Scott Simon

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.

Simon's weekly show, Weekend Edition Saturday, has been called by the Washington Post, "the most literate, witty, moving, and just plain interesting news show on any dial," and by Brett Martin of Time-Out New York "the most eclectic, intelligent two hours of broadcasting on the airwaves." He has won every major award in broadcasting, including the Peabody, the Emmy, the Columbia-DuPont, the Ohio State Award, the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award, and the Sidney Hillman Award. Simon received the Presidential End Hunger Award for his coverage of the Ethiopian civil war and famine, and a special citation from the Peabody Awards for his weekly essays, which were cited as "consistently thoughtful, graceful, and challenging." He has also received the Barry M. Goldwater Award from the Human Rights Fund. Recently, he was awarded the Studs Terkel Award.

Simon has hosted many television specials, including the PBS's "State of Mind," "Voices of Vision," and "Need to Know." "The Paterson Project" won a national Emmy, as did his two-hour special from the Rio earth summit meeting. He co-anchored PBS's "Millennium 2000" coverage in concert with the BBC, and has co-hosted the televised Columbia-DuPont Awards. He also became familiar to viewers in Great Britain as host of the continuing BBC series, "Eyewitness," and a special on the White House press corps. He has appeared as a guest and commentator on all major networks, including BBC, NBC, CNN, and ESPN.

Simon has contributed articles to The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times Book Review, The Wall Street Journal, The Sunday Times of London, The Guardian, and Gourmet among other publications, and won a James Beard Award for his story, "Conflict Cuisine" in Gourmet. He has received numerous honorary degrees.

Sports Illustrated called his book Home and Away: Memoir of a Fan "extraordinary...uniformly superb...a memoir of such breadth and reach that it compares favorably with Fredrick Exley's A Fan's Notes." It was at the top of several non-fiction bestseller lists. His book, and Jackie Robinson and the Integration of Baseball, was Barnes and Nobles' Sports Book of the Year. His novel, Pretty Birds, the story of two teenage girls in Sarajevo during the siege, received rave reviews, Scott Turow calling it, "the most auspicious fiction debut by a journalist of note since Tom Wolfe's. . . always gripping, always tender, and often painfully funny. It is a marvel of technical finesse, close observation, and a perfectly pitched heart." Windy City, Simon's second novel, is a political comedy set in the Chicago City Council. Baby, We Were Meant for Each Other, an essay about the joys of adoption, was published in August 2010.

Simon's tweets to his 1.25 million Twitter followers from his mother's bedside in the summer of 2013 gathered major media attention around the world. He is completing a book on their last week together that will appear in time for Mother's Day 2015.

Simon is a native of Chicago and the son of comedian Ernie Simon and Patricia Lyons Simon. His hobbies are books, theater, ballet, British comedy, Mexican cooking and "bleeding for the Chicago Cubs." He appeared as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin production of The Nutcracker.

Jimmy Carter told a press conference he called on the morning of the day he would have the first radiation treatment on the cancer in his brain, "I'd like for the last guinea worm to die before I do."

Mr. Carter was frank, funny and graceful speaking this week about his health, and his faith. But his remark about the guinea worm may have puzzled a few people.

Willis Conover was known around the world, but not so much at home. He was the voice of jazz over the Voice of America for more than 40 years, most of it during the Cold War.

Imagine what it was like to sit in the dark of a hushed room in Prague, Moscow or Warsaw in the 1960s, fiddle with the dial of a shortwave radio, slide over crackles, pops, and jamming, to finally find the opening notes of "The A Train" and a rich baritone intoning slowly through the static, "Good evening. Willis Conover with Music USA ... "

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Transcript

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

There has been an outpouring of grief and sympathy since the shootings in Charleston, S.C., and calls for Americans to examine our minds and hearts.

But this week, in several spots around the country, little bags of candy have been left with harsh and hateful messages.

In Orange County, Calif., Tuscaloosa County, Ala., Rockdale County, Ga., and several other places — including, reportedly, Texas and New York state — someone, some group or groups of people, have left Ku Klux Klan fliers folded into small plastic baggies with candy.

Many refugees around the world have to make a grim decision: what few things can they carry in their arms and on their backs as they try to run for safety and freedom?

This week the United Nations refugee agency said the number of people forced to flee their homes by war and oppression is now as large as a major nation: nearly 60 million people, or a little larger than the population of Italy. It may be the largest number of refugees ever recorded.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

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UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: How are you this morning?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: Fine. Holding up.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: Holding up?

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

What kind of man or woman risks their lives for strangers?

Eric Seaman of Murrieta, Calif., was 30. He had two children, and was a U.S. Marine sergeant. His wife, Samantha Seaman, told CNN, "Last week I got an email telling me that he felt purpose and that he delivered 10,000 pounds of rice ... and I know that right before he passed away, I know that he helped somebody."

Sara Medina was 23. She enlisted in the Marines just out of high school in Aurora, Illinois, and served in South Korea, South America and Okinawa.

American political consultants soar around the world these days to counsel candidates, from Britain to Israel to Panama. But now a Mexican politician has an idea that might interest U.S. politicians and their consultants.

Renato Tronco Gomez, an independent deputy in Veracruz, wants to find a body double. He's holding a contest this month to find someone who will study his speech, walk, and mannerisms so that he can play Mr. Gomez at ceremonies and events that the deputy cannot attend himself.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

A 15-year-old girl named Anne Frank died 70 years ago this week; the exact day is unknown. She died in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, not long after her sister Margot, who was 19.

A lot of people saw their hopes and dreams fulfilled this week — for just a few hours.

Carnegie Mellon University emailed about 800 people who had applied to graduate school to say, 'Congratulations, you're in.' They were — to quote the message of acceptance — "one of the select few" to be accepted into Carnegie Mellon's prestigious Master of Science in Computer Science program.

A young woman in India who was accepted wrote on Facebook that she quit her job, bolstered by this act of faith in her future. Her boyfriend proposed marriage.

It has been wrenching these last few weeks to hear about the hostages killed by the group that calls itself the Islamic State, and learn about the extraordinary people we have lost: humanitarian workers, independent journalists, people who chose to put themselves in one of the most dangerous spots on earth in hope that they might do something needed and good.

Pope Francis and the Vatican have recognized Oscar Romero as a martyr. This may move the name of the late archbishop of San Salvador a little further in the process that could one day make him a saint.

But being deemed a martyr is also holy. It means the church believes his life can inspire people; Pope Francis has said Romero inspires him.

Romero was considered a kindly, orthodox conservative parish priest when Pope Paul appointed him archbishop in 1977. He did not question El Salvador's ruling regime.

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Every Saturday just before our show begins I get on the public address system here to announce to our crew, "It's a beautiful day for a radio show. Let's do two today!"

It's an admiring imitation of Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs Hall of Fame baseball player who died last night at the age of 83. Ernie used to say, especially in the long years of hot summers — including this last one, when the Cubs were stuck in last place — "It's a beautiful day for a ballgame. Let's play two today!"

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Satire is a tricky business. The punch lines quickly get stale. The same people who laugh at one joke can get offended by the next.

But this week, with the targeted killings of the cartoon satirists of Charlie Hebdo in Paris, we were reminded how dangerous people with no sense of humor can be.

The Onion ran a headline: "It is Sadly Unclear Whether This Article Will Put Lives At Risk."

I've always had a good time in Cuba. The people are friendly and funny, the rum is smooth, the music intoxicating and the beaches wide, white and soft.

But you're accompanied everywhere by government minders. They call them responsables. Any Cuban you interview knows your microphone might as well run straight to their government.

If you want to talk to someone with a different view, you have to slip out of your hotel in the middle of the night without your minder — though dissidents say other security people follow you.

Everyone has days in which we wonder if much of anything works. Websites crash. Screens blink, go blank, or taunt: I'm sorry. Try later. We have an unusually high volume of calls. Download to update. Click here if you've forgotten your password.

But for a couple of hours on an afternoon this week, people got glimpses of excellence.

Dr. Doug Butzier died on duty this week. He was 59 and crashed in his own small plane flying home to Dubuque, Iowa.

Doug Butzier was a former paramedic who put himself through medical school and became chief of the emergency room and medical staff at Mercy Medical Center and the Dubuque Fire Department. An EMS supervisor named Wayne Dow told the Dubuque Telegraph Herald, "We adored him ... He appreciated what we did, and he never forgot where he came from."

Dr. Butzier leaves behind his wife, two sons, and three step-children.

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SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

When you think about robots, if you do, you might think of famous images from science fiction, some kind of tin can built to vaguely resemble a human being.

(SOUNDBITE OF FILM, "STAR WARS: EPISODE 1 - THE PHANTOM MENACE")

Mahatma Gandhi never won the Nobel Peace Prize. A lot of people who have dropped bombs, launched missiles and made war have won the Nobel, but not the man whose very silhouette — bald-headed, wrapped in cloth, and walking in sandals across a perilous world — is taken to be a symbol of peace across the globe.

Every now and then you can see a short story come to life right in front of you.

We were on a train this week while a man in a seat nearby spoke in a voice loud enough to carry above the whoosh of the rails to a man whose name we have changed to Phil, to tell him that the company had deliberated and decided they had to make "a transition" in his department.

The U.S. may have added jobs to its payroll last month, but the losses are still huge in Atlantic City, N.J., where four casinos have closed this year. A fifth teeters, and more than 7,000 people — dealers, greeters, cooks and maids — have been laid off.

The job losses could mean a future of boarded windows and abandoned buildings.

In the 1970s, Atlantic City had lost the glitter of its golden years — the 1940s and '50s, when it was a favored summer spot with a broad beach, the Boardwalk, pastel resort hotels and the home of the Miss America Pageant.

Here's an idea for weekend fun: Pick up a banned book.

Look for "the good parts" — the sections of Ulysses, The Grapes of Wrath, The Color Purple, Catch-22, To Kill a Mockingbird, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lolita, the Harry Potter series, Animal Farm, A Farewell to Arms or In the Night Kitchen that have scenes and language that once made people gasp, blush or shudder. The parts that made them say, "We can't let people read this!"

A man known around here as "The Host Whisperer" has died.

David Candow was 74. He was a slightly tubby man from Newfoundland with a sly smile and a soft voice. I wanted nothing to do with him.

David was a consultant, brought in to work with NPR hosts and reporters on writing and delivery. People who make their living on the air often distrust consultants. We figure they've been brought in by executives who have usually never recorded more than a voicemail message, and want all hosts to sound the same.

There might be a recliner rebellion going on.

At least three flights have been grounded in little more than a week after passengers had disputes over reclining their seats, or not being able to. On most airlines these days, passengers are packed so close that — insert your favorite Joan Rivers joke here.

The Trojan Women, by Euripides, is a Greek tragedy written 2,500 years ago that war keeps timely.

It's about a group of women who struggle to survive in Troy after the town has been sacked. When one of the women cries out, "Our country, our conquered country, perishes ... O land that reared my children!" it's hard not to hear those words echo today, through Syria, in Iraq and in Ukraine.

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