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Gwen Ifill honored with Black Heritage Forever stamp

Some people leave an indelible mark on the world, and our friend Gwen Ifill is one of them. The NewsHour legend was honored Thursday with a Black Heritage Forever stamp celebrating her professional achievements and contributions to African American communities. The ceremony took place at her church in Washington, D.C., and was attended by her family, friends and colleagues. Judy Woodruff reports.

Read the Full Transcript

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Some people leave a mark long after they're gone. Gwen Ifill is one of them. And, as of today, her smile can stick to any message you write.

    I was grateful to be there this morning when my friend, the "NewsHour"s former co-anchor, was honored with a special postage stamp.

    The moment was celebrated at her spiritual home.

    It was an event that drew stamp collectors…

  • Jane Mays:

    I belong to a stamp club that collects Afro-American stamps.

    Because of the honor that she's receiving today, I wanted to come.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    … and Gwen Ifill fans from far and wide.

  • Elizabeth Cronen:

    A stamp is something you put on your note to send to your friend. People all over this country are going to be doing that.

    And they're going to know why I chose the Gwen stamp, because she was thoughtful, she was kind, and she was dedicated to the American public.

    (CHEERING AND APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The U.S. Postal Service officially unveiled the Gwen Ifill Black Heritage Forever stamp at a dedication ceremony at the Metropolitan AME Church in Washington, D.C.

    Gwen's brother, Bert, accepted the honor on behalf of the Ifill family, and recited a poem he wrote.

  • Bert Ifill:

    It is titled "Gwen Forever."

    Gwen's smile, her confident smile, compassionate, consoling, cognizant, beams out at us. Posterity has given its stamp of approval. When we have something to say that's too difficult or complicated to express in a text or over the phone, she will be with us.

    Our memories, now direct and sharp, will fade over time, just as our lives will, but Gwen's image — image, legacy, spirit, will endure.

  • Woman:

    Forever.

    (APPLAUSE)

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Gwen's stamp puts her in the pantheon of other black trailblazers honored with a stamp, including Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ida B. Wells, and Jackie Robinson.

    Former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was a good friend.

  • Eric Holder:

    Today, more than ever, and in this city, at this time and on this day, the need for her is painfully acute.

    This is a time for journalists to be brave, demanding, unyielding, persistent, and committed to sharing truth with the nation.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Gwen's career in journalism began in newspapers, The Baltimore Sun, The Washington Post, and The New York Times

    She moved to television in 1994 with a stint at NBC News.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    They have to find a way to work with this president for the next two years.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Then it was on to PBS in 1999 moderating "Washington Week In Review," becoming one of the first black women to host a national political program.

  • Jim Lehrer:

    And to our new senior correspondent, Gwen Ifill.

    Welcome, Gwen.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Here at the "NewsHour," for 17 years, her work took her around the country.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    This weekend, the political yin and yang of a crowded field all descended on Iowa at once.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Reporting on politics, sitting down with singing legends.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    How do you handle the weight of the diva-ness of it all? You have a lot of flair.

  • Aretha Franklin:

    I love to sing.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Moderating vice presidential debates.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    I want to talk to you about AIDS, and not about AIDS in China or Africa, but AIDS right here in this country.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And interviewing heads of state.

  • President Barack Obama:

    The notion that somehow America is in decline is just not borne out by the facts.

  • Gwen Ifill:

    But it resonates. It resonates among a lot of aggrieved people who are voting in big numbers for Donald Trump.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    In 2016, at the age of 61, Gwen died of cancer, leaving her colleagues and fans devastated.

    As she rose higher in her career, Gwen mentored many aspiring young journalists, especially women of color.

    Her pastor, the Reverend William H. Lamar IV, said Gwen believed her connections to African-American communities was essential.

  • William H. Lamar IV:

    Gwen didn't seek, nor did she accept the tantalizing offer to graduate from her blackness. Gwen found gifted black women and opened doors for them that she had to kick down.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    During today's ceremony, Gwen's work and values also were recognized by two former presidents, Obama and Clinton.

    Longtime journalist Michele Norris was one of her closest friends.

  • Michele Norris:

    It is fitting that Gwen's image is on a stamp, and that stamps are the way that we communicate and remain connected with each other, because Gwen was one of those people Malcolm Gladwell might call a connector. She loved bringing people together.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Her cousin, Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and many others treated the day as a celebration.

  • Sherrilyn Ifill:

    Nothing has done more to heal the pain of losing her than those three simple words: Gwen Ifill forever.

    And at this moment in our country, those words mean so much. For our family, Gwen Ifill forever means that our parents and our grandparents' struggles were not in vain. They live on in each of us forever.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    The Gwen Ifill Black Heritage stamp went on sale at U.S. post offices nationwide today.

    It was a beautiful ceremony today. I was so honored to be there.

    Gwen lives on inside each one of us at the "NewsHour" every day.

    And, online, you can find a link to watch the whole ceremony for Gwen. That's on our Web site, PBS.org/NewsHour.

Listen to this Segment

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