Journalist, author and living legend Cokie Roberts joined the LBJ School of Public Affairs for an intimate conversation on press, politics and women’s workplace equality.
Roberts, whose career spans more than forty years in broadcasting, is a senior news analyst for National Public Radio and a political commentator for ABC News. During an hour-long conversation with LBJ School students, Roberts offered a personal glimpse into her life as a storyteller:
Roberts on her previous visit to the LBJ School
Roberts is no stranger to the LBJ School, having previously visited in 1992 to interview Barbara Jordan, a revered policymaker and professor.
At the time, Roberts was covering Ross Perot’s campaign for president and wanted to speak to Jordan about his education plan.
“We think of Barbara Jordan as a very staunch, important figure, and she was happy to work with anyone from any party if it was going to be best for the education of Texas children.”
Roberts on the relationship between the press and the Trump administration
The relationship between the current Trump administration and the media puts the press in an “uncomfortable” position, Roberts said.
But, she continued, “I don’t think we can abandon the mission of being factual and truth-telling.”
In response to a student question about continued freedom of the press, Roberts said she’s not concerned about the strength of the 1st Amendment.
“I actually don’t think the 1st Amendment is all that fragile,” she said, citing the multiplicity of news outlets. “There are too many places to get information.”
Roberts suggested that the press’ greatest challenge is to delve deeper into the administration's actions that have an impact on the American people, rather than focusing on the latest distraction.
“We’re paying way too much attention to the bright shiny object,” she said. ”We’re barely touching the things that are going on.”
Roberts on women’s workplace equality
Compared to the time Roberts graduated from college in the 1960s, the climate for women in the workforce is “night and day.”
“When I graduated in 1964, it was still legal to say, ‘We don’t hire women to do that,’” Roberts explained.
And now, throughout her career, Roberts has watched the expansion of opportunities for women in the workforce.
Though women today are highly represented in entry-level positions in the field, Roberts said, “At every step along the way it gets harder.”
Her advice to women students is to keep fighting. “You have to pick your fights, but you do have to fight.”
Roberts on civic engagement
During Roberts’ Q&A, one student asked where the greatest need for young people lay in the future.
“President Obama’s farewell speech was spot on,” she replied, emphasizing the role of citizen, participating in the democratic process and staying engaged.
And the next important place for that engagement is governors’ races.
“People really need to launch an effort with governors in 2018,” Roberts said. “That’s where you can really make a difference.”