While I'm away, please welcome our NPR colleague, Lynn Neary, to the Tell Me More chair (and the blog). If you're a fan of NPR's Talk of the Nation or Morning Edition, I'm sure you are familiar with her work as occasional guest host on those programs. Take it away, Lynn...
So, here I am, sitting-in for Michel Martin — a woman whose considerable talents I have admired for many years. And, though I have hosted almost every NPR show, I have to confess that when I was first asked to host Tell Me More, I hesitated.
Here's a simple answer that is also loaded with complexity: the color of my skin. I thought, after all, I am white and isn't TMM an African-American show? I've been told it is not. But, it is a show that is meant to spotlight diversity and, not to put too fine a point on it, there are more black faces at the TMM editorial meeting than anywhere else in the NPR News Department. Thus, my hesitation...
Would I be an outsider? Would I feel uncomfortable?
Interesting to have the tables turned.
But, underneath my hesitance was excitement as well. I happen to be someone who values diversity. I live in a mostly black neighborhood of Washington, D.C. My daughter is Chinese. And I have been following TMM since its beginnings. It was obvious from the early days that this show was committed to finding stories that are not getting as much attention elsewhere, and to explore subjects from a different perspective.
Take today's show for example, Opera great Luciano Pavarotti died. Every other NPR show would have run an obituary on this legendary tenor. And, what could any show say that hasn't already been said? TMM Executive Producer Marie Nelson had the answer. She remembered that another great singer, a very different kind of singer, once stood-in at the last minute for Pavarotti at the Grammys due to illness. So today, TMM closed the program with one of Pavarotti's signature pieces, Nessun Dorma, sung first by the incomparable Aretha Franklin and then by Pavarotti himself, a fitting tribute to the far-reaching influence of this opera super star.
So, in the end do I feel uncomfortable hosting this show? Quite the contrary. Why?
I like to talk about the clash of religion, politics and culture in the public school system.
I want to learn about schools of the future that accommodate everybody, not just the gifted and talented.
I want to hear the stories of Iraq war vets living with devastating injuries.
I want to know who some of the world's most powerful women are...and why.
As it turns out, TMM's issues are really my issues, too, which is as it should be.
Now...I have just one question: Will the Barbershop guys accept me?