The mundane can, occasionally, focus your attention; and so it was this last Sunday evening.
We, Americans, were once again paying attention to the stages of the transfer of government leadership. We had just experienced a bruising campaign for President under difficult conditions. And by Sunday evening virtually all of the state-by-state election results had been called by the Associated Press.
Joe Biden had welcomed the call and Donald Trump had decided to contest it.
My wife and I were breezing through supper on our way to meet friends for an evening of music at the new Avalon Theater’s outdoor venue (by the way it is excellent). I decided to tune into ABC Sunday Night News to see if there were new developments and that is when the unexpected occurred. The news anchor essentially said we have political news, but first let’s reflect on the passing of Alex Trebek. About five minutes later the political story lines began.
Ordinarily I would have mumbled something about decadence as “Once again celebrity events trump serious news.” But, not this time.
My wife and I do not regularly watch Jeopardy, but when we do we often marvel at its 36 year host, Alex Trebek. Sure, Jeopardy is a game show, but Trebek made it so much more.
Trebek brought us all, somewhere between 13 and 14 million, into a nightly lesson on a wide range of subjects from mathematics to movie stars. Most nights, at least two of the stars of the show were new and they were on the show not as theatrical pretenders, but because they were studied and had quick minds.
Jeopardy will, of course, go on, but time will erode the memory of its 36 year host. What, at least in my mind, will not be eroded was the enduring quality of his elegance, courtesy and understatement. We can hope that as his life is celebrated people all over America, will understand that his legacy is truth—the truth of the answer but, more importantly, the truth of kindness in a life well lived. The lessons of generosity, respect, and authentic humor.
The ABC news director who decided to preempt America’s political tensions and reward a life well lived should receive an Emmy.
Al Sikes is the former Chair of the Federal Communications Commission under George H.W. Bush. Al recently published Culture Leads Leaders Follow published by Koehler Books.