Saturday, June 14, 2008

Tim Russert on Fatherhood and Family

Tributes are pouring in for legendary journalist, Tim Russert, who died today (13 June 2008).

Here are some of his qualities and quotes on fatherhood and the famliy as compiled in an American Profile (2006) by Beverly Keeler:

Russert’s father, whom he affectionately calls Big Russ, retired with 200 unused sick days and taught his son the value of hard work and education. Russert and his siblings did their homework around the kitchen table as the sweet aromas of his mother’s cooking drifted from the oven. "We couldn’t trade our pencil for a fork until all the homework was done," he says. Both parents signed his report cards.

However, it certainly wasn’t all work and no play for the father and son, who caught the International League’s Buffalo Bisons playing baseball whenever possible. It was during one of the outings, a 1963 exhibition game between the International League All-Stars and the New York Yankees, that Big Russ taught his 13-year-old a lesson that he never forgot.

“My dad bought tickets way up in the nosebleeds,” he says. ‘I went down the aisle and tried desperately to get autographs. This one baseball player, Joe Pepitone, pushed me aside and I was crushed. I came back to my seat very dejected and my dad said, ‘What happened?’ I explained it to him and he said, ‘Don’t ever forget that. It takes as much time to be nice to someone as it does to be a jerk.’ It has stayed with me my entire life.”

Although he works seven days a week—attending church on Saturdays since his Sunday mornings are booked with Meet the Press—Russert makes it a priority to spend time with his family. Wife Maureen Orth, whom he married in 1983, is a correspondent for Vanity Fair magazine, and their son, Luke, 20, is a sophomore at Boston College.

“Through the course of it, I have never missed one of my son’s football, baseball or soccer games,” he says. “If he had a 3 o’clock game, I would carry my cell phone, go to it and come back. Everyone understood what I was doing. I think the most precious commodity you can give someone is your time.”

“My relationship with my son is much different than the relationship my father had with me,” says Russert, who admits he was "shattered" when his son left for college. “One, he is an only child. Secondly, I had the time and opportunity to be much more involved in his life and school and sports. My dad, because he was working so hard, couldn’t bring me to a lot of places. I probably overcompensate for that. I try to go everywhere and bring my son with me.”

Dr Geoff Pound

Image: The Russert trio.