The Media’s Gentleman

Posted: July 12, 2008 by April Watkins in Current Events, Our Government, Patriots
Tags: , , ,
Snow at White House

Snow at White House

TODAY, WE MOURN

Today many of us in the media world have lost a friend, a mentor, and the finest example of a true gentleman…former Press Secretary Tony Snow.

I have always admired his smooth approach to interviews from his days in radio to his broadcast program.  In his gentle manner, Tony engaged his guests making them comfortable and more at ease.  This was the perfect setting for Tony to ask the hard questions in a straight-forward yet respectful way.

This is not to say that Tony did not have a sharp and matter-of-fact side.  During his tenure as White House Press Secretary, Snow was well known to quickly and firmly correct misstatements by press members and made sure that the correct inference was solidly understood.   The White House press corps admired Tony and respected his authenticity – he was one of them.  When asked a question to which he had no answer, he boldly said so.  Unlike many of his predecessors, Snow did not attempt to placate the press with spin and nonsensical answers.  Just the facts, maam.

I first met Tony in 2003 in Washington, D.C. while directing a client’s national convention.  He was to be the keynote speaker for the evening and we had a packed house.  Typically, D.C. traffic was horrible and he arrived a bit late.  I grabbed him immediately as he entered the green room and began prepping him on the details, timing, seating, etc.  He suddenly surprised me when he asked “What would you like me to speak about?”  And, if he could ask me a few questions about the organization – he seemed unaware of many of my client’s major projects conducted across the country as well as their work to lend comfort and encouragement to the U.S. Military.  I was stunned…and ready to faint.  Tony’s response was,”Wow!  I didn’t realize that. Why hasn’t someone picked up on this?”

I felt the darkness creeping around me and knew I was toast.  I kept telling myself, “We didn’t prep him enough, we should have met face-to-face last week, should have given him more data, more stats…”  Meanwhile I noticed that he scribbled down notes on several index cards and told me, “OK, I think I’ve got enough.”  I had to move on to crisis number 1,000 for the night, so I left him to mingle with the other VIPs in the green room.

Then…it was SHOWTIME.  Everything went smooth (from the audience’s perspective) and the first 45 minutes were over.  Now it was time for the main event – the keynote speech.  I was watching from the monitors backstage.  Tony walked up to the dais and professionally welcomed the members, VIPs, and acknowledged every Senator, House Member and Military Brass in attendance…by name.  Stunned, I moved out into the auditorium.  He then began the most riveting speech I have ever heard.  He talked about the tensions in the Middle East, the War in Iraq and laid out the delicate strings that connected the whole.  Tony explained the options facing the West and the consequences of each.  He eloquently worked in the importance of the works of organizations like ours and how it made a difference in the lives of the soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen – as well as to the children they encountered on their missions.

Tony spoke for 1½ hours, non-stop and with only those few index cards as cues.  I had never witnessed anything like his performance.  He was brilliant.  That night I realized that he was not just a talking head on TV; Tony was an extremely educated and well-versed man on world affairs and the subtle undercurrents in which the ambassadors must work.  Also that night…he became my hero for giving such an outstanding performance and bringing all 4,000 people to their feet in applause.

Today, as I sadly mourn his loss I can say that Tony Snow is still my hero.  He has fought a good fight and in the end he won.   Godspeed my friend.

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