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Michel Martin signs off by remembering her heroes

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

And finally today, a few words from me. I hope you've heard some of the installments in the series from our friends at the Hidden Brain called My Unsung Hero, recounting stories of people whose kindness left a lasting impression. It made me think about my unsung heroes, and I realized I have a lot of them. There's my friend Wendy (ph), who, along with her sisters, has been collecting and shipping boxes of school supplies to under-resourced schools in Ghana every year ever since I've known her, and that's going on 17 years now. And I'm not talking about one suitcase full of random colored pencils or whatever. I'm talking about 15 or 20 giant cartons filled with notebooks, paints, paper, crayons, soccer balls, you name it - every single year. I was thinking about my neighbors, Paula (ph) and Beth (ph), who just seem to magically show up whenever you need help with something, whether it's a book drive or clothing drive, or to figure out how to get lunch for the COVID-19 health workers or to tone down a neighborhood beef. There's my friend Sabrina (ph), who, now that she's an empty nester, helps all of her friends navigate tricky issues with their kids' education.

But there's one particular unsung hero I wanted to tell you about, and that is the late, great television correspondent Bruce Morton. He had a long career at CBS and CNN before he passed away in 2014. He's my unsung hero because he saved me from making a terrible mistake that I honestly think might have short-circuited my career. This came after I was offered a job in broadcasting after I had started my career, working my way through local, state and national politics and policy in newspapers. I actually didn't really know Bruce except to say hi, when he somehow got my phone number and seemingly out of the blue, left an important message on my home answering machine - yes, it was that long ago. He was brief, but to the point. He basically told me that the job I had been offered might look glamorous on the outside, but might actually be a dead end for me in the long run. And he left his name, that famous signoff - this is Bruce Morton.

That was the kind of straight answer I had been looking for but couldn't seem to get from any of the people I had consulted, many of whom also, weirdly, it seemed to me at the time, kept swearing me to secrecy, reminding me not to tell anybody I had talked to them. I guess it was a TV thing - not really sure. Anyway, I turned the job down after that and eventually I was offered better jobs, until I finally took one - one that did allow me to learn and grow. And I took others after that until here we are. But I never got to thank him. So I'm glad to do so now. And I hope wherever he or his kids or grandkids are, they get to hear me say how much I appreciated that honesty and outreach at a time when I really needed it. And you might be asking, why didn't I thank him at the time? Because people were being so weird, swearing me to secrecy. I was afraid he'd get into trouble when I turned down the job. In any case, obviously now that won't happen.

You may also ask, why am I talking about this now? Well, a few weeks ago I got another call out of the blue from someone I also don't know very well, but whom I respect very much, asking me if I would consider taking another role here at NPR. The person said he thought this other role would be a good fit for me, and I would be good for it. This time, I knew enough about the company and the job that I didn't have to ask too many questions, so I said yes. It's time for me to try something new, to move into a new role in which I think I can continue to grow and also contribute. So this will be my last Sunday with you. I'm going to take a short break and then, in a couple of weeks, I will join you at the other end of the broadcast day on Morning Edition, where I'll be joining up with Steve Inskeep and Leila Fadel and A Martínez. I hope you'll join me - I mean us - then.

I want to thank everybody on the WEEKEND ALL THINGS CONSIDERED teams, past and present. We've done so much together. We've spent hours together in the studio, in tiny rental cars, in makeshift studios set up on the fly in hotel rooms. We've shared many good meals and a few bad ones. We've had lots of laughs and, frankly, some tears. We've tried to make your weekends richer, more fun, more thoughtful. We did our best. And I'm sure that whoever sits in this chair next, will do the same. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.