ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:
The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median number of years that American workers have been working for their current employer is a little over four. I say that to acknowledge how unusual it is that I've been working at National Public Radio for a little over 40 years - 41, to be precise. And for the past 30 years, I've been doing the same job - this one, hosting ALL THINGS CONSIDERED - and doing it very happily. No one is more surprised by my tenure than I am.
I came to NPR on what I thought was an unfortunate but necessary detour that I hoped and figured would last just a couple of years. I am a native New Yorker, and the New York FM radio station where I worked was sold in 1976. And to put it mildly, I did not figure in the new owners' plans. Leaving New York City felt like what I imagine it feels like when a player for the Yankees was sent down to play for the Toledo Mud Hens. No matter, I figured I would work my way back to civilization.
Well, the fact that I am still here is a tribute to how colossally wrong I was about that. At the NPR of the 1970s, I found myself among a team of young, creative people as uncynical a group of broadcasters as I could possibly have imagined. At a time when our audience research was by today's standards limited and primitive, we operated on what I still consider a healthy instinct. We put on a program that we ourselves would listen to. We didn't imagine a great distinction between people like us who reported the news and people like you who listened to it.
We weren't the only curious people in the country. There had to be millions more Americans out there who would welcome a smart, conversational program about politics, culture, science the arts and just plain fun. Despite some near-death experiences many years ago, NPR is still here - much bigger, much more listened to and much more important than it was way back then. But what remains the same is that authentic sense of purpose still undimmed by cynicism or by commercialism.
A very accomplished friend of mine used to speak of the last paragraph in a story, the windup, as the and-so. And so for the last time, I'm signing off proud of my association with this unique institution, mindful of things I might have done better, grateful for the company of thousands of gifted colleagues and thankful to you for being, as we used to say in those hackneyed but truthful fundraising messages, for being the public in public radio.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHARLES MINGUS' "FAREWELL, FAREWELL")
ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Robert, this studio is now full of some very emotional people who love you very much - your friends, your family, ALL THINGS CONSIDERED employees past and present - holding glasses of champagne to salute you and congratulate you on your retirement. On the count of three, everybody - one, two, three...
UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yay, Robert.
SIEGEL: Thank you. Thank you, all. You're a great lot. And, Ari, thanks to you. Thank you. I'm just trying to hold it together here...
SIEGEL: ...For another few seconds. It's been a great - it's been a fabulous run. And I'm grateful to all of you for being such wonderful colleagues and good friends. I guess here it comes. I'm Robert Siegel, and you're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. Thank you.
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