Friday, June 13, 2008

The Rosy Face of Politics

I got the text message at 6:09pm. It read: "Tim Russert collapsed today." I responded in disbelief with the words: "Oh, my!" I went back to work. I got a call at 10:00pm. Tim not only collapsed but was dead. Today is Friday the 13th of June. Tim Russert is dead.

My fondest memories of Tim are those of how his face lit up when he spoke. I always referred to Tim as the rosy-cheeked journalist. There was a way his face lit up when he spoke. Even when Tim spoke about issues that bothered him, like the economic-downward spiral, terrorism, and crime, Tim's cheek bones never failed to fill up his face. He always spoke with a smile. I imagine he is the guy you would want at the the other end of the phone. You could be in a different room listening to Tim speak and still hear the smile in his voice.

I remember a feature "O, The Oprah Magazine" had done on Tim and his son Luke right before Luke left for college. He was so proud of Luke. It's been four years since I read that article because apparently Tim just returned from Italy. He was on vacation with his beloved wife Maureen, celebrating Luke's graduation from Boston College. I remember the glow of pride that filled his face in the picture in the magazine.

Tim also loved his dad, "Big Russ." His love for big Russ is documented in his best-selling book "Big Russ and Me." In the book, Tim chronicles the unspoken love of his father who worked two full-time jobs as a newspaper delivery man and sanitation worker. He notes that his father never complained. He let Tim know by his actions that he was a worthy example. He wanted desperately for his children to be successful. Tim notes that his upbringing in Buffalo and the guidance of his family instilled the strong work ethic he came to be known and admired for. Big Russ let Tim know that no one owed him anything. He had to work for everything he had. His Dad he notes did not show him love openly but rather by his actions. Tim always talked about his great love and respect for Big Russ and never failed to acknowledge that he was whom he was because he stood on the shoulder of Big Russ.

Tim loved politics. He lived to host his top-rated show "Meet The Press." Friends of Tim remember that Tim avoided all social gathering nights before he went on air on Sunday morning. He was consumed by a desire to be the best. Nevertheless, Tim's success did not alienate him from his blue-collar backgrounds. He was very much in touch with his hometown of Buffalo and went back home often. He noted on the Charlie Rose Show that the greatest compliment to him was when people commented that he was just the same in person as he was on the television. If there's one thing about Tim, it's that he was genuine.

Tonight Charlie Rose noted the poignancy of Tim's passing, just days before Father's Day. Tim was consumed by being Big Russ' son and Luke's dad. He noted time and again in several interviews over the years the importance of family. He rarely ever failed to mention this family, a topic that lit up those rosy cheeks of his. I never met Tim personally, nevertheless, I respect and admire him greatly. I regret deeply that Tim will not be with us to witness this election season unfold. However, I am pleased he saw history in the making with two unconventional candidates in the Democratic Party. My heart goes out to his family who will sorely miss him this Sunday. For he was a family man.

Tim Russert, born May 7th, 1950 in south Buffalo passed away today while working at the NBC Studios in Washington D.C. He will be greatly missed and forever remembered as America's premiere journalist.

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