Washington, D.C. — Tony Snow was remembered as “a man of uncommon decency and compassion” by President George W. Bush at his funeral Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception on the campus of the Catholic University of America on a picture-perfect July Thursday morning this week.
The president said it in tribute to Snow, his former press secretary, but he also set an underlying theme for the send-off for Tony: “Why so uncommon?” Call it “Tony’s challenge.”
Say what you will about the president, he is a man of faith who speaks with an obvious sincerity when he declares, as he did Thursday:
I know it’s hard to make sense of today. It is impossible to fully comprehend why such a good and vital man was taken from us so soon. But these are the great mysteries of life — and Tony knew as well as anyone that they’re not ours to unveil.
Bush said it like a man who, with a cautious optimism and a deep yearning, ultimately looks forward not simply to more time in Crawford, but after that, to the full revelation of those mysteries come his Judgment day. The president’s words demonstrate an awareness of his place — even as the leader of the free world — in Creation. And yes, that is somewhat uncommon — at least with consistency and confidence — in our pop culture.
Bush speaks as a man, who, amidst our cultural muddle, would know what do to with David’s charge to Solomon from Kings (1 2:1-3).
When David’s time to die drew near, he charged Solomon, his son, saying, “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong and show yourself a man, and keep the charge of the Lord, your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances and his testimonies.”
Whatever you think of the president, it takes a good man with real humility to be a player in Washington but not of it. In this way, Tony and the president were a lot alike. You’ve never had the impression that Bush gets his kicks being president. Rather, the responsibilities of the office weigh heavily on him — and anyone who has spent time with him can see it emanating from his physical being. In the case of Tony Snow, a band mate’s eulogy (Tony played in a cover band called Beats Workin’) captured it well. He said of his relationship with Tony, “We didn’t talk about politics, that wasn’t our connection.” For Snow, there was a lot more to life than the very important policy debates of any given weekday in Washington. There was family and fellowship and fun to be had away from the office — and it doesn’t involve watching The Situation Room.
In an environment where man and manhood are often subject to derision, it’s important to celebrate good men who aren’t afraid to recognize there’s a power greater than their own. It’s important to celebrate good men who know the right order of things. It’s important to celebrate good men who have some clue as to what to do with a charge like King David’s; they know that ultimately it’s the charge of another King, who promises more than any presidential candidate — even Barack Obama! — can. And their examples are living moral compasses in a confusing world.
And Snow, like Bush, wasn’t holier than thou about it. They’re but men — that’s the point — and they’re men who love life, love love, love fun. They’re men not threatened by tears, especially if the topic is family, but with no interest in being feminized. Tony’s brother Jim said of their childhood, Tony was evidence that “you can get into a little trouble and still turn out okay.” What a relief to boys the world over. When the time came to put away childish things, we all saw Tony Snow as a protector (in a national sense, even) and provider (why he left the White House, to make sure he could give his family everything he could before he had to go obediently serve Him who promises “better…bigger” for eternity).
The president said: “Tony Snow has left the City of Washington for the City of God.” As he made his way elsewhere, he left behind an inspiring example of commitment to the eternal. May we all keep our hearts open enough so that light from the City of God can shine in, even on the chaos of life on the Potomac.
– Kathryn Jean Lopez is the editor of National Review Online.