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.
Question: What is your question?
Jim Lehrer: When something goes wrong, who do you blame automatically? Do you ever feel you’re responsible for your own mistakes?
The most important question I would ask any individual would be, Do you think you’re important? Do you see yourself as an individual? Do you see yourself as a member of a pressure group? As a member of a political party? As a member of a church, of a faith?
Do you see yourself in family terms, as a parent, a child, an uncle, a lover in personal terms? How do you see yourself?
Do you see yourself as an instrument of good? Do you feel like you’re a person that’s always on the defense – that people are out to get you? Or are you on the offense? You’re active, making your own world, doing your own things. Do you feel that there are certain things that others owe you? Family may owe you? A guy next door may owe you? The government may owe you? Do you feel there are things that you owe others?
Recorded: July 4, 2007.