Born in Wichita, Kansas, in 1934, Jim Lehrer attended Victoria College. In 1956, he received a Bachelor's journalism degree from the University of Missouri before joining the Marine Corps, where he served three years as an infantry officer. For the following decade, Lehrer worked as a reporter in Dallas, before moving on to a local experimental news program on public television.
He came to Washington with PBS in 1972 and teamed up with Robert MacNeil in 1973 to cover the Senate Watergate hearings. In 1975, they started what became "The MacNeil/Lehrer Report" and then the "MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour" in 1983, the first 60-minute evening news program on television.
The program became The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer in 1995 when MacNeil retired. Lehrer has received numerous awards for his work, including a presidential National Humanities Medal in 1999. He also has moderated ten of the nationally televised candidate debates in the last five presidential elections.
Lehrer is the author of 17 novels, including Eureka (2007), The Phony Marine (2006), The Franklin Affair (2005), and Flying Crows (2004). He has also written two memoirs and three plays. Lehrer and his wife, Kate, have been married since 1960. They have three daughters and six grandchildren.
Jim Lehrer: The Aspen Festival has something that no . . . nothing else has, which is a vehicle for bringing people who think about all kinds . . . a variety of things professionally. Everything from the military to poetry . . . faith, non-faith, science, technology, business, oil, energy, the environment. These people work at this stuff all the time, but they never ever talk to each other except in very formal, sometimes very journalistic ways.
And what the Aspen Festival does is bring all these people together so we can chat. Yes, there are these formal sessions and all of that, but I . . . I have never . . . I . . . My wife Kaye just said to me just a moment ago, “The things we just learned today . . .”
I was at a discussion, for instance, about carbons. Everybody’s talking about carbon emissions and all that. There are some differing views on it, but the facts about this that I hadn’t focused on; and I probably should have, but I hadn’t.
And then an hour later, I’m listening to Richard Branson talk about, you know, sending space tourists up into orbit.
The environment encourages people to speak up and to exchange ideas that they’ve never heard before. And we’ve never spent the time to concentrate long enough about the ideas before. And Aspen’s the only place that I know that does this.
July 4, 2007