Jim Lehrer on the Road: Dispatch from Austin, Texas

BY Jim Lehrer  May 10, 2010 at 9:55 AM EST

The end is near…

After Minnesota–Minneapolis and Hibbing–I was back on the route of the Super Chief, spending three days each in Albuquerque and Los Angeles. Both cities have energetic booksellers as well as public television stations that are propelled by staff and volunteers who exemplify the best of what we are all about. KNME, Albuquerque, and KCET, Los Angeles, are among the cream of the public broadcasting crop.

My last stop was Saturday in Austin for the Texas Writers Festival. It was an inaugural event co-sponsored by the Texas Observer and the University of Texas Press. The talk–in native twang–ranged from East Texas storytelling to capturing history in a way that is accessible. My contribution was mostly personal. It included my recounting how a high school English teacher in Beaumont, Texas, helped turn me into a wannabe writer/reporter fifty years ago.

A few summary totals from my trip that began on April 20:

Ten cities visited. One train ride and 11 airline flights. Chats with at least a half dozen former crew members on The Super Chief or their families. Visits with the folks who now run two great railroads–BNSF (“for the record, a NewsHour underwriter”) and the Kansas City Southern. Plus more than a dozen performances by me of my facsimile p.a. station call for The Super Chief streamliner from Chicago to Los Angeles…

And I basked throughout in the glow of hundreds of expressions of appreciation and support about what we do on the NewsHour and the way we do it.

One of those expressions came as I was leaving a KCET luncheon at a Los Angeles hotel. Two Hollywood legends, producer Walter Mirisch and actor Sidney Poitier were standing out front together. They told me–almost in one voice–how important our program was to their daily lives. (Among other things on their stunning resumes–they both won Academy Awards in 1967 for their work on “In The Heat Of The Night.” Mirisch produced it. Poitier played the lead.)

I had a Super time on the road. And I will be back Tuesday night on the NewsHour. You won’t mistake me for one of the other co-anchors. I will be the one with the paunch and baggy eyes–who needs a haircut.

Jim Lehrer will be gone again at the end of the week for events at The Free Library of Philadelphia and WHYY, the public broadcasting station in Philadelphia. Station/book visits to Charlottesville, Virginia, and three cities in Ohio–Cincinnati, Dayton and Cleveland–follow soon afterward.