Tonight was the Democratic debate. As with other big MSNBC events, I participated as a live blogger during the debate. Yet just as the debate was going live, it was announced that Jack Valenti, the former Chairman and CEO of the Motion Picture Association had died. Jack suffered stroke a few weeks ago and in the last few days we sadly knew the end was near. I started my debate blogging with a tribute to Jack.
The obituaries for Jack will tell his full story. They will recount his eloquence, his charm, his love of Lyndon Johnson, his incredible gift at speech making and his storytelling. They will also tell about the wonderful love story he had with his wife Mary-Margaret.
Jack had the talent -- that rare and fantastically elusive talent possessed by very few people in this world -- Jackie Kennedy and Bill Clinton come to mind -- of making you feel like the most important person in the world when he was talking to you. I feel so lucky to know this first hand.
I experienced his generosity so many times. Jack was a very important mentor for me in my years in Washington. When I took over as CEO of the Recording Industry Association of America, Jack was the first person I went to see. He could have been patronizing, perfunctory and even dismissive. After all, I was almost 40 years his junior and I was taking on a role where he would have to sit at the table with me on behalf of our sister organizations. Instead, he gave me kind advice, spent lots of time with me and included me as a peer in many high profile industry meetings and events well before I had my sea legs.
Jack was sometimes faulted for seeing rosey scenarios where they didn't exist in order to keep life graceful. That is a quality I would choose over cynicism any day. Particularly in politics.
I think tonight's Democratic debate had the tone about presidential politics that Jack would approve of for such occasions. Civil discourse, respectful disagreements and common goals.
Jack, this town will not be the same without you.