Luke Russert

Remarks at the Kennedy Center Memorial Service for Tim Russert

delivered 18 June 2008, Washington, D.C.

Audio AR-XE mp3 of Address


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio.]

Good afternoon. I'm Luke Russert, proud son of Tim and Maureen.

Just before I begin, my mother and I would just like to extend our deepest thanks for the tremendous outpouring of love and support we've received from all of you and everyone all over the country. Yesterday at the wake, we were very touched. People of all races and religions and creeds came through the doors of St. Alban's to pay respects to my father. We had even one woman who drove from South Dakota, two old ladies who flew in from Lubbock, Texas, dozens who flew in from California, a son and a father who drove from South Carolina, just a guy from Vermont, a guy from Minnesota. And I think the entire city of Buffalo managed to find their way down to Washington.

But, you know, earlier today, I delivered my father's eulogy. And I would like to share a few excerpts. I'm sorry to break the news to every charity group and university and -- and club that he spoke to, but he had the same speech for all of you. He would just tinker it a little bit depending on who exactly he was talking to. So, I would like to do the same thing from what I said earlier. And that's -- that's what I will do.

If there was one philosopher that my father couldn't quote enough, it was the great Yogi Berra. One of his favorite Yogiisms was, "Always go to other people's funerals, otherwise, they won't go to yours." Well, everyone in this audience can rest assured, because, please know, Tim Russert will be at your funeral.

You know, all throughout high school and college, I was taught to avoid clichés like the plague. But -- But there is really one that defines my father and the prism through which he saw life. [pours water into a glass] When I hold this up, some of you see a glass half-empty, and some of you see a glass half-full. For Tim Russert, his glass was always half-full. In my 22 years, I have never met anybody filled with so much optimism, who not only loved the good parts of life, but also its challenges. The ability of the human spirit to withstand tragedy always interested my father. And he firmly believed that, with faith, friends, and a little folly, anybody could withstand anything. Well, that philosophy is certainly being put to the test this past week, but I believe that it is working.

This past week has definitely been a whirlwind of emotion. In preparing for this speech, I looked to Yeats, James Joyce, and even Mark Twain, to try and find the perfect words to capture Tim Russert's life and death in a way more eloquently and poignantly than I could ever hope to do so.

But the other night, a friend of mine reminded me to look at chapter 20 of "Big Russ and Me" in a chapter that's called "Loss." It was about Michael Gartner, my dad's friend, who lost his 17-year-old son to acute juvenile diabetes some years ago. After his passing, my dad phoned Michael. And -- And he said to him, "Michael, think of it this way. What if God had come to you and said, 'I'm going to make you an offer. I'll give you a beautiful, a wonderful, happy, and lovable son for 17 years, but then it will be time for him to come home?' You would make that deal in a second, right?" Well, I only had -- I had 22 years, but I, too, would make that deal in a heartbeat. Later in the chapter, my dad goes on to say, "The importance of faith and of -- and of accepting and even celebrating death was something I continue to believe as a Catholic and a Christian. To accept faith, we have to resign ourselves as mortals to the fact that we are just a small part of a grand design." Well, my dad may have been a small part of God's grand design, oh, but he was such a big presence here on this earth.

In the sad times this week, all of you were such a source of comfort and support for my family. And I have received hundreds and hundreds of e-mail and messages and phone calls, more than I would ever have imagined, and I think that he would ever have imagined as well. But one of my dad's fan -- fans wrote something to me that I think really captures him. They wrote -- She wrote: "If your dad could ask of one thing of all of us, it would be to ask if our actions today yielded respect for our families, been a credit to our faith, and a benefit to our fellow men."

Great men often lead with their egos. Tim Russert led with his heart, his compassion, and most importantly, his honor. He had a great time living, and is no doubt having the time of his life now in heaven. So I ask you, this Sunday, in your hearts and in your minds, to imagine a "Meet the Press" special edition, live from inside St. Peter's gate. Maybe Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr will be on for the full hour debating. Perhaps JFK and Barry Goldwater will give their two cents about the 2008 election. And we could even have Teddy Roosevelt for the full hour talking about the need for a third Party.

George Bernard Shaw said,

This is the true joy in life -- being used for a purpose, recognized by yourself as a mighty one; being thoroughly worn out before you are thrown on the scrap heap; being a force of nature, instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances....¹

Well, my dad was a force of nature. And now his own cycle in nature is complete. But his spirit lives on in everybody who loves their country, loves their family, loves their faith, and loves those Buffalo Bills.

I love you, dad.

And, in his words, let us all go get' em.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

¹ Final line: "...complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. " (Man and Superman,
Don Juan in Hell, Act III)

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HTML transcription by Michael E. Eidenmuller.