The Mighty Quinn Bradlee
How do you make your mark when your parents, Ben Bradlee and Sally Quinn, are among the most famous figures in Washington lore and you have been born with a significant disability that makes many basic things in life difficult?
You surpass them with a tale so full of blood, guts and gusto that the world simply has to take notice.
Thus does Quinn Bradlee make his mark.
The 28-year-old puts his success down in considerable measure to his Irish roots. In his book he writes, “I always remind him [Ben Bradlee] that the Quinns are from Ireland. Irish Americans take great pride in their Irish ancestry and always have. And that is something that I will never stop talking about.”
That new book, A Life’s Work, by Ben and Quinn Bradlee with observations by Sally Quinn, (Simon and Schuster) tells the heartwarming story of a family who have survived one near-death experience of their child after another, many years when no diagnoses could be made of Quinn’s actual condition, and the incredible love of life and drive to succeed that marked their son’s entry into manhood and independence.
Later this year Quinn Bradlee will be married at the National Cathedral in Washington D.C. He has emerged as a national spokesman for children with disabilities. He holds down a full-time job and has just published his second book.
He has done the impossible.
Sitting in the Georgetown mansion his parents call home, Quinn Bradlee strikes me as an emissary from a silent world we think far too little about. How often do we think about the inner life of those we consign to the heap marked disabled or, cruelly, retarded?
There is an endearing honesty to him. He talks about his childhood struggles, his battle against depression, his determination to tell the world that while he may be wired somewhat differently to the rest of us he lacks for nothing when it comes to perception, insight and the need to love and be loved.
The night before we met at his book launch party, attended by such luminaries as Bob Woodward, Maureen Dowd and others, all unabashed fans of Quinn. He was remarkable for his own speech, an honest and vivid account of growing up with famous parents, battling
disability and demons, and ultimately succeeding.
He speaks his mind in a way that some could find unsettling, but which has a refreshing honesty and insight. There is no social filter, no need to worry about niceties. He tells it like it is and his two books to date make that clear. A Different Life, his earlier memoir of growing up disabled, was a critical and publishing success.
We can learn from him about honesty and how those who are different can perceive the world. He is a reporter from a foreign shore, putting us in the mindset of those who have had no spokesman or guide for the longest time. It is a humbling experience to talk to this young man.
Even his parents seem a little in awe. They have the kind of resumes and back story that Hollywood loves. Indeed, Ben Bradlee, the most famous newspaper man of his era, was featured front and center in the movie All the President’s Men.
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