MSNBC: Why I hoped (and sort of believed) that Norman Lear would live forever

Don’t miss Independent Americans host Paul Rieckhoff’s conversation with the great Norman Lear in Episode 69. Like Norman, it’s a classic we’ll cherish always.


I hoped (and kinda believed) that Norman Lear would live forever. 

Norman was a national treasure. A truly great man. And a great man in a time when they are increasingly hard to find. A great philanthropist. A great innovator. A great visionary. A great father. A great veteran. A great American. And a truly great friend. Norman always had my back, our back, and America’s back. He was always there for us. All of us. 

One of the true honors of my life will forever be that I was able to call Norman a mentor. And even more so, a friend. If you were lucky enough to call Norman a friend, you uniquely know what I mean. 

Norman embodied kindness. His wisdom, his loving toughness, his heart for people—was as deep as the deepest seas. 

There’s no person I’ve met in my life that I was more excited for my kids to meet than Norman Lear. 

Because he is the example for all of us. 

And Norman was a patriot. In the finest and truest and most important of ways. And in ways most people never saw—and maybe often didn’t understand. Especially in Hollywood in times when it wasn’t popular. Norman loved the country he served as a young man in WW2 so deeply—and enough to constantly and bravely challenge it and fight and work to make it better. And enough to buy a copy of the Declaration of Independence and use it as a tool to get young people to vote. Norman was a guardian of our democracy for a century. 

And just so kind. Norman showed me and countless others what it meant to be a humble leader—and in all the time I’ve known him, what it meant to be an elder. 

Norman was an early and longtime IAVA Board Member, donor, advisor, and forever a dedicated and passionate supporter of his fellow veterans. And especially, for my new generation. And in the earliest of days of the Bush administration and the Iraq war, when many were too afraid to jump in, to take a stand, or to even back us. He was literally the first person of power in Hollywood to welcome me and my fellow vets in a big and public way. He issued a call to action for all of Hollywood. And a generation in entertainment has followed. 

I was honored to know Norman, to work alongside him on so many issues and causes, to be in his home, to have him on my show once (for his birthday!), and most of all, just to see him. To hug him. To be around him. And to often get a phone call from him out of the blue when he wanted to talk about something, check in on America, or work a big idea—like combining Veterans Day and Election Day. Or just to tell me he loved me and supported me. 

Norman also of course taught me “over and next.” His rule for a good life that I refer to almost daily—and has gotten me through some of my hardest times. 

Damn, it sucks that Norman is gone. Because the world needs his wisdom and contagious love now more than ever. But his name (and especially his voice) always makes me smile and feel warm. Even now. And if anyone was ready to go, it was Norman Lear. And it was because he was a man who defined what it is to have a life well-lived. And because he knew that he had squeezed all he could out of this life and left a legacy for all of us to be inspired by. 

But he would also want us all to fight even harder now against the forces of evil, racism, fascism, repression and hate. He taught us all how to love and how to fight. And he knew how badly that’s needed in our world right now. 

We love you, Norman. Thank you for all you’ve given to all of us. And to this beautiful world that you made immeasurably more beautiful. We will all carry on and move forward with your love in veins and your example in our heart. 

You’re the only exception to your own rule. There’s no “over and next” when it comes to you, my friend. You’ll be with us and people around this world forever. And there will never be anyone else like you. We love you, Norman. 

Paul Rieckhoff is an independent activist, US Army infantry combat veteran, the host of Independent Americans, President of Righteous Media, Founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America (IAVA), and the author of “Chasing Ghosts: Failures and Facades in Iraq, A Soldier’s Perspective.” He’s also been a frequent guest on MSNBC for the last two decades. 

Don’t miss the original post on MSNBC which includes a great video piece