Rex Murphy sets a high standard
It’s been a good 15 years that I have turned everything in my world on mute — Mrs. Tait will attest, too — once a week, on Thursday nights, to crank up the volume on the television for Rex Murphy.
Listening to words stitched together to create beautiful sentences and just pausing at the percision-perfect second to emphasize a point takes skill — and God-given talent. Then to take those prose and apply it to news stories, some barely hours old, is icing on take cake.
That’s what Murphy does. His work on The National — CBC’S mothership of news coverage — is a weekly highlight. And as a reporter whose ultimate goal at the end of the day is to make the next day’s contribution, somehow, just a tad better, Murphy has served as a tremendous role model and mentor for me.
What if, I often wondered in what seemed like nothing more than a dream, one day I could meet him, shake his hand and thank him. Maybe, he’d even share a story, or two, in that unmistakable Newfoundland tone.
Tuesday was such a time. To launch their annual Christmas Kettle Drive, the Salvation Army brilliantly asked Murphy, clad in a light brown three-piece suit and most colourful tie, as guest speaker. A total or 420 Army supporters nestled into the Chateau Lacombe ballroom for a luncheon — goodness gracious, that chicken gravy was tasty — before Murphy took to the podium, not a bun’s throw away from the banquet room’s north wall.
Then, for the next 42 minutes, Murphy did what he does so magically: tell stories. I didn’t see him take any notes with him, and unlike his weekly television appearance, he wasn’t reading off a teleprompter.
Murphy’s style is wonderful, but also his cognitive choice — powered by a caring heart — of continually and purposefully embroidering (one of his favourite words Tuesday) the work of the Salvation Army.
In particular, he spoke of New York terror attacks of 2001, when the majority of North American airports were closed within the “murderous” events towards the World Trade Centre.
Planes were diverted to Newfoundland where “international strangers” shared some unexpected time in Newfoundland.
One young couple, Murphy said, was on their way to Las Vegas to get married. When a Salvation Army officer named Shirley learned of this, she put together a wedding — East Coast style, of course — and it was wonderful.
Murphy also talked about the hope the Army gives the hopeless, homes they shelter the homeless and the food the dish up for the hungry.
“They do it quietly and don’t look for publicity or advertising,” he said. “They do it because it’s the right thing to do.”
While Murphy didn’t solicit donations to the Christmas Kettle campaigns, he painted to important work of the Salvation Army as useful information.
One could say he thoughtfully opened a door to opportunity.
Rex Murphy was everything, and more, than I envisioned. He made be proud to be a reporter. But even prouder to be Canadian.
Journalist Rex Murphy spoke at the Salvation Army’s annual Christmas Kettle Drive in Edmonton in Tuesday.