2016 Legislative Conference speakers

Two speakers have been confirmed for the 2016 Legislative Conference, Jim Lehrer and Charlie Cook, Jr. Read more about each speaker below.

Former PBS NewsHour anchor keynotes Legislative Conference

lehrer_blog_main_horizontal.jpgBorn in Wichita, Kansas, Jim Lehrer received an A.A. degree from Victoria College and a B.J. in 1956 from the University of Missouri before joining the Marine Corps. From 1959 to 1966, he was a reporter for The Dallas Morning News and then The Dallas Times-Herald. He was also a political columnist at The Times-Herald for several years and in 1968 became the city editor.

Lehrer's newspaper career led him to public television, first in Dallas, as KERA-TV's executive director of public affairs, on-air host and editor of a nightly news program. He subsequently moved to Washington, DC, to serve as the public affairs coordinator for PBS, and was also a member of PBS's Journalism Advisory Board and a fellow at the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Lehrer went on to join the National Public Affairs Center for Television (NPACT) as a correspondent.

It was Lehrer's work with NPACT that led to his initial association with Robert MacNeil and, ultimately, to their long-term partnership. In 1973, they teamed up to provide NPACT's continuous live coverage of the Senate Watergate hearings, broadcast on PBS. Following that Emmy-winning collaboration, Lehrer was the solo anchor for PBS coverage of the House Judiciary Committee's impeachment inquiry of Richard Nixon.

In October 1975, the half-hour Robert MacNeil Report, with Jim Lehrer as the Washington correspondent, premiered on Thirteen/WNET New York. Over the next seven years, The MacNeil/Lehrer Report (as it was renamed in 1976) won more than 30 awards for journalistic excellence. In September 1983, Lehrer and MacNeil launched their most ambitious undertaking, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. The 1995-96 season marked the 20th year of their journalistic odyssey, as well as MacNeil's departure and Lehrer's stewardship of the program as The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. In 2009, the program title changed to PBS NEWSHOUR to reflect the program’s expanded role as the hub of news and public affairs programming on PBS both online and on air.

Lehrer has been honored with numerous awards for journalism, including the 1999 National Humanities Medal, presented by President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. Also in 1999, Lehrer was inducted into the Television Hall of Fame with MacNeil and into The Silver Circle of the Washington, DC, Chapter of The National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. He has won two Emmys, the Fred Friendly First Amendment Award, the George Foster Peabody Broadcast Award, the William Allen White Foundation Award for Journalistic Merit and the University of Missouri School of Journalism's Medal of Honor. In 1991, he was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has been awarded honorary degrees by 42 colleges and universities.

In the last seven presidential elections, Lehrer has served as a moderator for twelve of the nationally televised debates among the candidates. In 1996, he was selected to be the sole moderator of all three debates—two presidential and one vice presidential. In 2000, he was again selected as the sole moderator of the three presidential debates, which were conducted in different formats—podium, round-table and town hall. His 12th debate was the first 2012 Obama-Romney face off in Denver, Co.

In addition to his best-selling book, Tension City: Inside the Presidential Debates, from Kennedy-Nixon to Obama-McCain (September 2011), a lively and revealing book that pulls back the curtain on more than 40 years of televised political debate in America, Lehrer is the author of numerous fiction and non-fiction books, two memoirs and three plays.  His novel, Super, published in April 2010 , is a story of celebrity and murder aboard the Sante Fe’s railroad’s famous Super Chief, known as “The Train of the Stars” during Hollywood’s heyday.  Oh Johnny, published in April 2009, is a portrait of a young man’s coming of age during World War II. Mack to the Rescue, published in April 2008 is the 7th in his successful series of novels featuring a fictional lieutenant governor of Oklahoma.  Eureka, published in October 2007 is an endearing portrait of American middle age.  The Phony Marine, published in November 2006, explores questions of character and heroism. The Franklin Affair, published in April 2005, explores the world of historians and the quest for truth and justice. No Certain Rest, published in August 2002, wrestles with a Civil War mystery.  Other novels include The Special Prisoner, about a World War II POW; White Widow, about a Trailways bus driver in the 1950’s; Blue Hearts and Purple Dots, are about the adventures of retired C.I.A. agents; The Last Debate, a cautionary tale about journalism, politics and ethics, was also produced as a movie for the Showtime Channel in 2000; and Lehrer’s first novel, Viva Max! the story of a platoon of modern Mexican soldiers who attempt to re-take the Alamo, was made into a 1969 comedy movie starring Jonathan Winters and Peter Ustinov. His latest novel is Top Down: A Novel of the Kennedy Assassination (October 2013). The plays are Chili Queen, Church Key Charlie Blue , The Will and Bart Show and  Bell. The memoirs are We Were Dreamers and A Bus of My Own.

Political analyst Charlie Cook to speak at conference lunch

Cook_Charlie_PROMOPIC.jpgWhen Charlie Cook makes a pronouncement based on his analysis of the political scene in America, people who want to be "in the know“ sit up and listen. For more than two decades he has been Washington’s most trusted – and most accurate – voice on all things political, whether it’s the outcome of a Congressional, gubernatorial, or presidential election.

As the editor and publisher of The Cook Political Report and a political analyst for the National Journal Group and NBC News, his prodigious writing is a direct line to the heart of politics. He writes weekly for National Journal magazine and NationalJournalDaily, and he also pens a regular column for the Washington Quarterly. Once deemed "the Picasso of election analysis“ by the Wall Street Journal and represented exclusively by Leading Authorities, Cook produces the sharpest political handicapping in the business, serving as the one-man, go-to-source for Americans who want to be truly informed.

A Political Oracle. The plaudits for Charlie Cook are the best kind of broken record – an endless loop of praise. The New York Times has called Cook "one of the best political handicappers in the nation“ and noted that The Cook Political Report is "a newsletter that both parties regard as authoritative.“ Bob Schieffer of CBS News calls it "the bible of the political community,“ and David Broder of the Washington Post said Cook is "perhaps the best non-partisan tracker of Congressional races.“ In its feature "The Top 50 Journalists in Washington,“ The Washingtonian called him a "master observer“ and "the man who knows more about politics than anyone else,“ and in 2010 Cook was a co-recipient of the American Political Science Association’s prestigious Carey McWilliams Award to honor "a major journalistic contribution to our understanding of politics.“

Cook’s expertise has been featured on the ABC, CBS, Good Morning America, The Today Show, Nightline, Meet the Press, and This Week, and he is a welcome fixture on CNBC, MSNBC, C-SPAN, and National Public Radio. Cook founded the Cook Political Report in 1984, and became a twice-weekly columnist for Roll Call, Capitol Hill’s premier newspaper, before joining the National Journal Group in 1998. Cook has also been an election night analyst for CNN and CBS News and for every presidential election since 1994 for NBC News.

Keeping America Informed. Cook is a hugely popular speaker. With his encyclopedic knowledge, memorable stories, quick wit, and meaningful insights, his speeches focus on the broad implications of the latest election results. Using poll numbers, economic indicators, and historical data, Cook forecasts the fortunes of each party in a balanced, non-partisan manner and furnishes audiences with the concrete information they need regarding today’s political and legislative environments.