Jim Lehrer used to host the News Hour on PBS television. He started back in the mid-Seventies with the MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour program and when Robert McNeil retired in 1995 the show went on as the NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. Lehrer stayed on the show until 2011.
Lehrer was a Marine. One night leading up to the Marine Corps Birthday on November 10, 2006, he talked about being in the Marines and mentioned his experience as a young Marine entering the Platoon Leader Class (PLC). It motivated me into writing to him on November 11, 2006. He replied over is signature on November 27: “Matthew Connolly – thank you – and Semper Fi.” Here is what I wrote to him:
Dear Mr. Lehrer: Like you, I took my first airplane ride courtesy of the PLC program. I left from Logan Airport. It was in June of 1957. I also stood on the train platform as the DI welcomed us to the world of the Marines. I listened in dread as he went up and down one candidate yelling, “Home! Home! How the (expletive do we know where home is!” On and on he went while the rest of us took a surreptitious look at our orders hoping we did not make the same mistake by inserting the word home rather than our town on the line which read: “I received these orders at ________.” I immediately knew my life had changed.
Two years later I stood on the same platform and went through another similar welcome. This time a candidate fro Natick, MA, David Connell, stood next to me. The DI looked at his paper work and started to explode. DI: “Candidate! You are supposed to fill in answers to ALL the questions.” Connell said nothing. Holding the paper two inches from Connell’s face he said, “Candidate! Look at this! It asks you for you middle initial and you have not put one down!” Connell: “I have no middle name.” DI: “If you don’t got a middle name then you write down ‘N’ for none.” Connell complied and went through the next six weeks as David N. Connell.
One final thought. During my first six weeks in 1957, every time I entered our Quonset hut at Camp Upshur I saw these words printed in large block letters on the back wall: Prior Proper Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Performance.” For me those were as much a part of what the Marines were about as anything else. Your speech was well prepared, moving and memorable. Thank you for it and the memories. Semper Fi.”
Sundays are a good day to reflect.
By the way, the photograph on this page of JFK was drawn free hand by Dave Connell. We were sitting next to each other in a classroom. Kennedy was running for president and Dave knew I was supporting him. He asked me if I’d like him to draw a picture of him. I said sure but don’t you need a photo to copy? He said no. Within about five minutes he handed me the portrait of Kennedy you see above. That’s another lesson I learned in the Marines: there are some people with enormous talent that others, like me, just can’t come one-two to.