Russert addresses standing-room only crowd
By HELENA PAYNE
The future of U.S. families and the voting process is at stake in the lengthy 2000 presidential elections, said Tim Russert, moderator of NBC's "Meet the Press" Monday.
"Wake up, this is your life and this is your country," said Russert to a standing room-only crowd in Notre Dame's McKenna Hall.
Russert said Election Day 2000 was exciting after a campaign season when many voters presented a disinterested attitude toward the election.
"It's refreshing for our democracy and inspiring," said Russert. "Every vote truly does count," Russert said.
Russert commented that the U.S. was fortunate because, amidst the jokes about the situation of the presidential election, the general mood of voters is still a relatively calm one even if they are slightly anxious to know the outcome of the election.
"We don't know who [the president is] going to be … but the democracy stands tall and vibrant," said Russert. "You've got to love our founding fathers."
However, recent problems in Florida have brought age-old concerns to the forefront of the election process, said Russert. Now people question the significance of the Electoral College versus that of the popular vote. Regarding the recount in Florida, the Secretary of State of Florida announced that all 67 counties' votes must be handed in by 5 p.m. today. But if for some reason, the election in Florida is not decided officially, it could raise questions on Dec. 18 when the Electoral College meets.
"Constitutional experts are having a field day with that," Russert said.
Russert stated that now the nation is in "the sequel, Election II," but soon voters will demand a final decision about the election.
Before Russert spoke, University President Father Edward Malloy jokingly held up a dry erase board like Russert used during the elections to keep track of electoral votes state-by-state. Russert responded to Malloy's joke by pulling out a dry erase board of his own.
However, Russert later said that the media's eagerness to discover the winner of the election through exit polls did play a large role in the inaccuracy of election reports.
"It looked like Gore had a pretty comfortable margin in Florida," said Russert. "[The media] was wrong, not once, but twice," said Russert.
He said that the media has re-established its credibility with viewers by apologizing to the nation and by offering hope that the nation will eventually be able to move past the 2000 presidential elections.
"I have great faith that we'll get through this," said Russert.
However, Russert warned that when the election issues are resolved and the nation observes the next president's inauguration, a new flood of issues would surface and the president would confront many challenges.
One of the forthcoming issues is dealing with the current Social Security system. Russert explained in great detail the complexities of the current system and how the costs of Social Security will grow to $5 trillion in the future.
"If you don't deal with Social Security, you can't protect the long term solvency of the United States," Russert said.
He said a bipartisan plan could alleviate some of the concerns about Social Security.
"It's very doable," said Russert.
Russert stressed his view that the most important issue of the nation lies within the family.
"We are all products of where we came from," said Russert.
He said his dad, who fought on World War II, worked two full-time jobs while Russert was growing up. Russert said his father's "mission" was to ensure that Russert received a good education to prepare him for the future.
"I know that influences me. I know that affects me," said Russert.
He gave statistics about how young uneducated and jobless parents who have children are more likely to be in poverty. Russert said the growing number of people in this situation concerns him and should concern all people.
"This is not about Murphy Brown … I'm talking about kids having kids," said Russert.
"It stacks all the odds against that baby," said Russert.
Russert pointed out several issues against which the U.S. fought such as government-instituted ideologies like fascism and Communism and more domestic concerns like cholesterol, cancer and drunk driving.
"Behavior modification, we know it works and yet we have a problem saying there's something wrong in America," said Russert.
However, Russert said that even though the U.S. has some problems, there are ways to remedy the situation such as through providing quality education to children.
"The schools are worth going to," Russert said.
Russert praised the Alliance for Catholic Education program that sends college graduates to under-resourced Catholic schools in the South to teach for two years while earning a master's degree.
"That's a stop gap measure, so necessary, so important," said Russert.
Russert lectured for the new Jack Kelly and Gail Weiss lecture series in journalism and politics. Both Kelly, a Washington lobbyist and former aide to Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush attended the lecture with his wife, Weiss, Democratic staff director of the U.S. House of Representatives under the Education and Workforce Committee. The two awarded Russert with a plaque to honor his commitment to journalism.
"Meet the Press" is the most-watched Sunday morning public affairs program and the longest running television program in history. The show recently celebrated its 50th anniversary and Russert, "master of the interview," according to University President Father Edward Malloy, has been its moderator for nine years.
All News Stories for Tuesday, November 14, 2000