Cokie Roberts no longer has the stress of submitting daily stories for both National Public Radio and ABC-TV — an almost unimaginable workload. And her life is cushioned by a supportive husband, six grandchildren ages 8 to 13 (“Aren’t I lucky?,” she says, her voice infused with delight), as well as a dear chocolate lab who just broke its elbow so is attending canine boot camp.
She still reports on Congress and politics Monday mornings for NPR, participates in round-table talks Sundays on This Week with George Stephanopoulos, and is completing another deeply researched history book.
She’ll speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Authors! Authors!, the speakers’ series sponsored by The Blade and the Toledo-Lucas County Public Library.
Cokie Roberts, NPR and ABC political reporter and author, will speak at 7 p.m. Wednesday in the Stranahan Theater, 4546 Heatherdowns Blvd. Her one-hour talk will be followed by a Q&A and a book signing. Her books will be sold in the lobby before and after her talk.
Tickets are $10 ($8 for students) at all library branches and at the door. Seating is first-come, first-served.
Ms. Roberts, 70, will talk about her books, Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation (2008) and Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation (2004). She greatly condensed the latter book (359 pages) into a 37-page version for ages 7 to 12, published in February with fetching drawings by Diane Goode.
“Aren’t those illustrations wonderful?” she says.
Ms. Roberts’ passion for bringing the overlooked contributions of American women to light continues in the book she’s been plugging away at for years about how the Civil War changed women’s lives, based largely on the diaries of Washington women.
“Oh, it’s a lot of fun. The writing’s hard, but the research is fabulous. I love learning this stuff, that’s just being a reporter. If I could just learn it and tell you about it, that would be great,” she laughs. The tough part is producing sprightly writing.
Significantly changed between writing this and earlier books is how much more can be done from home.
“You can be in touch with the Duke library and say, ‘You have Virginia Clay-Clopton’s diary,’ and they will scan it and send it to you in a drop-box account. I can see what’s in it on the computer, then I can send it to the person who transcribes it. It’s all by computer.”
Like language, handwriting was quite different 150 years ago, and some transcriptionists specialize in deciphering it.
Mary Martha Corinne Morrison Claiborne Boggs Roberts grew up in New Orleans, the daughter of Hale and Lindy Boggs, Louisianans who between them served as that city’s congressional representatives for nearly 50 years. She attended schools in New Orleans and Washington run by the nuns of the Society of the Sacred Heart “who take girls seriously — a radical notion in the 1950s,” she wrote in the dedication to Founding Mothers. “I’m still very close with them.”
After graduating from Wellesley College in 1964, she married Steve Roberts in 1966, at her parents’ (her current) home in Bethesda, Md. There were 1,500 guests at the wedding and her mother did the cooking.
“The house is not that large. And my mother was crazy, what can I tell you? My father probably said ‘You all come,’ and then told my mother to deal with it. So she did, like she did everything else. She was a remarkable person.”
It was an interfaith marriage: the Boggs were Catholic, the Roberts, Jewish. A priest officiated at the wedding in which a Jewish elder took part and Hebrew traditions were incorporated.
Married 48 years, she and Steve, a journalism professor at George Washington University and former New York Times reporter, were diligent at incorporating both faith traditions when raising their daughter and son, and in 2011 published Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families. He’s joked that Cokie’s the best Jew in the family. A decade earlier they wrote From This Day Forward, about their own and the marriages of others throughout American history.
Putting on a seder every year and learning about Judaism has deepened her own faith.
“We say Judeo-Christian for a reason. Christianity grows out of the Jewish tradition,” she says. “The Last Supper was a seder, the creation of the sacrament of the Eucharist was a seder. So knowing a great deal more about Judaism than I did growing up has taught me a great deal more about Christianity.”
She covered politics, Congress, and public policy for the Public Broadcasting Service, World News Tonight, The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour, and from 1996 to 2002 co-anchored This Week with Sam Donaldson & Cokie Roberts. She was also a CBS News reporter in Athens.
“In the days when I was reporting daily for both NPR and ABC, that was a huge amount of work and the volume and the stress of that was enormous. Some stories are complicated and hard. Certainly there was always the business in the early days of being a woman in a man’s field and all that.
“I don’t consider anything at work as hard as anything in life. Work is just work.”
Hard is “My father’s plane going down when he was 58, my sister dying of melanoma when she was 51. And my husband’s twin brother [Marc J. Roberts] just dropped dead a couple of weeks ago. Nothing work-wise ever compares to that.”
Their daughter Rebecca organizes programs for the Smithsonian; son Lee is budget director of the state of North Carolina.
“I’m a good cook and I’ve done needlework but I don’t really have hobbies. I like to just hang with my friends and family.”
Contact Tahree Lane at firstname.lastname@example.org and 419-724-6075.