Luke Russert says he learned of his father's death while he was in Italy
He thanks family, friends for helping him get through trying times
Politics "was just something that I always grew up around," he says
He says it "felt great" to vote for the first time, urges young people to get involved
LOS ANGELES, California (CNN) -- Luke Russert, son of journalist Tim Russert, was part of a panel Wednesday that discussed youth voting on CNN's "Larry King Live."
Luke Russert says dinner table political discussions were part of his upbringing.
Besides the youth vote, Russert discussed his father's death, his upbringing and his own future in journalism and political commentary.
Tim Russert, 58, was the host of NBC's "Meet the Press" and one of America's leading political journalists. He died of a heart attack after collapsing at the network's Washington bureau on June 13.
The following is an edited version of the show's transcript. Watch video of the discussion »
Larry King: How did you learn of your dad's passing?
Luke Russert: I was in Florence, and I was at an Italian sports bar watching the Italy versus Romania game, and I got a call from my dad's secretary that said he had fainted, and could I get in touch with my mother.
Luckily, I was right across the street from the hotel where my mom was. I ran up to her room and said, "Dad has fainted." And we kind of learned in increments of what exactly happened.
So it was basically about a half-hour after first hearing that he fainted that we actually knew he collapsed and had a heart attack. And at first, I was upset that I was so far away and removed. And I really wanted to be there.
But in reality, it was really a blessing to be an ocean away, because it allowed my mother and me to have some real private time to collect our thoughts, to grieve in private, and not be inundated with all the media coverage and all the phone calls.
So, you know, it was something that -- it was difficult, but to have that little cocoon, I think my mother and I really used it to our benefit.
King: Must have been a long flight back.
Russert: It was. It was a long nine-hour flight. But my mother has been so strong through this. And my family has been there for me every step of the way. My girlfriend has been wonderful. So I can't thank everybody enough. And obviously this happened, but it has made it a lot easier to have such good friends at NBC and all through Washington and my family personally.
King: Were you brought up talking politics?
Russert: I was. It was always something that was always talked around the dinner table with my father and my mother from a very young age. One of my earliest memories is being a young toddler and remembering Ronald Reagan's face on television. My dad was watching a press conference, most likely at that time on CNN.
And it was just something that I always grew up around. And we also talked a lot of sports. We talked a lot of culture. But politics was something that I guess has been engrained in me at a very, very young age.
King: Did he pick the brains of you and your friends?
Russert: He did. We would actually have some fun discussions where I would assume the role of who his guest would be on Sunday and try to answer the questions that he threw at me. And sometimes, if I could answer a question pretty well, he'd say, "That question's too easy, I've got to get rid of it."
So sometimes, I was a guinea pig for politicians. But it was a lot of fun. I enjoyed doing it. And he would also pick the brains of some of my friends. Some did pretty well, and some didn't. But he was always kind to all of us.
King: When did you first vote?
Russert: I first voted when I was 18, which would have been 2004. And I registered at the same time I registered for the Selective Service, which I think they do here in the District of Columbia. So I've been a registered voter since 2004, and that's the first time I cast an official ballot.
King: How did it feel to vote?
Russert: It felt great. It kind of felt like you became a man or at least an adult in some capacity. That your decision -- your decision -- became part of the country and its leadership. And I'll never forget the way I voted was I was in college my freshman year, 2004, so I had to go by absentee ballot. And I was going to meet my father in South Bend, Indiana, for the Notre Dame/Boston College game.
And I said, "Dad, I'd rather you bring the ballot personally so it doesn't have to go through the mail, send it up to me in Boston." So he brought the ballot, and I filled out my absentee ballot in a South Bend, Indiana, hotel room, and he brought it back and put it right in the FedEx for me.
King: We have an e-mail question for you from David in Cary, North Carolina. "Luke, my condolences," it said. "You've shown great strength and character in recent days. Any chance we'll see you reporting or doing commentary about the 2008 election?"
Russert: Oh yes, you just might. It's something that I'm definitely interested in. I think that I will probably be part of the peacock network. But you never know. I still have the sports show on XM Radio and Carville, and I kind of go into politics. But I wouldn't mind.
King: What if CNN made a bid for you?
Russert: I'd be your assistant, Larry?
King: You got it. You could come to work for us. I think I can speak for management. In fact, they'll probably talk to you tomorrow based on just how well you're handling yourself tonight.
Russert: Well, I appreciate it. Everyone has been so kind. I'd love to have the opportunity to come out here and talk about something that is important to me. And it was important to my father, which was young people getting involved. That really is the important issue tonight. Not me. That's important.
1- Tim Russert was loved by every one. I can barely add anything that can be new. I enjoyed listening to his political team of friends from MSNBC and other media avenues in remembering him. A great guy in his life and death.
2- One thing you learn from the American system that you can go up all the way if you are a talented, hard worker and sincere person as Tim did.
3- He was leading us in the new movement of change. His great enthusiasm is inspirational.
4- It is amazing how good people born to different mothers and from very different background identify well with each other.
5- No doubt I will miss him. Nothing more enjoyable in a Sunday morning than Tim Russart Meet the Press and a cup of Duncan Donut coffee, may be except for the Sunday Church Prayer for our Christan friends.
6- My condolence to his son Luke Russert and the family and to the MSNBC network from the home based politician Maged Taman.