We have lost three great men this year. I learned something from each one of them and was deeply touched by their passing. Please allow me to tell you why I was so moved by these three men that I did not know.
Paul Newman. A great actor. A real movie star. A race car driver. A dedicated husband for more than fifty years. All notable achievements. Yet for me, his greatest accomplishment was as a philanthropist.
Paul Newman did what few have done before. He built a business whose sole purpose is to make the world a better place. His company, Newman’s Own, has generated over $250 million in profits and proceeds that have been donated by Paul Newman and the Newman's Own Foundation to thousands of charities worldwide. His greatest legacy is his philanthropy and it will live on and keep giving for many years to come. (www.newmansown.com/)
I know of no one else and no other business established for the sole purpose of philanthropy. Here was a man who chose to use his celebrity status to make this a better world. The Newman’s Own company motto says it all: “Shameless exploitation in pursuit of the common good.”
Truthfully, what he did was not so common. Honestly, his accomplishments have been far better than good. They are great.
“If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press.” These words were made famous by Tim Russert, an icon in the American news media. He became an icon in part because of the 16 years he spent as host and moderator of “Meet The Press”, but also because he was the standard bearer for excellence in journalism.
That standard that he set was evidenced by his hard work, preparedness, knowledge and extraordinary respect he showed to each of his guests. Smart politicians knew that you didn’t get interviewed by Tim Russert unless you were prepared to answer difficult and often confronting questions. He seemed to have a knack for asking the ‘everyman’s question.’ Whether it was a senator, a president or king of another country, you knew that he would ask tough questions and get them answered.
To his credit, you never knew what his own political views were. What you knew was that he was honest and was not going to let anyone get away with being less than honest with him.
For me, “Meet The Press” was a Sunday morning staple. The first weekend after he passed, the show was hosted by Tom Brokaw. At the end of the show Mr. Brokaw said “If it’s Sunday, it’s Meet The Press” and I burst into tears. That is when I knew what a fixture Mr. Russert had become in my life.
Did you get to know Randy Pausch before he died? If not, then set aside 1 hour and 16 minutes to watch what may be the most extraordinary lecture ever given. You see, Randy Pausch was dying and he knew it. That knowledge gave him an extraordinary perspective about how to live. In the most intimate, personal and humble way, he shares that knowledge with all of us, anyone who is willing to sit and listen. Though Mr. Pausch may have been dying, he was certainly as alive as any of us could ever hope to be.
As a professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, he was also a participant in a lecture series called “The Last Lecture.” “where top academics are asked to think deeply about what matters to them, and then give a hypothetical "final talk", with a topic such as "what wisdom would you try to impart to the world if you knew it was your last chance?" (Wikipedia) In his case it was his last chance.
An amazing speech by an extraordinary man. If you haven’t seen it, I hope you will. (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji5_MqicxSo )
What I know
My father told mea story a few years ago. He had attended a funeral and after the service, approached the daughter of the man who had just been buried. He said to her "I am sorry for your loss." Her reply was this: "I haven't lost anything. Everything I ever got from him I still have. I just stopped gaining."
Clearly, with the passing of these three men, we have all stopped gaining.
Participate. Make a difference. Live a life that matters.