Meet the Press   |  January 01, 1910

Russert ‘held us up every week’

June 15: Tim Russert’s closest friends and colleagues look back at his legacy on “Meet the Press.”

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This content comes from a Full-Text Transcript of the program.

MR. BROKAW: Well, the fact is, I believe he made all the candidates, just as I believe this long primary season's made all the candidates better, I think Tim made the candidates better.

MS. IFILL: And, Tom , you know...

MR. BROKAW: I think he has elevated the process in a lot of ways.

MS. IFILL: He made journalists better, too. I mean, one of the other postmortems that happened was around this table after every program, where we sat around and not only decompressed about what had happened on the program, but often what had happened in our reporting. I learned more things -- some of them reportable, some of them not -- around this table because that was part of the ritual. Part of the ritual was, "What do you know? What do you know?" That's what Tim would always say to you. And often people -- sometimes guests would come out and join us. And those were sometimes the most fascinating conversations I had all week.

MS. MATALIN: You know what, Tom , he was -- we talk about his ambition and his friendships and his loyalty. He was ambitious for his friends. I, I'm struck by all the colleagues, everyone is just so -- he was ambitious for the interns, he's ambitious for his friends. If you had a book, he'd put you on one of his shows. He tried to help everybody. He wanted everybody to do their best. Another unique thing about this town, which is -- can be zero sum . If you're up, somebody else has to be -- he enjoyed everybody's success, and he pulled for everybody's success. And he put them in positions to succeed, starting with the interns. And after the show, after the postmortem, he would not sit down to the -- have the little turkey sandwiches and stuff till he got with everybody who came, and they're all journalism students, and he'd...

MS. IFILL: Right.

MS. MATALIN: ...keep up with them, and he'd put them in positions to succeed.

MS. FISCHER: He would always -- I -- he always said this. He always said the best exercise for the human heart was to bend down and pick someone else up. And he not only picked us up, but he held us up every week, and, as the backbone of the show.

MR. BROKAW: Well, I -- Mike and I've talked about this a lot, because we've shared so many common roots. I think it's really a testimony to his working- class background and, and to this country. He would always say -- I hope I can get through this -- "What a great country this is."

MR. BARNICLE: "What a country. What a country." I mean, his working-class roots -- it's, it's such- -well, almost everyone says it, you know, don't forget where you came from. And he never forgot where he came from. But where Timmy came from, conditioned to south Buffalo , was much more than that. It was -- he had a missionary's zeal about him for people, for everyone, for lifting people up, for helping people in times of trouble, whether you were his friend or whether you were a complete stranger. I, I, I -- and I know you could do the same thing, I can't begin to tell you the numbers of people who he knew who had a child who might be damaged in one way or another, and Tim would always call and ask to speak to that child, who -- in the house, you know."How are you doing? Julie , how are you doing?" Whoever it was.

MR. BROKAW: Right.

MR. BARNICLE: He had to -- he had that touch. He just knew that -- who needed to be lifted up, who needed to be helped, and he was, he was the strongest man. He had the strongest, biggest heart.

MS. IFILL: And children, who are excellent judges of character, really loved Tim .

MS. FISCHER: Oh, yes.

MR. BARNICLE: They knew it like that.

MS. IFILL: They knew it instantly.

MR. BARNICLE: Like that.

MR. BROKAW: Yeah. We -- in fact, we have a, a Tim commentary that came the Sunday after 9/11 that I think summarizes that better than any of us are able to. Here's Tim on the consequences of 9/11 and what he saw.

MR. RUSSERT: Together, firemen, priests and brothers wept and sang the prayer of St. Francis . "May the Lord bless and keep you and show his face to you and have mercy on you." That is the way of New York . That is the spirit of America , from February 1945 at Iwo Jima to September 2001 at the World Trade Center .