I had a blog I was going to post today. I will save one of the greatest stories I've ever bared witness to for another day.
Before I had a clue about anything political (and I could easily argue that I still don't), I knew Tim Russert. The only child of a father who follows the political waves of change because his job is affected daily by it, our family dinners five nights a week for so many years was spent with brisket, mashed potatoes, green beans and Tom Brokaw, joined often by the Washington bureau chief. Before football came on Sundays, the ultimate Buffalo Bills fan was not grilling burgers at a tailgate, but grilling political figures.
I didn't have a clue what he was talking about as a naive elementary school student, but the passion with which he did his job was unmistakable, undeniable. Of course, that was for a brief minute on Nightly News, or a longer, but still brief hour each Sunday morning. Come to find out, the man was a work horse behind the scenes. It is tragically ironic that the man with such heart for his work lost his life when his heart gave out.
I write this as MSNBC, a network that, like the other cable news networks, is often blasted with calls of bias, publicly mourns the loss of a leader who, by all accounts, questioned the left wing on the same level and tenacity as the right. When George W. Bush and the Clinton couple both honor you in your loss, when those two sides agree on your contribution, that's something. When John McCain and Barack Obama sing your praises equally, that's something.
More telling, though, may be when Walter Cronkite issues a statement calling you a giant of the news industry. When Barbara Walters of ABC News and Bob Schieffer of CBS News (in Paris, no less) talk live on NBC's cable network of your passing.
Now, I can see Tim Russert sitting with Edward Murrow and Peter Jennings in heaven's bureau. What stories they must be telling.
My parents buy me a lot of books. My passion for reading them sadly last peaked in my teens. One of those unreads is "Big Russ & Me." I sought it out on my shelf for some immediate quote that puts the man in some perspective. As much as his legendary news status will forever be remembered, his status as a family man cannot be forgotten.
These words from his book's epilogue, a letter to his son, Luke, in reference to Tim's father, a military veteran:
"You do, however, owe this world something. To live a good and decent and meaningful life would be the ultimate affirmation of Grandpa's lessons and values. The wisest commencement speech I ever heard was all of fifteen words: 'The best exercise of the human heart is reaching down and picking someone else up.'
"Off you go. I am so proud to be your father. Study hard. Have fun. Keep your honor. Pursue every one of your dreams. They really are reachable. As Big Russ would say, 'What a country!'"
I will spend my weekend reading. Thank you, Tim.