The commonwealth was well represented in Washington today when Pope Francis addressed a joint session of Congress. The pontiff’s speech included references to native Kentuckian Abraham Lincoln, and Trappist monk Thomas Merton, who lived at the Abbey of Gethsemani in Nelson County for many years. Even a third figure in the pope’s speech, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., had a local connection. The civil rights leader’s brother, Rev. A.D. King, was pastor at Louisville’s Zion Baptist Church in the mid-1960s.
Kentucky’s Congressional delegation invited several special guests to hear the pope’s speech this morning. Third district Congressman John Yarmuth (D-Louisville) welcomed one of his predecessors, Ron Mazzoli, a fellow Democrat who served in the House of Representatives from 1971 to 1995.
After the papal address, Yarmuth and Mazzoli offered their thoughts about what Pope Francis told lawmakers. Mazzoli, who championed immigration reform during his time in Congress, says he was pleased to hear the Pope discuss that issue.
Kentucky Sen. Mitch McConnell joined other Congressional leaders in welcoming the pontiff to Capitol Hill. The Senate Majority Leader’s Instagram account even featured a picture of McConnell shaking hands with the Pontiff. The senator’s office also released this video greeting to Pope Francis.
I had not met David Gregory before he walked onto the Louisville Mariott mezzanine for our One to One conversation.
Gregory, journalist and former moderator for the powerful NBC Sunday morning program Meet the Press, had come to Louisville in July as the keynote speaker for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s annual summer meeting.
I’ve always tried to line up an interview with speakers who come in for the chamber event and some of the conversations have been among the most interesting programs we’ve produced. Gregory’s predecessor Tim Russert is still one of the most memorable conversations I’ve had with a national journalist. Columnist George Will, Washington Post reporter Bob Woodward, and former ABC anchor Ted Koppel have also addressed the chamber dinner and spent a few minutes with me.
Gregory’s appearance in Louisville came about a year after he had lost his job at NBC. Ratings, which drive important network news and entertainment programs, had fallen at Meet the Press, and Gregory was let go. The plummeting numbers weren’t all Gregory’s fault, but he was the fall guy and was fired.
The story of Gregory’s departure from NBC had been well documented —- media insiders had reported the story for months and, frankly, I thought you would be more interested in a conversation about David’s new book “How’s Your Faith: An Unlikely Spiritual Journey” than hearing him discuss his firing.
I’d also read an advance copy of “How’s Your Faith” and found it to be a compelling and interesting journey that Gregory had been on well before his ratings problems at NBC. He wanted to deepen and explore the many questions a lot of us have about religion and had been reading and talking with a number of people about his faith journey.
Imagine my surprise when I met David in Louisville and his first question to me was, “What are we going to talk about?”
“Your new book,” I responded.
Well, that began a negotiation of sorts that I had not expected. David explained that the publication date for the book was September 15th and he’d have to be very careful about how much we discussed some of the details in the book. After a call or two with his publisher (who asked that the One to One program be delayed until after the book was in the bookstores), we sat down for our conversation.
By the way, his address to the chamber audience later that evening was very well received — he was funny and told some of those fascinating network news stories that can only come from a former White House correspondent. His remarks plugging his forthcoming book seemed to be appreciated by the audience.
It didn’t take long for John Rogers to figure out how to integrate the Kim Davis story into an introduction to law class he teaches to business students at Western Kentucky University.
Davis is the Rowan County Clerk who defied a federal judge’s order to sign marriages licenses for both same-sex and straight couples after the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling on gay marriage in June. She spent five days in jail for defying that order and just returned to work on Monday.
Rogers is an attorney in Glasgow and an adjunct professor at WKU’s campus there. According to the university’s student newspaper, the College Heights Herald, Rogers says he felt Davis’ case was a good way to explore the relationship between the federal and state levels of government.
I spoke with Rogers this morning and asked him how he came to see the matter as a teachable moment for his class.