Sunday, June 15, 2008

Begin with the end in mind - Tim Russert's legacy

I just finished watching several tribute shows to Tim Russert, the host of the NBC Sunday talk show, Meet the Press. Being a political junkie, MTP is one of the Sunday morning shows I regularly watch. Two things struck me about the tributes to Russert:

1. How much air time was devoted overall to remembering him, which probably rivaled that of a president. Why so much time is an interesting question. Possibilities:

  • Tim was one of them (the media) and they all knew him. The media always give their own more attention, just as members of other professions do.
  • His death was so unexpected. The word "shocking" was used often in the coverage. He had just returned from a trip with his wife and son to Italy to celebrate his son's graduation from university.
  • He was arguably the premier political TV talk show host of his time in the post-David Brinkley era. All who spoke of him, whether to the right or left of center politically, noted that he was tough but fair in questioning his guests on MTP and set a standard for others to follow.
  • He was obviously dearly loved by his colleagues. Most of those interviewed noted the personal interest that he took in their families, how he was loyal to friends in good times and bad, and was generous about sharing his expertise and help. He even went out of his way to keep in touch with a nun who taught him and to introduce her to all his famous pals. And all this from a guy who seems to have worked 24/7 for most of his life. Also mentioned were his twinkling eyes and little boy enthusiasm for politics, sports, and just about everything. He was thrilled that a kid from Buffalo could meet and interview American Presidents. We all want to be around positive people who clearly love life.
  • Despite his fame and wealth, he was close to his working class roots in Buffalo and an avid promoter of all Buffalo sports teams. People appreciate those who have "made it" but remain true to their humble origins.
  • Because he was an integral part of the U.S. political process, his death was more than losing an individual. Many claimed that his passing would change the political landscape, particularly in an election year where interviews on MTP could affect political agendas.
  • He was a great all round guy and a family man. His book Big Russ and Me about his Dad was a wonderful homage to a man who worked two jobs (garbage collector and truck driver) all his life so his kids could have a better chance in life. He often mentioned his Dad and son Luke on his show in loving terms.
2. As described above, the second thing that jumped off the screen during coverage of Tim Russert's death was how he was universally loved by all of his colleagues, both those who were competitors and those who worked with him daily and knew him best. No one could get more glowing eulogies.

It reminds me of Steven Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the 2nd habit: "Begin with the end in mind." Covey introduces it by asking us to imagine our own death and what family, friends and acquaintances might say about us in their eulogies. Covey then says that we should start living our lives in harmony with that end in mind.

Tim Russert's life appears to be a testament to how to live life with the end in mind.

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