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: Some people would argue – I’ll let the politicians argue this – some of them would argue that if we didn’t have a volunteer military, we’d never have gone to war in Iraq because the public argument would have kept that from happening.
I’m not so sure. I don’t know. But who knows what might have happened?
The more of us who are involved in all of these big events; it’s cumbersome as hell--because democracy is always cumbersome, it’s complicated.
But three guys can’t get in a room and decide to go to war. You just can’t do that. It’s going to take all kinds of new forms of communication, and leadership – leadership, leadership, leadership – to get all these things done.
But to answer your question, I’m not upbeat at all about where we are with our country right now. Some of the things we have done as a country, as a nation, as a people, disturb me. Because I think we’ve done some things. Things have been done in our name. As far as I’m concerned, we did it.
Recorded: July 4, 2007.