On my first day as White House communications director back in July 2006, I stuck my head in Tony Snow’s office to say hello. He bounded from behind his desk and said, “Come on – I want to show you something.“
Tony, who had been press secretary a little over two months, led me out of the West Wing and up the driveway toward the Northwest Appointments Gate. “I do this almost every day,” he said. When we got close to the Secret Service guardhouse on Pennsylvania Ave., Tony i instructed me to turn around and look back at the North Portico of the White House.
“Look at that,” he gushed. “Isn’t that neat? That’s where we get to work. When I worked here the first time, for President Bush 41, I was too young and too stupid to appreciate it. This time I’m not going to take it for granted or forget what a privilege it is.”
Tony went on to explain that before we knew it, we’d all be back outside the gates on Pennsylvania Avenue looking through the fence with the tourists. “And you don’t want to be out there with any regrets, so you’ve got to give it everything you’ve got every day.”
Tony certainly gave it everything he had in his all too brief time on this earth. Sunday marks the first anniversary of Tony’s death from colon cancer at age 53. He left behind his wife Jill, and their three children: Kendall, Robbie and Kristi.
Dana Perino, who worked alongside Tony and then succeeded him as press secretary, wrote a wonderful remembrance earlier this week in Politico. She did a terrific job capturing Tony’s many facets: gifted communicator who loved to parry with reporters in defense of President Bush…talented writer…man of the people (he actually worked the other end of President Bush’s rope line on a few occasions – people were drawn to him that much)…absent-minded professor (Dana documented the many lost Blackberries, but my personal favorite is the day Tony realized in Dan Bartlett’s morning communicators meeting that his suit pants didn’t match his jacket) and mostly a man of deep faith who was completely devoted to his family.
As I remember Tony today, I am still inspired by the way he made his family his No. 1 priority. If the press secretary isn’t too busy for his wife and kids, nobody has an excuse. And I’ll always be grateful for his knack of somehow knowing when to offer a well-timed word of encouragement. What an important example he set for us all – even when he couldn’t find his Blackberry.