The Loss of a Hero

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.

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7 thoughts on “The Loss of a Hero

  1. I think I have some video to watch! How did he do it? What an example and I really appreciate your (and Joan’s) great sythesis of his respectful communication model. May I get there someday! Thanks for your post.

  2. Becky C

    Great post! Tim Russert has been a favorite polical reporter for me since the 2000 election and the whiteboard. I was surprised when I turned on NPR Friday afternoon and heard them talking about him in the past tense. I hadn’t heard, and I thought to myself “Tim Russert might’ve died…Nah, he didn’t die!” Then I heard the news…it is kinda almost a “Where were you when Elvis died.”

    He certainly had a special quality. My fiance, who is not into politics, even says she will miss him, because he didn’t inject his opinions into the news or go for the zinger on an interview the way Chris Matthews, Keith Olberman, Bill O, Hannity, Rush…basically everyone else who has shows like Meet the Press. However, he also did go easy on people like some others can.

    He got it just right, and I think the outpouring since his death proves that he had something truely special.

    Thanks again for the post!

  3. Hey Nate, I was wondering about this before actually, and thought of it again when you said your fiance isnt very political. If you are interested in talking about this and I hope I’m not prying, my question is–How has (or has it?) your religious resurgance changed your relationship with you fiance? Or does she have a similar passion for religion?

    It hits on a broader issue in my mind because a person is never meant to stay stagnant. There are a lot of things that will never change, but we do change things about ourselves now and then as we grow. Religion could be one of them. How does a couple manuever through big changes like that when the person they married isnt the same as they used to be? A famous example is Jane Fonda. She became a Christian some years ago, and she said her husband Ted Turner really couldn’t relate and it had a lot to do with why they split. Now, I have no idea what her spirituality is like because, let’s face it, sometimes people get a little zealous, but in her estimation it had a lot to do with their issues.

    Has anyone on here been married long enough to know about this??!! j/k

  4. Yeah, Lauren, I’ve had some experience with that — though not exactly good experience! I was married for almost five years. We’d met in church but at the time neither of us was serious enough to keep at it. Long story short, after several years we both felt that tugging of the Spirit, but it was in different directions. She started going to a conservative evangelical church (the kind who insisted that Catholics weren’t true Christians and would all end up in hell — I couldn’t bring myself to embrace that philosophy), and I returned to my Catholic roots, where she did not feel she could join me.

    There were other issues that brought us to divorce, but I think irreconcilable religious differences can be hard to get past.

  5. Lauren- I was actually considering writing a post on this topic (not necessarily marriage but in relationships) because I’ve experienced two sides of the issue. I grew with my Mom and Dad both devout Christians, but Mom is Catholic and Dad is Lutheran. It always seemed normal to me that we went to different Churches and believed in the big Truths but didn’t dwell on the details. Tolerance and the ability to agree to disagree without condemning the other person or trying to change them was taken for granted, and I definitely attribute my parents’ decision to focus on the similarities rather than differences to my open mindedness and love of learning about many of the world religions-where we can all learn a greater sense of Truth.

    Unfortunately, I ended a relationship this spring in part do to a religious clash of the opposite nature. Since I make my fair share of Catholic jokes (especially since I was working full time in a parish) or spout my anger over certain current issues, which for me comes from a deep and passionate love for my Church (that’s why I want to see it change for the better), I didn’t initially realize that his jokes and beliefs didn’t stem from a heartfelt love but from true resentment and even hostility. I realized when things were coming undone (again, for multiple reasons), that he had simply been waiting for me to leave the Church and join him in the “Recovering Catholic” world. Hindsight is 20/20, but I guess my wonderfully instilled sense of tolerance (which hasn’t changed because I’d much rather be optimistically accepting over close-minded) left me a little blinded to the reality that religious differences can indeed cause problems for relationships. Of course, however, it all depends on what the religious differences are and how they play out in the relationship.

  6. I’m sorry to hear of your struggle this spring Becky. It is such a hard place, this space between love for the Church (and just being frustrated and dissapointed), and disdain. And trying to maneuver this in the dating world? whew. Seems darn near impossible!

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