I’ve been debating for two weeks what I would write about for my blog this week, and Friday, in a moment of despair and desolation, it came to me. As a political junkie and the product of a Jesuit education, I really cannot pass up this chance to talk a little bit about one of my heroes, Tim Russert.
I worked my first campaign in fifth grade, going door-to-door in my small hometown for a candidate. In 8th grade, I went trick-or-treating with a campaign button my overalls. My election nights were always spent with Tim Russert and Tom Brokaw (and Brian Williams, once he took over for Tom Brokaw). I’m still not sure why, but I have always loved Tim Russert.
But in this post, I want to highlight a few of the parts of his life that may not have been as obvious to people. First, Tim was the product of a Jesuit education. He spent high school in Buffalo at Canisius and he went to college at John Carroll University in Cleveland. He was a great cheerleader of Jesuit education and when my alma mater decided to begin having a commencement speaker, Tim Russert had the honor of being the first person invited to offer the address. He made no secret of his faith and he was the sole US journalist who was granted an interview with Pope John Paul II when he came to the United States in the 1980’s. Just this past week, he met with Pope Benedict XVI while in Rome. He was a Catholic in public life and he was a person who loved his faith, his God, and his Church.
And Joan Chittister makes a great point in her reflections about him this week. You can read her thoughts here. One of the points that she raises is something that we here need to think about. How do we approach each other in dialogue? How do we ask the tough questions without being accusative? Tim Russert provides us with a great example of someone who wasn’t afraid to ask tough questions, but found a way to do so with a compassionate honesty, an honesty that was disarming and didn’t make people defensive. He also taught us the importance of doing our homework, of knowing our answers.
I cringe when I read a lot of what is written in the Catholic blogosphere, both by “liberals” and “conservatives” because often people slip into ad hominem attacks, insulting the intelligence of others, and generally being disrespectful. What we should be doing is approaching each other with compassionate honesty, asking the tough questions, but not being disrespectful in our doing so. If we need a good example of how to do that, well, there’s a lot of archival footage of Tim Russert out there for us.
So keep his wife Maureen, their son Luke (named for St. Luke), and his dad, Big Russ, in your prayers. And let’s pray that we can all treat each other with the same respect and dignity that Tim Russert treated his guests and colleagues.