Jim Lehrer, anchor of PBS' The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer, was the keynote speaker of the third general session. Lehrer stated "it all begins with education" and "I am who I am and I am what I am because of public school."
And Lehrer certainly had lots of experience in lots of public schools. When Lehrer was growing up, his father worked for Trailways Bus and the family was always on the move from one hub city to another. By the time he graduated from high school he had attended 18 different schools. When Lehrer was a sophomore, he realized his dream of becoming a professional baseball player was not going to pan out. So he began to wonder about being a sports writer in lieu of being a sports player. Coincidentally, it was then his teacher returned an essay with an A and comment written in the margin. "Jimmy, you are such a good writer." Lehrer stated he "was the product of a teacher's wisdom, of her giving me that grade and sharing that comment."
Throughout his nearly 50 years as a journalist, Lehrer has had the opportunity to interview many a political mover-and-shaker. But the most compelling person he has interviewed to date was a young teacher's assistant in Denver during the '88 presidential campaign. Lehrer described sitting on her porch in a rundown section of town. He asked her what she would like to see the new president do. She pointed at her old Dodge car in the driveway and said, "I want the president of the United States to help me tell the young people in school that it's okay that you work hard and do the right thing and you get a car like this." She then pointed at a drug dealer's new BMW parked just up the street and continued. "But if you do something dishonest and terrible, you get a car like that. You explain that to me and you explain that to the kids at school."
Journalism has also taught Lehrer "the value of education." He quoted Thomas Jefferson's remark "Democracy is dependent on an informed electorate." Lehrer then finished by saying "I truly salute you and your commitment to education and the education of the American public."