By Nora Tidey, Staff Writer
Distinguished journalists and political analysts Steve and Cokie Roberts have been selected to speak at Gettysburg’s 181st Commencement in May. The two are highly accomplished in their own individual rights, but they are also accomplished as a couple with a shared weekly column in newspapers around the country and two books authored together along with a happy marriage of nearly 50 years. Steve has been a journalist for over 45 years, covering some major events in American history, and is currently a regular contributor on the ABC radio network as a political analyst and a host on NPR’s Diane Rehm Show. He is also a professor of Media and Public Affairs at George Washington University. Cokie is a political commentator for ABC News and a news analyst for NPR and has published multiple books. She has written several histories on women in America, all of which were rated New York Times bestsellers. Cokie has been in broadcasting for over 40 years and has won numerous prestigious awards, including three Emmys. While the Roberts’ professional accomplishments are obvious examples of why their presence at Commencement will be so meaningful to the Class of 2016, their personal accomplishments will provide just as much inspiration for college students preparing to step off campus and into the rest of their lives.
As far as their college experiences go, both had impactful opportunities that led them to their current careers. Steve, a Harvard graduate, worked for the university’s daily newspaper covering important topics including student political unrest on issues such as the Civil Rights Movement and nuclear disarmament. After college, Steve found a mentor in the Washington bureau chief of The New York Times and ended up working for the paper for 25 years. Cokie, a Wellesley College graduate, was active in student politics and often presented in public forum, which led her to a successful career involving public speaking and debating (which is also how she met Steve). She acquired her first job in television through connection with an alumna with whom she worked for a year and who then put her on air anchoring a program. Both had influential mentors during their college years who helped them build up to highly successful careers, certainly a useful piece of information for college students seeking to prosper! Another useful piece of wisdom the Roberts’ had to share was their advice for young voters in the upcoming presidential election. As political commentators and analysts, both agree that the character and temperament of any candidate is important – perhaps more important than any positions on policies or issues. Steve encourages young voters to vote for someone who can handle challenges with careful, reasoned judgment, and Cokie encourages young voters to organize around issues they are impacted by, such as college affordability or student debt.
While the Roberts agree that personal accomplishments rank far above professional accomplishments, Steve names writing pieces that readers find “illuminating and even inspiring” his proudest professional accomplishment. Cokie names her body of work in shedding light on the stories of “the other half of the human race” through her books on women in history as her proudest professional accomplishment. She also imparts this advice on women who want to have both a family and a successful career, something that still proves difficult for women even today: “Don’t overthink it. Just go for it and figure it out as you go along . . . if you keep your priorities straight and realize that your family trumps the job, you’ll be fine. You might be exhausted for a few years, but you’ll survive.” Both agree that their long and happy marriage, two children and six grandchildren are their proudest accomplishments of all. Steve says he enjoys driving his grandchildren to school in the mornings and coaching first base for their youngest grandchild’s Little League baseball team. He also says that the most important decision you will ever make in life is who you marry. “Fortunately, I got that one exactly right,” he adds.
In their free time, Steve and Cokie enjoy their tradition of having long Saturday lunches together and spending as much time as possible with their grandchildren. However, Cokie says it is not often that she finds herself with free time. “There’s always a writing project on my plate, even when I’m not in the depths of writing a book. A friend will want a blurb for a book jacket or a college newspaper will want answers to questions.”