a year in Paris as a student at the Sorbonne, and lived on the Ile Saint-Louis and learned to speak French with a Parisian accent. Then she returned home, but not for long, spending a year in Japan as a Fellow of the Japan Society (her Japanese is not as fluent). Then she went to work for documentary film producer Ken Burns, and won an Emmy as the producer of his acclaimed Public Television series, The Civil War.

She also struck up a lasting friendship with Betty Friedan when the feminist icon and I were Fellows at the John F. Kennedy School at Harvard in 1982. While visiting my wife and I from Brown, she awoke Betty one night, who was sleeping on a couch in our apartment after she had lost her key and was locked out of her own apartment.

Kitty and Betty became good friends and when Betty died in 2006, Kitty, by then an editor and producer for National Public Radio's Morning Edition, remembered her "Aunt Betty" in a warm essay.

"She had been in and out of my life since then, 25 years now," Kitty wrote. "She toasted me on an early job, and scolded me for smoking. She stood up for me when I announced I was going to London to see a guy I KIND of knew... and my parents said that might that leave the wrong impression." "So what?" Betty said, "Go and have a good time. You are what you think you are, not what someone else thinks."

"I had dinner with her on her 80th birthday, when the host of Morning Edition had announced her age that morning. I brought her the script, in a yellow carbon copy. 'He would have to say my age,' she groaned. Even feminists weren't above worrying about getting older."

Kitty is currently supervising senior editor at Morning Edition, where she's written about the White House tailor, the National Zoo's pandas, her Campbell's Soup can autographed by Andy Warhol and a family ancestor in Switzerland who was a famed exorcist... She's reported from Sniper Alley in Sarajevo and the slums of Nairobi and is also an adjunct professor of Journalism at Georgetown University.

She is, I regret to say, the best writer in our family, and she proved it again with a lovely NPR essay on the death of the Monkees' Davy Jones, which you can read here.

I must confess, I don't recall writing the mash note to Davy Jones she refers to, but who cares if I did and left the wrong impression. As Betty Friedan said, "So what?"

P.S. Kitty has a younger sister, who is also amazing, with an impressive career as a business executive, wife and mother. But I better stop there or you'll think I'm a proud father.