Doris Kearns Goodwin spoke at Tim Russert's memorial service Wednesday afternoon at the Kennedy Center. Watch the speech below (transcript below):
Watch Bruce Springsteen's surprise performance at Tim Russert's memorial.Transcript of Doris Kearns Goodwin's speech:
DORIS KEARNS GOODWIN, HISTORIAN, AUTHOR: Hello. I'm Doris Kearns
Goodwin, or as Tim would remind me, the Irish daughter of Michael
Francis Aloysius (ph) Kearns. History at its best is about telling
stories, stories about people who lived before, about events in the
past that create the contours of the present. By studying the lives
of others, we hope that, we the living, can learn from their struggles
and their triumphs.
Today, as we who were lucky enough to have been Tim Russert's friends,
recount our stories about this remarkable man with the booming voice
and the radiant smile, it becomes increasingly clear that while his
professional achievements will long be remembered, the lasting legacy
he leaves behind is the truly honorable life that he led. For it is
in the elements of that life so exquisitely balanced between a
profound commit two work and an equally profound commitment to his
family and his friends that we have the most to learn.
Now, to be sure, his professional success will long be remembered.
Indeed, for future historians attempting to tell the political story
of the last two decades, there will be no more valuable resource than
the transcripts and the tapes of "Meet the Press." We have lost the
art of letter writing, the discipline of keeping a diary. But as Tim
showed, we have not lost the capacity for talking, for sitting around
a simple table and conversing in a civil and illuminating fashion
about the most important issues of the day.
Everyone has a purpose on earth, Tim once said. His, he believed, was
to understand public policies, interpret political events, and inform
the public. And how magnificently he practiced that chosen vocation,
providing us week after week with a consistently intelligent public
discourse which is the heartbeat of democracy.
Moreover, years from now, historians will not only be able to read
what our leading figures said but observe how they responded to Tim's
penetrating questions. And these observations will provide the key to
unlocking both character and temperament. Those who flinched with
discomfort, who stubbornly resisted honest answers, they will not fare
so well over time, while those who were willing to acknowledge errors,
to laugh at themselves, to admit that, yes, those statements on the
screen do seem contradictory, they will emerge in a far better light.
Tim once said to me that he could never understand why a politician
could not say, You're right, I've changed my mind on that issue.
There is only one politician who could have consistently given Tim the
answer he craved, but that would mean bringing Abraham Lincoln back as
Tim's guest on "Meet the Press." Just imagine it. On the screen, Tim
would have put up several contradictory statements that Lincoln said
about slavery in 1832, 1842, and 1852. This would not fluster
Lincoln, however. For as history records, whenever he had to say that
he had changed his position, he had a simple answer: Yes, you're
right. I have changed my position. I'd like to believe I'm smarter
today than I was yesterday.
And yet while the core of Tim's work will live on for generations, it
is the character of the man that tells the bigger story, the warmth,
sensitivity, integrity, fairness and fundamental decency. His
capacity to transmit his cheerful strength to others, reach out to
people, pick up their emotions, put himself in their shoes, inspire
their trust, the character of a gentle man who retained all his life
his boyish sense of wonder, the character of a beloved figure whose
death has produced an outpouring of emotion across our land.
It has been said that, over time, friendship turns to love. You look
back and you remember the experiences you shared, the joy at one
another's achievements, the comfort provided in time of sorrow, and
you know these memories will last forever. Though you've heard each
other's favorite stories, you take pleasure in hearing them again and
I cannot tell you how many times in the presence of others, Tim would
spur me to tell a story I had long since told him, so that the people
sitting with us could enjoy it. Tell me about Lincoln and the critic,
he would prompt. And I would tell the story of the man who shouted at
Lincoln, You're two-faced, Mr. Lincoln. To which Lincoln responded,
If I had two faces, do you think I'd be wearing this face?
GOODWIN: And on and on it went. Tell me about FDR and the poker
game. Tell me about LBJ and the Alamo. And Tim would sit there with
this huge grin on his face, as if he were a proud parent, though, I of
course was the older of the two. And so through these and a hundred
other shared experiences, friendship turned to love.
A few weeks ago, in the aftermath of the sad news about Senator
Kennedy's brain tumor, I told Tim of a conversation I had had with
Rose Kennedy decades ago as she remarked on the shortened lives of her
children, most notably, Jack and Bobby. She said she found solace in
the thought that if they could come back, they would still choose the
lives they'd been given to lead, for they'd been blessed with so much
achievement and so much fulfillment.
Tim said he understood what she was saying, for he, too, had already
been blessed with all that he could want, with work he adored and a
family he loved, blessed beyond his wildest imagination. But if his
length of years were denied to him, the hardest part, he said, would
not be sharing with Maureen in the limitless future of their son, not
seeing Luke get married and become a father of his own.
While Tim's shortened life means that the children of Luke will never
meet their paternal grandfather on this earth, they will surely come
to know him. They'll know his heart and his soul through the memories
of all who loved him, through the countless stories filled with love
and laughter, stories that will be told and retold for generations.
I am honored to be one of those story tellers tonight. Thank you.