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Farewell Mr. Buffalo

Written by Amil Imani

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Sunday, 15 June 2008
russertc.jpgA tribute to Tim Russert
By: Amil Imani
Always remember, those kids shed their blood on the sidewalk there. They replaced the sidewalk, there's no sign left of it, but the memory lives on with you and it lives on with me.-John Siegenthaler

NBC news lost its franchise player and America lost one of her franchise patriots and political "go to guys", Tim Russert, to a sudden heart failure on Friday, June 13, 2008, in NBC's Washington, D.C. studios while recording “voiceovers” for Meet the Press; he was pronounced dead later at Sibley Memorial Hospital.

Tim Russert was a man of conscience and integrity. His reporting was an immaculate guide to all of us who aspire to better the world around us by our commitment to truth. In addition to being an outstanding journalist, an outstanding leader and an outstanding interviewer, Tim Russert was also a very warm and decent man. His professionalism and manners combined with his enormous humanity and cheerful eyes, on the air and off the air were impeccable. It will be difficult for many to make it through the upcoming election without Tim Russert in it. Indeed, he made politics worth watching.

Tim was a man I knew only through television. Yet, it was like I've known him my entire life. He was what a man ought to be...a great son, great father, great husband, great friend and a great professional. As unpredictable as death is, this one came as a shocker to us all and it was so sudden and perhaps at the worst time, imposing a sense of uncertainty when certainty is what we crave.

I remember when Tim Russert published a memoir about his father, Big Russ and Me, a very touching book.  It appears in his private and public life, Tim always turned to his father for advice. He said this about his book, “In the spring of 2004, I published a book about my father--about the lessons I have learned from him, the way he has influenced me, and my enormous love and respect for this steady, hardworking, and modest man. Big Russ and Me came out in May, and my publisher sent me on a publicity tour in the hope that people around the country would see the book as an ideal Father's Day gift.” How ironic, he passed away on Father’s Day weekend.

With all its imperfections, America is still the last haven of hope and opportunity for many people. Tim believed in America and followed his dream. From being Mr. Buffalo, he became a leading figure in America’s media and politics. I have always said that the world owes a great deal to America for inspiration and practical accomplishment.

Tim was a clear thinker who didn’t mince words. He was a man who did take his homework seriously. His approach was like the courtroom prosecutor who would make politicians crumble under the relentlessness of his questioning.  Indeed, his prosecutorial cross examination made politicians uneasy during the interview.  Come prepared to Tim’s round table or you would feel defeated, a colleague said about him. Tim's overall manner was of grace and wit, charm and wisdom, but most of all of passion. He cared greatly about politics and did all he could to keep it honest and working for and not against America.

What this country needs is more Tim Russerts...strong journalists who have the courage to ask the right questions at the right time of the people whose decisions effect our lives. Tim Russert was the most authoritative and engaging moderator on Sunday mornings. By his sudden death, American political discourse has suffered a devastating loss.

While announcing his friend's death, Tom Brokaw made this remark, "He was a true child of Buffalo and the blue collar roots in which he was raised... Tim loved his family, his faith, his country, politics ... He loved the Buffalo Bills, the New York Yankees and the Washington Nationals."

"He was, in every way, Mr. Buffalo," said Sen. Charles Schumer. "Even when he was interviewing presidents and heads of state, western New Yorkers knew that his blue-collar Buffalo sensibility guided him throughout."

Tim Russert was a teacher and mentor to those Americans interested in the machinations of our public union. For those of us who wake up each Sunday morning to watch Meet the Press, this and every Sunday will be a bit of a bleak reminder of the passing of this fine American. Sundays and election nights will never be the same.
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