I spent last Friday and Saturday at the GenTN Conference. I can’t begin to tell you how many interesting leaders in the community (both old and established and new and starting out) I met. It got me thinking…yes, just thinking. Simple, but that’s always good in my book.
John Seigenthaler, Sr. gave one of the keynote speeches. He was most likely the oldest speaker that day, but certainly the funniest and (I felt) most relevant. At the end of his speech, the audience had the opportunity to ask questions. One question was about some of the most interesting people he had the opportunity to interview in his career. He touched on leaders in general, specifically Presidents. One was George H.W. Bush, who had published an “autobiography” which consisted of personal letters that he had penned over the years. Bush read most of the letters, while Seigenthaler then expanded upon with him. Much of the correspondence was touching and personal, including a letter he wrote to both of his sons when they were governors. Bush said he couldn’t make it through that one- he asked Seigenthaler to read it for him. Bush asked them to not live in his shadow or make decisions in his shadow, but to make their own decisions and conclusions. Despite their differences in politics and systems of belief, Seigenthaler sited this as one of his most memorable interviews. The mutual bond of fatherhood can bridge many (troubled) waters.
Somehow Seigenthaler then segued into commenting on Tim Russert’s passing that morning. Many people in the audience released a gasp of shock, but some of us had already heard the news (I happened to get a text from a friend.) My father loved Russert for many reasons- he was tenacious, unbiased, informed. I knew his death would have an impact on my dad, but I was surprised to hear how much when I spoke to him on the phone on Father’s Day. I am not sure why it didn’t click sooner…they are both from western New York and Irish Catholic. Like Russert, my dad has never forgotten his roots and where he came from. Tim Russert represented a life of integrity, of family, of values and morals. It is more than just his favorite news commentator passing on, it’s a mortality check.
It’s difficult to fathom that Tim Russert is gone. Why didn’t we cherish his place in politics and journalism when he was around? What an incredible loss. His death has rekindled an already existing appreciation for my father and for all fathers. When my dad dropped me off at college, he told me “do the right thing- not the popular thing or the easy thing, but the right thing.” I wonder if G.H.W. Bush had made that kind of clear point with his sons where we would all be right now…
But, the world moves on. I am just holding on to the best thing said about Russert- “he lived a life of dignity.” That’s it- that’s where I point my compass.