She’s an award winning reporter and news analyst and one of the most recognized faces in television news, but Cokie Roberts will tell you that none of it was ever her plan.
“I didn’t really follow a career path I just did jobs as they came along,” Roberts said.
It was her husband, Steven, whom she met when she was 18, who had always wanted to be a journalist, she said. After graduating from Wellesley College she took a job in Washington D.C. with a television production crew and by the time she was 21 was an anchor for a show that interviewed foreign journalists.
“Then we got married and without even talking about it I quit my job. Neither one of us even thought that was an issue,” Roberts said.
It’s the kind of candor that shouldn’t be surprising coming from a veteran news correspondent and analyst and it’s a no nonsense perspective that has helped Roberts juggle life, family and career.
After their son Lee was born, Steve Roberts was transferred to Los Angeles where they would have a daughter, Rebecca. By the time the children were 3 and 5 Steven Roberts was working in Greece and Cokie found work there stringing for CBS and magazine writing. They returned to Washington four years later.
“I went to work for NPR and sort of added things on. I started doing a TV show on congress for PBS … and then Steve and I started writing a weekly column,” she said.
Roberts, who will turn 65 this month, went on to co-host the ABC News program “This Week” along with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2001. She and Donaldson continue to appear on the show as political commentators. She also continues to work as a news analyst for National Public Radio. Roberts has won three Emmys and several journalistic honors including being inducted into the Broadcasting and Cable Hall of Fame.
Roberts was raised in Washington where her father, Hale Boggs, was a congressman from Louisiana. After Boggs was killed in a plane crash in 1972, Robert’s mother, Lindy Boggs, was elected to his seat.
“The most useful advice came from my mother,” Roberts said. “When we moved back here and she was in congress and I was covering congress I was working all these long hours and there were times that I was so stressed.”
She said that she recalls one evening when congress was debating and it was becoming a very long day. Roberts said she went to get her mother off the floor and asked her to please get things moving so she could get home to her family.
“And she said, ‘your kids are fine, you’re fine and they’re fine. Don’t get all stressed out about this,’” Roberts said.
The message Roberts said she took away was that she was lucky and shouldn’t worry so much.
“If you are married, your kids are way ahead of the game. If you love your children they are way ahead of the game. There are so many children who have real problems,” Roberts said.
It’s a perspective that has been strengthened by her research and writing of several books about historical women including: “Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation.”
“I think if modern women read about what women had to do in the 18th and early 19th centuries … they come away feeling like great big sissies,” she laughed. “I certainly do.”
In spite of all of the hardships they faced, these women were great patriots and writers and thinkers and social workers, Roberts said. They helped create this country and then made it a better place for people to live, she said.
While modern women may feel like they have more and more to juggle and modern technology may make it seem like it’s harder to get away from it all, that technology also allows for more options, she said.
“Like telecommuting, it does add hours but it does add flexibility,” Roberts said.
In one of their recent syndicated columns, Cokie and Steven Roberts talked about the importance of recognizing caregivers. They noted that it may be difficult for the new administration to consider the needs of caregiver programs given the country’s tough economic times.
It was an idea that Roberts wanted to expand on. “I think there is a tremendous need for caregivers,” she said.
“I just came from interviewing a school chancellor and she said, ‘I don’t think my issues are going to be high on the agenda.’ Even though they are issues that the President-Elect has talked about caring about,” Roberts said.
“Society in the broadest possible sense has to be caregiver friendly. Taking care of the library and the hospital and the daycare and all the institutions in society that need our attention,” she said.