Wildcat Tracks: Michael Gerson ’82
A question often asked of people affiliated with Westminster is, “What sets this school apart from others?” It’s a good question. Aside from our outstanding faculty and staff, impressive campus, and curriculum, the best answer is to refer to our vision statement: To prepare and equip more young men and women to engage the world and change it for Jesus Christ. This is something taken very seriously and deeply ingrained in interactions with students, no matter the subject.
A truly impactful thing is seeing evidence of this vision come to fruition, whether it is an alumnus witnessing to patients as a nurse or a graduate student taking a year off to serve on a mission trip. In the case of Michael Gerson ’82, it was through his poignant, faith-focused writing as a presidential speechwriter for George W. Bush and a twice-weekly columnist for The Washington Post. Michael became one of the most gifted writers of his generation.
His passion for the Lord through writing was evident as a high school student at Westminster. Former teacher Andrew Shaw recalls with fondness,
“I remember Michael well from his time here at WCA. He was in my physics class and already demonstrated a remarkable gift for writing and speaking. He was passionate about ideas and politics even then and was advanced beyond his years in beginning to weave a Biblical worldview into his deliberations and thought processes. He was not a very good soccer player (!), but he made up for it every time we talked about philosophy. I also recall the time when he gave me a full page of testimony originally penned by Christopher Columbus but in his (Michael’s) own handwriting. His penmanship was as clear, bold, and eloquent as his speeches.”
After high school, Michael headed to Georgetown University to study politics and foreign policy but decided after a year that he was on the wrong track. He transferred to Wheaton College, where he earned a B.A. in Bible and theology. He then attended Fuller Theological Seminary, where he planned to pursue academic theology upon graduation. But senior year, Michael received a call from Chuck Colson, who invited him to come to Washington, DC, to help him write the novel ‘Kingdoms in Conflict.’ He eventually joined the campaign for President George W. Bush in 1999 as a chief speechwriter and a senior policy adviser.
Michael became influential in political circles and used that influence to keep Christianity at the forefront of a conflicted arena. He was well known for the speech President Bush delivered at National Cathedral three days after the attacks on 9/11. In the dark days afterward, Gerson was described as “the man whose words helped steady the nation.” A few years later, Time magazine named him one of the country’s most influential evangelicals. After leaving the White House, Michael took a job writing a column for The Washington Post. He continued until the month before he died, writing his last few pieces on racism in the Republican Party, the value of public service, and the need to fight COVID-19 with global health efforts.
Diagnosed with kidney cancer in 2013, Michael succumbed to the disease on November 10, 2022. He is survived by his wife Dawn ’82 and sons Nicky and Buck. Though his written works are many, his legacy will live on through the passionate way he truly engaged the world to change it for Jesus Christ. Last December, while referencing his illness in his column, Michael wrote, “On Christmas, we consider the disorienting, vivid evidence that hope wins. If true, it is a story that can reorient every human story. It means that God is with us, even in suffering. It is the assurance, as from a parent, as from an angel, as from a savior: It is okay. And even at the extreme of death (quoting Julian of Norwich): All shall be well, and all manner of things shall be well.”
Finally, His Lord said unto him, “Well done thy good and faithful servant.”