The entire nation was shocked to learn the sad news last week that NBC Washington bureau chief and “Meet the Press” moderator Tim Russert had died of an apparent heart attack.
The noted and influential journalist was the longest-serving moderator of “Meet the Press” and widely known for his precise and intense style of questioning of political figures. Sunday mornings will not be the same for most of America, as “Meet the Press” will be absent its iconic moderator.
Russert excelled as a journalist in grilling guests to answer his questions with accuracy and honesty, and held them accountable when they failed to do so. Tim Russert rose from his humble Irish-Catholic roots in Buffalo, New York to become a world-renown journalist who interviewed presidents and popes. President Bush, expressing the sorrow of our nation, stated that Russert was “an institution in both news and politics.”
His deep pride of his humble roots were displayed in his 2004 bestselling book, Big Russ and Me. The book chronicled his upbringing in a predominantly Irish working-class neighborhood in South Buffalo and his education at the Jesuit-run Canisius High School. But it was his father, Big Russ, a crusty World War II veteran who worked two jobs to provide for his family, that was the focus of Russert’s admiration in the book. Big Russ instilled in his son a sense of duty and loyalty to family and faith. It became the cornerstone of Tim Russert’s accomplished life.
A devout Catholic, clearly Tim Russert never forgot his faith in his work among the nation’s leaders and journalists. He often used his personal success to benefit Catholic causes, especially Catholic schools, and counted Catholic Charities among his favorite causes. Tim Russert never forgot his roots or his family either. He was a rarity in the world of political journalism often known more for its cynical skepticism and shallow secularism. He stood head and shoulders above the pack of journalists that populates Washington because he grounded not only his journalistic career but his entire life upon the eternal values of family and faith.
During a tribute to Russert on his Sunday morning program “Meet the Press,” former colleague and current First Lady of California Maria Shriver shared that he always carried with him a rosary and would tell people that he would pray for them and their families.
As we join the nation in mourning Tim Russert, we are reminded of the words of Christ to his disciples: “Well done, good and faithful servant.”
Indeed, well done, Tim Russert. May your soul rest in peace and may the perpetual light shine upon you.