Tom Brokaw spoke at Tim Russert's memorial service Wednesday afternoon at the Kennedy Center. Watch the speech below (transcript below):
Transcript of Tom Brokaw's speech:
TOM BROKAW, NBC NIGHTLY NEWS: Good afternoon, everyone, I'm Tom
Brokaw-or as Tim called me in our half dozen telephone calls every
day: "Hey, Tommy B., what's happening?" I want you to know at the
outset that this is a celebration. And we're going to do it Irish
style. There'll be some tears, some laughs, and the occasional truth.
And as Tim would look out on this gathering, he would say, "It's wild!
Wild!" My family, my closest friends from near and far, the powerful,
the ordinary, and the largest contingent of all in this room, those
who think that they should be his successor on "Meet the Press."
Our friend, Timothy J. Russert, was a man who awoke every morning as
if he had just won the lottery the day before. He was determined to
take full advantage of his good fortune that he couldn't quite believe
and share it with everyone around him. As everyone knows by knows by
now, Tim grew up in a working class neighborhood in South Buffalo.
Where I like to tease him, everyone sent their children to St. Albans
and then had a summer home in Nantucket.
We have been hearing a great deal about Tim since we lost him on
Friday and so at this stage, it is tempting to invoke that familiar
line, everything has been said, but not everyone has said it.
However, in the book of Tim, not everything has been said. For the
imprint is so broad and so bold. What's more, in the great tradition
of his ancestry, the good stories are worth retelling. Besides, that
same ancestry brings with it a license to embellish or to fine-tune.
Tim was absolutely meticulous in his factual presentations on "Meet
the Press" and in his reporting on election night. His personal
stories, however, could be more accurately described as variations on
Luke, I have never been absolutely clear just how you got your name.
Before some audiences, Tim would piously explain, "I was inspired by
St. Luke," but he also told Paul Newman, that you got your name
because of "Cool Hand Luke."
Now my guess is, right about now: "St. Luke, no, no, you really were
the inspiration. I only told that to Paul Newman because I was trying
to book him on 'Meet the Press.'"
Tim had a thing about names. Tim started calling his son "Baby Luke,"
and then he very quickly involved (ph) into "The Lukeman."
Maureen, of course, was known as "Miss Coco." As I told you the other
day, Lukeman, I've known you since you were a faint image on a
sonogram. I remember the day your father called me and shouted into
the telephone, "A son, I'm going to have a son." However powerful and
influential he became, whatever his fame and acclamations, nothing,
nothing was as important to him as being your father. And in your
life and especially in these past five trying days, you have
demonstrated to all of us that you understood his legacy and his
Maureen, "Miss Coco," the Berkley baby boomer, the Peace Corps
volunteer, the very smart, classy and sassy magazine journalist,
you're one of the few people that I know who could go toe-to-toe with
Tim on politics, gossip, social life and journalism and emerge a
victor-some of the time. We have all been strengthened by your great
sense of grace, your sense of loss, in your courage and strength that
you have transmitted to us since last Friday.
Since Friday, all of us have been swamped with e-mails and phone
calls, strangers on the street, tears in their eyes, sharing their
grief and sense of loss. A friend e-mailed me the other day that he
was in the Salt Lake City air terminal when the news broke and he said
the entire terminal came to a stop and people just stared at the
screen in disbelief.
A postal worker with a heavy Spanish accent stopped me on the streets
of New York sobbing, saying that he was sick, sick when he heard the
news of Mr. Russert. A construction foreman stopped me and said he
was so, so smart and he seemed to be one of us. Men, women, young and
old, many colored fibers of the fabric of this country, they felt our
loss because they saw Tim as their BP Irish cop on a corner in a
neighborhood called America-the guy with the pocket full of Tootsie
Rolls for the kids, the wise cracks for the regulars, the walking
sports page, the storyteller who knew everything that was going on in
and out of sight. It looked like he was...
...from a distinguished university, cheering on the Bills, the
Yankees, or the Mets (ph), going up to a sports bar, hanging out with
Yogi or Bruce Springsteen, he was the same Tim. He was an unmade bed
of a man with an armful of newspaper and a cell phone to his ear. He
had a very certain sense of right and wrong. He had a keen eye for
power, how to get it, how to use it, and who abuses it.
This morning, Meredith and I took a ride along the Washington Mall.
We rode past the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial.
We saluted Mr. Lincoln, Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Roosevelt. We
peddled back past the Washington Monument. And I thought to myself
how Tim loved all of this because he came here to the nerve center of
this precious republic to make a contribution in his own way. His
role was to be the citizen journalist, to speak for those with no
voice and no lobbyist on K Street, to hold public official
accountable, to fulfill the role that I have always thought as the
highest calling of a citizen in this country, to be a patriot-which
mean that you can always improve your country.
He didn't take any of this for granted. He got up every morning and
rushed to too many places and too many commitments because he had been
raised by "Big Russ," as we all know, who worked two jobs and didn't
believe in idle time. That is the curse and the blessing for those of
us who grew with fathers conditioned by the Depression, hardened by
war and uncertainty. We grew up not having to do the heavy lifting,
but by God, we'd better put in the hours.
"Big Russ" is not with us here in this hall today. He's watching,
however, I am assured from Buffalo. And I want to take just a moment
to talk to him.
"Big Russ," you may remember about a dozen years ago, you sent me
this. This is a mug from the American Legion Post 721 in South
Buffalo. And for every morning since that time, it has been my first
companion as I brush my teeth. But now, I'm going to set this mug
aside. I'm going to save it for election night. I'm going to fill it
with this Rolling Rock that I pilfered just today from Tim's cooler,
here in Washington. I'll fill the mug with the Rolling Rock and I
hope that a call will come: "Tommy B., what's happening? This is
But, I know that that call won't come. The voice will linger only in
my heart and in my memory. And so on election night, "Big Russ," I
will raise this glass to you. For your gift to us of Tim and to your
favorite saying, it was his and mine as well, "What a country." Thank