Saying goodbye to the Bear: Vice President Biden, friends, colleagues and family gather to celebrate Jim Brady in D.C.

Saying goodbye to the Bear: Vice President Biden, friends, colleagues and family gather to celebrate Jim Brady in D.C.

NBC

NBC

We gathered from as far away as  Australia, California, Texas, Illinois,  Kansas and New York, to join those from  as near as Northern Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. On a grey, gloomy, rainy Friday morning, Oct. 10, 2014, we assembled at the Newseum, a premier repository of news history, and champion of First Amendment freedoms in the heart of the Nation’s Capital. It was the perfect place for saying goodbye to Jim Brady. After an unhurried breakfast reception, we were ushered to our comfortable seats in the suitably intimate confines of the Annenberg Theater.

The heading on the simple program we were handed as we entered the theater said it all: “Celebrating the Life of James S. Brady.” Every aspect of the morning’s activity was a joyful celebration, from the Irish folk duo that provided the lilting,
lively musical interludes, to the warmly personal word pictures painted by those chosen to guide our celebration.

Those speakers represented a fascinating blend of former press secretaries and veteran journalists, punctuated by a pair of clergymen and representatives from the organizations that Jim and Sarah Brady committed themselves to after that fateful, tragic day that altered their lives forever.

Among those paying tribute to the former press secretary were fellow Presidential Spokespersons Joe Lockhart and Mike McCurry from the Clinton White House, as well as Sheila Tate and Mark Weinberg from the Reagan White House. Tate was Nancy Reagan’s press secretary, while Weinberg was an assistant press secretary to President Reagan, and a long-time associate of Brady’s going back to the John B. Connally presidential campaign.

Veteran Washington journalists and media personalities adding to the Brady celebration included Andrea Mitchell, chief foreign affairs correspondent for NBC News and anchor for MSNBC; Bill Plante, senior White House correspondent, CBS News; Judy Woodruff, co-anchor, PBS NewsHour; and Albert R. Hunt, columnist, Bloomberg View. There were stirring, heartfelt messages from former President Bill Clinton and former First Lady Nancy Reagan.

Bringing it all to a fitting finale, current Vice President and long-time family friend Joe Biden brought us to our feet
with his eloquent tribute to the life and work of Jim Brady. In characterizing Brady’s life, Biden put it this way: “The bullet that the assassin left him robbed him of so many of his faculties, but it didn’t rob him of
his voice.”

Biden went on to summarize Brady’s impact: “Jim never compromised. Jim was never, ever defeated. He didn’t just persevere — he triumphed.” We closed the celebration by singing, “When Irish Eyes Are Smiling”… How much more fitting could it be?

For those of us fortunate enough to count the Bear as mentor, colleague, boss and, most of all, friend, it was truly a Day of Celebration… and a great goodbye! Perhaps it was the inscription under his cover photo that best summed it up: “I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race, I have kept the faith” (2 Timothy 4:7).

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