Dana Perino: Ten years after Tony Snow died much too young, I remember the important things he taught me

Every July, I get an uneasy feeling — like something is missing — but I can’t quite put my finger on it. And then, around July 12th, it hits me. This is the season when Tony Snow died, and this year marks the tenth anniversary of his passing. Tony was known to many for lots of reasons — he was a prolific writer and editorialist, a friendly and sharp talk radio host, an anchor of “Fox News Sunday” and a press secretary to President George W. Bush. He was also a dear friend of mine. In 2006, Tony inherited me as his principal deputy press secretary. I was honored when he put his trust in me to manage the office and hire additional staff. He let me attend the senior staff meetings and brief the president before press conferences, because I had a knack for knowing what reporters would ask. By allowing me to step into the spotlight, he pushed me out of my comfort zone, and that’s how I gained the president’s trust. We had a terrific team that worked hard and laughed a lot. When Tony came to the White House, he was in the midst of chemotherapy treatment for colon cancer. One of our assistant press secretaries, Emily Lawrimore Schillinger, had survived cancer as a teen. She couldn’t believe how he managed to show up for work during that process, let alone as the White House press secretary. Throughout his treatment, they would talk about cancer and the toll it takes on the human body. She and I touched based this week and she remembered that Tony never complained, which was remarkable, really. The only way you knew he was fighting cancer was during our early staff meetings at 7 a.m. when he would eat a huge stack of pancakes with bacon and sausage stuffed in between and tons of butter and syrup on top, washed down with an extra-large vanilla latte — he needed the calories to keep up his weight. And sometimes, after a press briefing, I’d see him lean his head back on his chair in his office. I’d reach in and gently close the door. “Let’s give him a minute,” I’d say, because he always had time for us. When Tony was in the hospital for several weeks before he died, his wife, Jill, sent me a note saying that Tony watched the press briefing every day. She said he would get so mad on my behalf that one day he sent his tray right off the table in solidarity with my frustration. The morning Tony died, I got a call from Ed Henry, who was with CNN back then. It was Saturday at 6 a.m. and we’d just returned the night before from a grueling trip to Japan for the G7 summit. I saw the number and thought, “Oh no.” I didn’t give him a comment and told Ed I’d call him right back. Sure enough, checking my BlackBerry I saw that sometime in the 3 a.m. hour a note had arrived letting us know that Tony had passed away. A devastating loss for his family, especially his wife and their three children (all of whom are doing well today, I’m happy to report), his White House and reporter colleagues, and everyone who knew and loved watching him on Fox News. A decade later, I spent some time reflecting on things I learned from Tony that I try to incorporate into my life today. Click here to read five of them:

Really excellent stuff, Dana.  Thanks.  Tony Snow was an inspiration.  I used to listen to his radio show, and when he would guest host on Rush’s radio show..  I remember when he did Fox News Sunday on one Father’s Day…  On that particular day, his house had literally burned to the ground that very morning.  And yet, he showed up for work and did the show amyway.  Who would do a thing like that?  Tony would.  And at the end of the program, he reminded the audience that in spite of such a devastating experience only hours before he went on the air, that his wife and kids were fine.  And, that it was why that day was the “best Father’s Day” he could have had.  Wow..  We all learned a lot that day about what’s most important, and were humbled by Tony’s example.  Thanks for reminding us of Tony and the mark left on all of us, Dana.  You’re not the only one who misses him..

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