Katharine Graham was a powerful American twentieth-century woman, publisher and later chairman of the Washington Post for over three decades. During that period the Post not only became one of the most influential newspapers in the United States and the world, it also contributed to the downfall of President Richard Nixon.
Although Graham thought she was unprepared for the role she undertook on her husband's death, in fact her life had well prepared her—she was born into a wealthy, well-connected family, received an excellent education, she was inspired by her mother's work in journalism to begin a career there herself, and both her father and her husband were previous publishers of the Post. Perhaps her own self-doubt also stood her in good stead, making her humble enough to hire and rely on qualified people for many of the areas in which she had no expertise. But most of all, she had the strength of character to take on the responsibility.
Apart from assuring the Post its position as top daily newspaper in Washington DC and a reputation for investigative reporting, Graham presided over the story of the century—the Watergate scandal. While Graham and the Post reporters did nothing wrong in investigating the situation, bringing to light wrongful actions by those in power, the Post's attacks on President Richard Nixon led to bitterness and consequences for America and the world that were understood at the time by Reverend Sun Myung Moon:
I supported his position as President because he concentrated American power in Southeast Asia, trying to conclude the Vietnam war quickly. I knew that if Southeast Asia fell there would be terrible consequences for all Asia. If a victory could have been won in Vietnam then Korea's position would be strengthened. I saw that because of the political scandal Nixon had no courage to go about the national business, and the Vietnam situation became a remote concern. That's why I proclaimed that America should forgive, love and unite with him. By doing so America could concentrate again on the international scene.
Indeed, Reverend Moon's picture appeared for the first time on the front page of the Washington Post in 1974, under the headline, "Rev. Moon: Nixon Supporter," thus beginning an adversarial relationship between the Post and Reverend Moon's work that continued for decades.
Katharine Graham could have worked to avert these consequences, advocating healing and forgiveness. She had experienced difficulties and suffering in her personal life, and was a philanthropist committed to helping others. But she lacked forgiveness at this significant moment in history. Despite this, however, her life remains a great testimony to the power of women.