When Steve Lesher introduced me a few weeks ago as moderator at the Newsmakers Lesher Speaker Series’ event with Donna Brazile and Patrick Buchanan, he told the audience I had occupied that role four, may more, times.
It’s actually been seven, Steve.
I couldn’t believe it either. But photos don’t lie. (And oh, how I wish they would, especially during certain times of, shall we say, expanded waistlines?)
My vanity aside, moderating at Newsmakers has been a fabulous ride and one of my favorite perks of this job. I’ve had the opportunity to spend up-close-and-personal time with presidential candidates, authors, iconic journalists, famous television personalities and even an astronaut.
Former presidential candidates George McGovern, Newt Gingrich and Patrick Buchanan may have wildly disparate views but they were all exceptionally charming, smart and interesting.
Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, two of the most famous people in journalism, made me horribly nervous. I babbled and my jokes fell terribly flat. I wish I had a do-over on that one.
Mary Matalin and James Carville, the Republican-Democrat political pundit married couple, are the kind of people you would love to sit with on the back porch on a warm summer night, sip whiskey out of a water glass and just listen to them talk.
CNN commentator and author Donna Brazile is simply fabulous. In my next life, I want to be her sister.
And my time with Sally Ride was a pleasant surprise. The scheduled moderator became ill at the last moment and Steve asked me if I could do it. I know next to nothing about outer space other than what I had learned in Star Trek, so I called Bob McBarton, an East Bay man who knows a lot on the subject and he caught me up on the latest NASA and related news. Ride explained something that night that I have never forgotten called the “normalization of deviation.” She was talking about what led up to the horrific explosion of the spacecraft Challenger in which long-suspected questions about the o-ring — later determined to be the cause of the accident — went unanswered. I now use the concept when I see unacceptable actions or behaviors so commonplace that most people no longer view them as negative … until the issue explodes.
Newsmakers hires a photographer for each of its events, so I’m lucky to have the following record of my time with some of the nation’s most interesting people: