Commentary: Remembering Tim Russert
By Christina Abt
Buffalo, NY – Irish diplomacy: the ability to tell a man to get lost in a way that makes him look forward to making the trip. -- Old Irish Proverb
I never met Tim Russert in person. However, we did email and speak on the phone several times. The purpose of our contact was always the same: my quest for an interview with the renowned WNY native son. Unfortunately, we never made that journalistic connection. Yet true to his Irish heritage, each of Russert's kind rejections encouraged me to like the man even more, and to look forward to asking him again.
Those were the thoughts that ran through my mind upon hearing the shocking news that Russert had passed away. And while I never enjoyed the honor of interviewing the veteran broadcaster, Russert's open and honest style in everything he did .from the high profile hosting of Meet the Press to the mundane fielding of media requests such as mine .all of it encouraged me to believe that we were in some way connected -- somehow friends. As I have come to realize since his passing, I am one of many Western New Yorkers who felt that same connection, firmly rooted in our shared love of home, family and country.
Tim Russert was a true and loyal Western New Yorker. No matter how far he traveled or how famous he became, he was always remained one of us. He loved the Bills, Sabres and Bisons through all of their thrilling victories and painful defeats and he never failed to declare that passion in national forums. He also wore his blue collar South Buffalo upbringing like a badge of honor, freely telling all who would listen of laboring as a garbage man like his father, and earning his education through the guidance of the Mercy Nuns and the Canisius Jesuits. There was never a moment in Tim Russert's life when he wasn't proud to serve as an ambassador of all things Buffalo. No apologies. No excuses.
Tim Russert was the ultimate family man. When he wrote the best selling book about his father, he completed the circle of life by dedicating the book to his son. He proudly acknowledged his father's influence on his professional career and always made sure people knew that his dad taught him the core basics of life that contributed to his success. He was as publicly devoted to his wife of twenty five years and his recent college grad son. His loving dedication mirrored the strong sense of family he learned growing up here and which still defines our Western New York Community.
Tim Russert was a brilliant political analyst. Better than that, he was a passionately patriotic, honest and fair-minded man, always searching for the truth. Whenever we needed to understand what was really happening in the world we could watch Meet the Press and know that we would understand and trust whatever we heard because our friend Tim was asking the questions. And on those Sundays when Russert closed the program with a hearty, "Go Bills" it was if we were sitting together, beers in hand, ready to cheer our hometown team on to victory.
In life, Tim Russert was a South Buffalo bred and born man who grew from his Western New York roots to become one of the most influential people in the United States. Yet in all that he accomplished he never forgot his hometown and its citizens -- we, who so proudly claimed him as our own.
Now in death, I am sure that Tim Russert is already plying God with his finely honed sense of Irish diplomacy, forging a plan to help the Bills to win the Super Bowl, the Sabres to win the Stanley Cup, the Bisons to win the Governor's Cup and Buffalo to experience a remarkable urban renaissance.
And I have no doubt that this one-of-a-kind man...my friend Tim...will accomplish it all.
Listener Commentator Christina Abt is a free-lance writer who lives in Eden.