Washingtonians turned out for Ted Turner at the National Portrait Gallery on Tuesday night to honor the American visionary who founded CNN and transformed not only the way the world looks at news, but also how the world looks at itself.
The occasion marked the unveiling of famed portrait artist Jon Friedman’s painting of Turner, which will join the many other portraits of noteworthy Americans already on display at the Gallery. The painting, which shows Turner astride a horse at his ranch in Montana, perfectly captures the spirit of the maverick businessman, who is also a dedicated conservationist and environmentalist.
The event was organized by United Nations Foundation, a non-profit that Turner founded in 1998 with a gift to the UN of $1 billion. (That’s billion with a “B”.) The Foundation is dedicated to supporting the mission of the UN, and has been a key player in the effort to eliminate measles and polio throughout the world.
Those offering accolades to Turner’s long career as an entrepreneur, philanthropist, activist, and America’s Cup-winning yachtsman included such notables as PBS Newshour anchor Judy Woodruff, who worked for Turner during her days at CNN; conservationist Mike Finley, who now serves as President of the Turner Foundation; former Georgia Senator Sam Nunn, who works with Turner at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization dedicated to bringing about the worldwide elimination of nuclear weapons; former Colorado Senator Tim Wirth, who serves a Vice Chairman of the UN Foundation; Gary Jobson, who sailed with Turner when they won the America’s Cup in 1977; and current FCC Chairman and former cable TV executive Tom Wheeler, to whom Turner first pitched the “crazy idea of a 24-hour news network” back in the 1980s. Members of Turner’s family also offered stories of growing up as the children and grandchildren of an American original.
The line of the night — the one phrase that summed up Ted Turner — probably goes to FCC Chairman Wheeler, who said, “There’s a fine line between being a visionary and being a dreamer… The world changed because of Ted Turner. There is a bright dividing line in history now: Before Ted Turner, and After Ted Turner.”