THE BLOG

Norman Corwin and the Gold Standard

11/20/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Time's a-wastin'.

Next May, Norman Corwin celebrates his hundredth birthday.

The nation should celebrate with him.

The genius poet of radio, the Mozart of the spoken word, Corwin has won almost all the plaudits his craft can offer -- Peabody awards, an Emmy, an Academy Award nomination, and a documentary about his life and work did indeed win an Oscar in 2006.

He is a rarity in the writing world, as accomplished as he is prolific, and an author and thinker of the first water down to this day. His work is an oasis of the humane, reasoned and reasonable in a country where volume seems to have supplanted sense as the yardstick of debate.

At age 99, he has just published his umpteenth book, One World Flight, his journal accounts and letters from his 1946 around-the-world journey to document the globe of the world in the wake of the war.

In his books, radio works, essays, screenplays and letters, and in the witty emails he sends to this day, he is sober or whimsical as the moment demands, and always original and wise. The phrase most often used about him is ''the poet laureate of the Golden Age of radio.'' He once commanded audiences of tens of millions of listeners, and deservedly so. President Franklin Roosevelt called upon him to write a radio play for the end of World War II, ''On a Note of Triumph.'' It is celebratory and cautionary, and men and women who were alive and aware then can still recite passages of it from memory.

It is one of the singular boasts of my life that Corwin counts me among his friends -- and I count myself among his fans. Another of his fans is filmmaker Michael James Kacey, who has taken up Corwin's cause. Kacey's website shows a Mt. Rushmore of radio with Corwin right up there with Orson Welles and Jack Benny.

I got a tremendously enthusiastic response a while back to the idea that Corwin should have a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame to honor his contributions to radio -- but nobody could pony up the $25,000 or so that it takes to make that happen. If someone did, I'm telling you right now -- I never got your check.

Now Kacey is campaigning for a Congressional Gold Medal for Corwin for his 100th birthday. This has my whole-hearted and full-throated support. I think Corwin and President Obama, both splendid and subtle speakers and accomplished prose stylists, would form a mutual admiration society.

But I think Kacey is being a bit too modest in his ambitions: I think both a Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are in order.

Elsewhere, Norman Corwin would already have been knighted, or be a member of a national academy of letters.

A couple of gold medals is the least we can do for someone who, in the world of words and of ideas, is already Olympian.