People Need to Make Their Health Deadline a Priority

So many things come to mind in the wake of the passing of the great and gifted Tim Russert. But two are fitting for this column.

First, what a small town our capital city still is, isn’t it? Nearly everyone has a Tim Russert story — about how they met him in a restaurant or at the ballpark, how he remembered your kids’ names and asked about them like he really cared — because he did. He’d show up at my IFE/INFO Policy Roundtables and be the first one there, eager to talk with people, learn what folks were thinking. Tim certainly could call any of the IFE/INFO speakers and get straight through, but he liked listening to the Q and A. He valued that personal interaction, which was a key to his success.

But reflecting over the past few days, something else comes to mind that’s worth noting: Many of us need to take better care of ourselves. I last saw Tim, his talented, high-powered wife Maureen, Luke and Luke’s gorgeous girlfriend less than two weeks ago at Chef Geoff’s, a neighborhood restaurant in Northwest. Chef Geoff is NBC’s Norah O’Donnell’s husband. That was vintage Tim. Going and doing everyday activities to support his friends. Tim was ebullient — as gregarious as ever, talking about the campaign, beaming, so proud of his family, just gliding his way through the evening. We were all outside on the patio. The weather was perfect. When I look at us sitting there that evening, laughing, smiling, teasing, everyone beautiful and happy, it feels like a movie. It looked like a Town and Country photo.

It was clear that night, however, that the toll of the long campaign, exhaustive workdays and high stress were making an impact on him — namely in healthy eating and sleep habits. The job, as much as he loved it and kept getting better at it, was wearing him down. You could see it.

As a coach, I see people every day making the right choices to live active, healthy lifestyles that give them an abundance of energy to keep going and going. In the end, so much of our health is determined by the choices we make every day, even the little ones. We can have the best doctors, great genes and healthy families. But our priorities make all the difference.

On MSNBC on Friday night, Andrea Mitchell talked about helping groom the next generation of journalists. She said that in addition to working their hearts out in their chosen profession, they’ll need to take time to live healthy lifestyles as well — something notably absent from many newsrooms across America.

Tim Russert was a kind and magnificent force in the world. But in his passing, we should all take note of another lesson learned: The most important deadline to meet is our health, and that deadline is now.



Kathy Kemper is founder and CEO of the Institute for Education, a nonprofit foundation that recognizes and promotes leadership and civility locally, nationally and in the world community.