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Lehrer discusses his works

By Staff | May 25, 2012

As part of the 250 anniversary celebration, commentator Jim Lehrer visited Shepherdstown May 22 to discuss the 250 committee’s book selection, “No Certain Rest.” In addition to the book discussion, Lehrer’s visit included afternoon tea and a book signing.

“No Certain Rest,” a fictional novel based around the Battle of Antietam, was chosen by the 250’s literary committee because of its ties to Shepherdstown’s historic past, shared Edwinna Bernat.

Lehrer told of his initial visits to the Antietam Battlefield where, he said, he and his wife went to walk and exercise. He had no initial interest in the Civil War or the battle itself, he said, until he walked the quiet, peaceful area.

“I began to hear voices,” he shared. He spoke of the power of the battlefield, especially around Burnside Bridge. “I defy anyone to walk around that ground and not hear something,” he said.

Lehrer then said he began researching the battle and what happened there which then led to the writing of “No Certain Rest.” In preparing for his visit to Shepherdstown, Lehrer said he read the book again.

“I was truly stunned by what I had written,” he said, of the detail and emotion expressed by the main character of the book, one created in Lehrer’s imagination.

In addition to a discussion of “No Certain Rest,” Lehrer also touched on his newest book, “Tension City,” which is based on the moderating of presidential debates he has done. Lehrer credited former President George H.W. Bush with the title of the book that Lehrer first called “Moderator.” In an interview, Bush had called his presidential debates ‘tension city.’

Lehrer invoked many laughs as he shared stories of his experiences with presidential and vice-presidential hopefuls in the debates including a telling of a time in 1988 when Lehrer stopped George H.W. Bush in the middle of his answer to tell him he was out of time. Bush was not out of time and Lehrer said he still has no idea of how he saw the indicator light showing time was up. Bush, who was told to go ahead, Lehrer said, looked at Lehrer and said, “I forgot what I was going to say!”

What brought even more laughter to the crowd at Reynolds Hall was Lehrer’s demonstration of a “bus call.” He indicated that he had worked for Trailways/Continental in an early job where it was his duty to announce the buses as they were arriving, loading and departing. He said that wherever he speaks, he always incorporates a bus call into the talk.

“It’s shameless, absolutely shameless,” he laughed. “I always find a way to do a bus call,” he continued, “because I like doing it.”

Lehrer took questions from audience members ranging from whether he will host debates for the upcoming election (doubtful, he said); what books he would recommend to an incoming president (historical) and what the difference if any is between a journalist and a reporter (none).

Lehrer congratulated the town on the celebration of its 250th year, expressing the sentiment that “Shepherdstown is a very special place. It doesn’t surprise me that people of Shepherdstown would celebrate with a book-the written word,” he said.