NPR made it possible for a working-class kid from Kentucky to go places and meet people I could never have imagined. One of my first NPR interviews outside the studio was at the home of diplomat Averell Harriman. Waiting for him to get off the phone with some potentate or other, I had a look around his place in Washington’s Georgetown neighborhood. All around me were items collected from a long lifetime of service: swords, vases, chests, urns, and pistols—gifts from Stalin, Churchill, kings, sultans, the Shah. Photos, framed notes, and other documents told the story of the American century. I thought, “Hey, this job’s going to be all right!”
To raise money for the NPR Foundation, we invited donors to watch us produce a radio program—in the East Room of the White House during the Clinton administration. Produced by our in-house impresario Murray Horwitz, vice president for cultural programming, the show included a performance of1776, a play by A. E. Hotchner, who was present. Linda Wertheimer, Carl Kasell, Tom and Ray Magliozzi, Martin Goldsmith, and I were “supported” by this cast: Martin Sheen, Edward James Olmos, Kathleen Turner, Jason Robards, Lolita Davidovich, Roscoe Lee Brown, Blythe Danner, and Robert Klein. Also on the bill were Bette Midler, Taj Mahal, and Michael Weinstein. Afterwards, there were drinks and a buffet with Bill and Hill.