Remembering Whitney Ball
I’d like to share a more personal story that I hope shows her human side, too. While I had “known” Whitney as a face at conservative gatherings for over a decade, I don’t think I ever sat down with her for an extended conversation until shortly after I co-founded R Street.
We met for breakfast at an Alexandria hotel. After some pleasantries and launched into a discussion that ended up focusing on the philosophical roots of R Street and the history of the intellectual conservative movement. She was quizzing me intensively; probably testing to see if I really had the chops to run a think tank.
Our food came. A grapefruit on my plate, which looked fine, tasted awful; I took one bite, probably grimaced a bit and continued a rather intense discussion about Hayek. At a first-ever business meeting, I decided it would be unbecoming to complain about the food. In any case, she appeared not to notice.
However, when a waiter came to refill our drinks, she was firm. Very gently and politely, she said: “I think there is something wrong with my friend’s breakfast; his grapefruit isn’t very good.” The waiter fixed things quickly. I’ll never forget it: In a moment of intense conversation about weighty issues, she had taken the time to care about a tiny annoyance I was facing.
We had breakfast a few more times over the years and I always walked away impressed and energized. She’ll be missed.