Like most people I spoke to, I was moved by the news of Tim Russert's death. I became an avid fan of Meet the Press, just within the past year, and began recording it religiously and looked forward to watching the episodes Sunday nights, especially as the political season blossomed. Tim Russert was the uncontested best political journalist of the day and probably the single-best television journalist on the air. I will truly miss his insight, commentary and unmatched ability to ask the difficult questions directly without mincing words.
Watching numerous shows and commentary about his life over the past few days, what strikes me as most unique about the man was his disposition and approach to work, life, family and faith. His preparation and commitment to journalistic excellence and being the very best at his profession are clear, but he did it with a casual, hearty and just fun thread weaved throughout the experience. He often referred to people affectionately as "brother", whether they were much older or much younger. He was masterful at delivering lines, often witty and clever, as his recent appearance on Conan O'brien showed. Despite his success, it was pretty clear that his family always came first and he spoke affectionately about his father, son and wife often. It turns out he was a deeply religious man as well, during a time in which religiosity has fallen out of favor. One of my favorite quotes from the coverage of his death was by Jon Meacham, who in a Newsweek article, described Russert's personal appeal for him to debate Christopher Hitchens. "You gotta come down and defend the faith, Brother," Russert said. Meacham had an old rule that he would never debate Hitchens about anything as he is one of the great intellects and wits of the age and there as no chance he could ever win, so he protested. Russert won him over by saying "It's the faith, Brother," he said. "I can't do it—I'm the moderator. But it'll be great."
I'm realizing that Tim Russert was an truly inspirational figure for me. He achieved greatness on so many levels that I value....in his profession, as a father, as a son, as a husband, as a friend. He was the leading journalist of our time and yet the topics he chose for his two books were his father and father/son relationships. And despite being a somewhat public personality, he achieved his greatness kinda quietly. That's a rare accomplishment for anybody, but should be an inspiration for us all.
Below is a clip of Bruce's personal tribute at the memorial service today and Luke Russert's beautiful eulogy to his father....