Friday, June 13, 2008

Tim Russert - 1950 -2008

In memory of Tim Russert, I thought it worth re-posting the Rover blogpost reporting his recent Red Smith Lecture at Notre Dame, during which he graciously praised William F. Buckley. "Men of that caliber [of Buckley and Moynihan] are so lacking in our public discourse," Russert said.

Here is his ND talk:
Russert's comments and salute at the end of the clip display the nobility of his character.

Among the many tributes that have been issued today, is this one from Cokie Roberts:

"Tim Russert was a great competitor and a good friend. I am obviously shocked and dismayed by this news and extend my thoughts and prayers to his son Luke — he was so proud of you — to his wife Maureen and to the rest of his family; especially his beloved father. Tim and I worked together on Catholic causes, and I will greatly miss him."

Here's the original post:

From Bob Costa via Phi Beta Cons at NRO:
SOUTH BEND, Ind. — Tim Russert, Washington bureau chief of NBC News and moderator of Meet the Press, described the late William F. Buckley Jr. as an “extraordinary, complicated, intelligent, singular force in American life” on Monday in a lecture at the University of Notre Dame honoring late New York Times reporter Walter W. “Red” Smith. Russert added “I think that when we find that, we should salute it.”

Russert shared personal anecdotes of Buckley during the audience’s question period following his address on American journalism in front of over 500 students and faculty members.

"It was extraordinary talking to him," said Russert, recalling that he sat near Buckley at past social functions, including the annual Al Smith Dinner in New York.

At the dinner table, Buckley “was someone who did not engage in long conversation,” said Russert, before noting that the late National Review editor “was the quintessential observer” who could “come back and just say something that was so spot on.”

Russert also addressed what he sees as a common simplification of Buckley’s work and thought.

"I realized the suggestion that, well, he was a conservative writer," intoned Russert, "he was far more than that."

"He was someone who was a conservative and proud of it,” said Russert, “who understood the rhythms and changes in history — that there was a race worth running in 1964 with Barry Goldwater that would probably be unsuccessful but it would lay the groundwork for a successive conservative takeover of the Republican Party, and the White House, to wit Ronald Reagan — and he was right."
Read the rest.

I was at the event last night -- very well attended with a lot of older folks who I'm guessing were from town. There were lots of students there that I recognized, however, and I was surprised to see so many groups represented. Russert, who gave the keynote at Commencement 2002, seems to genuinely enjoy being at Notre Dame, even though (as he mentioned) his son is attending Boston College.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Gas & Money

What Congress can and SHOULD do about Gas Prices:

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer under the Dome

Campus is a really neat place to be in the summer, and unfortunately, most students never get to discover that. Some may think that when the students speed home in May, to summer jobs or research, campus life dies with their disappearance. But really, it gets busier than ever. Dozens of different groups come in for conferences, seminars, and camps involving sports, scholasticism, and spirituality. And as if you needed help to appreciate the beauty of campus when the trees are covered in leaves that nearly obscure the Dome, visitors help you see it with new eyes. There's something special about the way a person's face lights up the first time they set foot in the basilica.

Life at Notre Dame is as vibrant as ever. A half dozen of my friends are on campus for ACE classes. They are first- and second- year teachers in poor Catholic schools across the country, who are students themselves for June and July, trying to learn better how to serve their students. Others are here for ECHO, a similarly structured programme for graduates who want to work in parish ministry and religious education, run by Notre Dame's Center for Catechetical Initiatives. Another friend will arrive this weekend to help run a camp for high school students who are interested in studying architecture; he just got back from spending his junior year in Rome, as all Notre Dame arkies do, and now he wants to give something back to the program that helped him decide to attend Notre Dame. And I'll never forget NDVIsion, the week long retreat for high school students to engage the question of how they hear God's call in their immediate lives, which profoundly affected my own understanding of vocation and the way I lived out my life as a high school student after I went on it in the summer of 2002.

The thing I love about summer at Notre Dame is how so many people get to be part of Notre Dame's truly all-encompassing education, and how Notre Dame so dramatically takes its mission outside of the Academy for the summer months. You get to meet people from so many different age groups, cultures, and walks of life over the summer- families visiting the campus and living in St. Edwards Family Hall for a week, high school students attending sports camps here and maybe dreaming about coming to Notre Dame themselves one day, elderly people participating in classes or seminars. Last summer there was a conference on the growing Hispanic influence on the Church in America, and for a week, it suddenly seemed like there were more Spanish speakers on campus than English. Sunday night summer student Masses in the Basilica are the highlight of my week when I'm here, because I get to see all of my friends doing different programmes and the participants who come and go, getting a taste of a Notre Dame liturgy, with a summer edition of folk choir and people who hang around outside of the church to talk for nearly an hour after Mass. You really get to appreciate how universal Notre Dame's mission for Catholic education is, and the impact we can have on our culture and individuals from across the country far beyond South Bend city limits.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Hey, don't feel guilty

even if you are.

Headline from Notre Dame News & Information: "New study examines Catholic guilt among U.S teens"

What will ensure that Notre Dame remains a Catholic university? Is it the mere funding of empirical studies on religious themes? Say, an "academic study" on whether U.S. teens "feel bad for a variety of sins committed or contemplated"?

"See, we take Catholicism seriously: We examined whether kids experience Catholic guilt! Notre Dame--the place where the Church does it's thinking!!! And we're also cool because we talk about pop culture, and in a pop-culture sort of way!"

I'm not saying that there's no place for such a study, even if I have no time for it personally, but I am wondering whether such empirical forays could replace substantial inquiries into the faith, while preserving the facade of taking Catholicism seriously.

Am I being too harsh? If so, I might issue a mea culpa, but only if I feel guilty.

A Story

So I was visiting one of my many surrogate mothers today and she told me a story that I don't remember. Upon hearing it, I didn't doubt the veracity in the least but I simply hadn't remembered.

When I was eleven years old, she was "baby"sitting me and some other children. She lives out in the hills of east county and several acres of property, there are some good hiking trails, a small orchard and an awesome rock formation pock marked with the small holes used by Indians to grind their food. We where out in the orchard in pursuit of some afternoon snack or other. Tangerines and oranges were out, pomegranates were in. By the time that the pomegranate tree was within sight, there hanged, as if in some faux TV halo, the largest, reddest pomegranate ever to grace the eyesight of the young grazers. As ambitious and self-righteous as I was, I promptly established my claim to THE pomegranate in all the vocal glory that a 4th grader could muster. As I spent the delicate moments after retrieving said pomegranate in a personal celebration my accomplices invested their energies in couring the tree for more fruit, albeit less respectable fruit. I mean, what could possibly top MY pomegranate? Well, they finished their searches, coming away with a few pomegranate each, nothing even close to the size of mine that loomed like a misplaced softball among a sack of golf balls. By the time we got back to the house with our prizes I was planning my glorious presentation and opening of the pomegranate. Certainly, they were all sick of my self-righteousness by that point, but where just as intrigued by my amazing find. I set the stage, preparing the counter, and, knife in hand, sliced into my little heaven, only to be repulsed by the shocking realization that my prize pomegranate contained no seeds. The universal disbelief was slow to set in. How could such a magnificent fruit bear nothing? It had no holes, it's skin was immaculate. No insect or bird had penetrated it. There was no reasonable explanation. Humbling the prideful perhaps? But no "scientific" explanation.

This story I found interesting because a)I know it's absolutely true whether I remember it or not b)I don't know just what the moral of the story is. Don't judge books by their covers? Don't be a dbag or karma will get you? Good things come in little packages? The tree evolved to produce one huge pomegranate to throw off predators who would eat it, find nothing and then give up on the rest of the fruit? (Ok, that's kind of scientific but probably not true) Or maybe it's like that Aesop fable with the fox and the grapes? Or maybe that when you do stupid things, you get by with a little help from your friends (who share their pomegranates)?

Domer on Obama and Religion

Former GW speech writer and WSJ editor Bill McGurn's latest piece in the Wall Street Journal:

Barack Obama is no John Kennedy. And that may turn out to be a good thing. At least with regard to reversing one of the unintended consequences of Camelot: the idea that religious voices have no place on the public square.

At first blush, Sen. Obama may appear to be an odd choice to lead such a reversal. Until very recently, he worshipped at a church whose preachers apparently regard America as something to be abhorred – and have a distressing penchant for being filmed while they do so. Earlier in the primaries, Mr. Obama took flak for his own comments describing small-town Pennsylvania as a place populated by those who "cling to" religion because they are "bitter." And Mr. Obama's positions on hot-button issues like abortion – as a member of the Illinois Senate, he voted against legislation protecting a child who was born alive despite an abortion – put him at odds with many of those thought to represent the religious vote.

Yet there is more to Mr. Obama and religion than the recent headlines might suggest. Nowhere is that more clear than in the thoughtful address he delivered two years ago to a Sojourners/Call to Renewal conference. In that speech, the senator made clear his distance from religious conservatives, and called for an end to faith "as a tool of attack." Yet the thrust of his remarks was directed squarely at liberal Democrats. Their discomfort with all things religious, he said, runs against American history, and robs progressives of the ability to speak to their fellow citizens in moral terms.

Here is how he put it: "Secularists are wrong when they ask believers to leave their religion at the door before entering into the public square. Frederick Douglass, Abraham Lincoln, William Jennings Bryan, Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King – indeed, the majority of great reformers in American history – were not only motivated by faith but repeatedly used religious language to argue for their cause. To say that men and women should not inject their 'personal morality' into public policy debates is a practical absurdity. Our law is by definition a codification of morality, much of it grounded in the Judeo-Christian tradition."

How remarkable these words are – and how much they depart from the views of the man whose torch Mr. Obama is now said to carry. In his now-famous address to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association in 1960, John Kennedy called for "an America where the separation of church and state is absolute." He went on to state that a president's faith should be "his own private affair," by which he seemed to suggest that it ought to have no influence at all on any policy. As if to underscore the point, he added that he opposed government aid to parochial schools as well as the appointment of a U.S. ambassador to the Vatican.

In fairness to Kennedy, the times were different and so were the questions he faced. At that time too, Rome had not embraced religious liberty for all, and remained ambivalent to democracy. For many Americans, the idea of a Catholic nation or a Catholic leader conjured up images of Francisco Franco's Spain. In this context, Kennedy's political need was to reassure voters that he assented fully to the American proposition – and that he would not be taking orders from the pope. All this he had to do, moreover, without alienating Catholics by seeming to repudiate the faith of his fathers.

He did so brilliantly, and his election less than two months later proved that a Catholic could be president.

The other legacy of that speech has been less positive. In time, the reassurances Kennedy gave about his Catholicism hardened into a new orthodoxy which denies those motivated by religious principles a place in public debate. Even one of the Catholic intellectuals who had been consulted on Kennedy's Houston remarks, the Jesuit priest John Courtney Murray, would later say that Kennedy took separationist principles further than he would have.

We now have a better idea why. In his just-released memoir "Counselor: A Life at the Edge of History," Ted Sorensen gives some background to the Houston speech. In a fascinating account, Mr. Sorensen notes that the Unitarian Church in which he was raised stood at the "opposite ends" of the Catholic Church on most understandings about faith, doctrine, church-state relations, etc. He goes on to say that "many of the speeches that I drafted reflect Unitarian principles." And he implies that this is precisely how JFK regarded these writings as well.

Whether or not Kennedy intended it, his remarks at Houston have fostered a view that has driven many Democrats out of their own party. And whether or not he intended it, Barack Obama has put the Concordat of 1960 up for a rethink.

Monday, June 9, 2008

McCain blog / "Don't tell me words don't matter"

My friend Mike Goldfarb, formerly web editor of the Weekly Standard, is now producing a blog for McCain's official website. Interestingly, they seem to be letting Goldfarb speak his mind in his own style, rather than mandating he use PR-speak. A worthwhile read, though I don't know what to think about John McCain's selection of "ABBA" as his favorite band.

McCain Report

By the way, here's a notable YouTube video, highlighted on the Weekly Standard's blog, of the Great Rhetorician, sans teleprompter...

Is he actually blaming his loss of eloquence on his admirers?

OBAMA: "You know what, it would cost ... It would cost about the same as what we would spend ... over the course of ten years, it would cost what it would cost us ... All right, okay, it would cost as about the same as it would cost us ... for about ... hold on one second, I can't hear myself. I am glad you're fired up though. I'm glad."

Just words?

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Sports Journalist Jim McCay dead at 86

While this piece doesn't pertain to Notre Dame, I thought it worthy of mentioning since Jim McCay has had such a profound influence on the way in which journalists cover sports. Here's the article from

NEW YORK — Jim McKay, the veteran and eloquent sportscaster thrust into the role of telling Americans about the tragedy at the 1972 Munich Olympics, has died. He was 86.

McKay died Saturday of natural causes at his farm in Monkton, Md. The broadcaster who considered horse racing his favorite sport died only hours before Big Brown attempted to win a Triple Crown at the Belmont Stakes.

He was host of ABC's influential "Wide World of Sports" for more than 40 years, starting in 1961. The weekend series introduced viewers to all manner of strange, compelling and far-flung sports events.

McKay also covered 12 Olympics, but none more memorably than the Summer Games in Munich, Germany. He was the anchor when events turned grim with the news that Palestinian terrorists kidnapped 11 Israeli athletes. It was left to McKay to tell Americans when a commando raid to rescue the athletes ended in tragedy.

"They're all gone," McKay said.

He won both a news and sports Emmy Award for his coverage of the Munich Olympics in addition to the prestigious George Polk award.

"In the long run, that's the most memorable single moment of my career," said McKay, an Emmy Award winning broadcaster who was also in the studio for the United States' "Miracle on Ice" victory over Russia. "I don't know what else would match that."

A veteran of the U.S. Navy in World War II, McKay was the first on-air television broadcaster seen in Baltimore. He worked at CBS Sports briefly, but did his most memorable work at ABC Sports when it dominated the business under leader Roone Arledge.

"He had a remarkable career and a remarkable life," said Sean McManus, McKay's son and the president of CBS News and Sports. "Hardly a day goes by when someone doesn't come up to me and say how much they admired my father."

McKay was the first sportscaster to win an Emmy Award. He won 12, the last in 1988. ABC calculated that McKay traveled some 4 1/2 million miles to work events. He covered more than 100 different sports in 40 countries.

"There are no superlatives that can adequately honor Jim McKay," said George Bodenheimer, president of ESPN and ABC Sports. "He meant so much to so many people. He was a founding father of sports television, one of the most respected commentators in the history of broadcasting and journalism."