Millions of listeners tune in weekly for a dose of his fervent, frequently lighthearted and always enlightening National Public Radio’s Weekend Edition Saturday broadcasts. In a pleasing, midrange voice – warm and unforgettable – he sounds like a kind, well-traveled friend or relative who just popped in for coffee.
But please, don’t label him a radio host, politely requests Scott Simon, the creative energy behind program.
“I don’t like the idea you can only do one thing or have to have a slug next to your name,” Simon says from his Washington, D.C., base.
You’ve probably also seen him on television specials. Or perhaps you’ve read one of his award-winning novels, seen his op-ed pieces in national publications.
It’s this variety that keeps him fresh, the correspondent says.
“Thankfully, I don’t have to thread myself into a hole. On any given week, I can do a number of things that make me laugh, tug my heart strings, inform and delight me. It’s not just one event or enterprise – and I think that makes you whole,” Simon says.
This week, Simon brings his seasoned, global perspective to Spokane. He’ll deliver a free public talk at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Spokane Community College. And he’ll answer questions from the audience.
He’s reported from Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and other war-torn nations. In addition to civil conflicts, he’s covered political campaigns, earthquakes and famines. And he’s interviewed such icons as the late Mother Teresa, the enigmatic Neil Young, beloved actor Andy Griffith, and Terrence Howard of “Hustle and Flow” fame.
His presentation at SCC will focus on the global issues into which the next U.S. president will be thrust.
“There are a number of concerns that whoever becomes president … is going to have to confront” that aren’t being debated in the campaign right now,” Simon says.
“I hope to avert our gaze, bring it up a little bit and take a look at the long-range prospects” sure to face the man who prevails in the November presidential election, he says.
The son of comedian and radio announcer Ernie Simon and actress Patricia Lyons, Simon grew up in Chicago, New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Montreal, Cleveland and Washington, D.C.
His only sibling, a sister, died when he was very young. Much of his childhood was spent in the company of adults, many of whom were superb storytellers, he said.
“I thought that was what every family was like,” laughs Simon, now in his mid-50s. As a kid he remembers asking friends: “What’s your dad’s act? I assumed every dad had one.”
A sickly boy, his mother imbued in him a love for the written and spoken word. Because there was a dearth of children’s literature at the time, his mother read and acted out the classics with him.
“During a couple of bouts of illness, my mother literally read me Shakespeare … and interpreted it for me,” Simon fondly recalls.
A bachelor until 48, Simon fell in love with a French documentary filmmaker in 2000. Within months, he and Caroline Richard were married. Now, they’re the devoted parents of two little girls, whom they adopted as babies in China, in 2004 and 2007.
Amid his world travels and responsibilities, he says his girls keep him emotionally centered.
And they bring out the jester in him.
“I absolutely dote on our two daughters,” he confesses. “At the merest whim for a jelly bean, I spring to my feet, run across the kitchen like a panther, jump on the counter and start reading off all the colors.
“They keep me grounded in the sense that although they think I’m pretty neat, they’re not too impressed,” he laughs.
Now, he factors in his roles as father and husband when considering potentially dangerous assignments.
“My wife and I have agreed it’s nothing at this stage of my life I would do thoughtlessly or gratuitously. But we certainly agree there are certain places worth (covering) and I’ll continue to go to those places to do stories,” Simon says.