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Paul Hayden

Tony Snow-One of the Good Guys

July 14, 2008

America and the conservative movement have lost an outstanding journalist and friend in Tony Snow, who passed away from cancer on Saturday at the age of 53. One of the brightest and most articulate conservatives around, Snow will be greatly missed.

Tony Snow's rise to prominence parallels that of Fox News. A successful columnist before joining them in 1996, Snow became, if not a household name, then certainly far more recognizable as a result of his stint as host of Fox News Sunday. Having a weekly TV program on the fastest growing news network propelled Snow onto the national scene and may have resulted in his selection as President Bush's press secretary in 2006. In that position, Snow showed, for too tragically brief a time, what good can happen when an articulate conservative fights back against heavy liberal opposition-in this case the largely drive-by media that considered it blood sport to grill Snow incessantly, as they had his predecessors. But there was so much more to Tony Snow than his marvelous speaking and writing skills.

We can all learn some lessons from looking at Tony Snow's life and the grace, kindness and wit that were constantly on display, even when he probably knew that the disease ravaging his body was overtaking his fight to live. Here is a sample of his views on his illness in a column he wrote for Christianity Today last year:

"Blessings arrive in unexpected packages-in my case, cancer. Those of us with potentially fatal diseases-and there are millions in America today-find ourselves in the odd position of coping with our mortality while trying to fathom God's will. Although it would be the height of presumption to declare with confidence What It All Means, Scripture provides powerful hints and consolations.

"The first is that we shouldn't spend too much time trying to answer the why questions: Why me? Why must people suffer? Why can't someone else get sick? We can't answer such things, and the questions themselves often are designed more to express our anguish than to solicit an answer.

"I don't know why I have cancer, and I don't much care. It is what it is-a plain and indisputable fact. Yet even while staring into a mirror darkly, great and stunning truths begin to take shape. Our maladies define a central feature of our existence: We are fallen. We are imperfect. Our bodies give out.

"But despite this-because of it-God offers the possibility of salvation and grace. We don't know how the narrative of our lives will end, but we get to choose how to use the interval between now and the moment we meet our Creator face-to-face.

"Second, we need to get past the anxiety. The mere thought of dying can send adrenaline flooding through your system. A dizzy, unfocused panic seizes you. Your heart thumps; your head swims. You think of nothingness and swoon. You fear partings; you worry about the impact on family and friends. You fidget and get nowhere.

"To regain footing, remember that we were born not into death, but into life-and that the journey continues after we have finished our days on this earth. We accept this on faith, but that faith is nourished by a conviction that stirs even within many nonbelieving hearts-an intuition that the gift of life, once given, cannot be taken away. Those who have been stricken enjoy the special privilege of being able to fight with their might, main, and faith to live-fully, richly, exuberantly-no matter how their days may be numbered."

Wouldn't the world be a much better place if more folks had this kind of attitude about life? But then, that's what Tony Snow's life was really about-making his corner of the world a better place. And his corner turned out to be a lot bigger than he may have imagined as a young journalist 30 years ago. No matter what his critics on the left may claim, even upon his death, about his being "short on facts" as press secretary for example, they will not be able to tarnish the image of this great American.

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Copyright ©2008 Phil Perkins