Russert meets The U at fourth fall convocation

After predicting its key role in determining the highly contested 2000 presidential election, he finally made his way down to “Florida, Florida, Florida.”

Tim Russert, managing editor and moderator of NBC’s “Meet the Press,” shared his political insight to about 1,000 students and faculty as the guest speaker at the fourth annual Fall Convocation on Aug. 27 in the BankUnited Center.

“I’ve been practicing this all day,” he smiled as he flashed the ‘U’ to thousands of cheering students, faculty and members of the UM community.

Russert’s speech titled “A View From Washington,” analyzed events that have shaped the current political landscape.

“I never saw Washington change so dramatically,” he said in regards to the bipartisan leadership in the months following the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, as democrats and republicans embraced each other. “Our lives changed forever that day.”

Russert, who lost friends when the Twin Towers collapsed, found himself recalling his father’s lessons as he witnessed history unfold.

A World War II veteran who worked two jobs as a sanitation worker and a truck driver to provide educational opportunities to his four children, “Big Russ” was Russert’s moral compass growing up.

“He taught me more than any formal education could,” said Russert, who penned the #1 New York Times best seller Big Russ and Me in 2004. “He taught me about decency, respect and accountability.”

As a political analyst, Russert also addressed a variety of issues such as the country’s Social Security system and former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez’s resignation; however among them, he recognized the War in Iraq as the number one issue on voters’ minds.

“It’s an American problem and it’s going to take a united American front to solve it,” said Russert.

He also added that a solution to a smooth transition in the country after American withdrawal would require “common ground, compromise and common sense.”

Russert’s visit to the Coral Gables campus comes just weeks before the historic Destino 2008 Democratic and Republican Presidential Forums to be held at the University of Miami on Sept. 9 and Sept. 16, respectively.

Russert, who has been recognized as “the best and most influential journalist in Washington, D.C.,” encouraged students to challenge the candidates and others in power.

“You can’t make tough decisions unless you ask tough questions,” he said. “You are all born to be players in this life. Go out and show them who you are.”

Joanna Suarez may be contacted at j.suarez15