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A gold standard for Norman Corwin

September 18, 2009 |  9:32 am

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.

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. He has just published, at age 99, his umpteenth book, ''One World Flight,'' his 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, he is sober and whimsical and always original and wisel. He is regarded as 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.

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

But I think Kacey is being a bit too modest -- I think both a Congressional Gold Medal and the Presidential Medal of Freedom are in order. Elsewhere, 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, is already Olympian.

-- Patt Morrison

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