ATTENTION: SPERTUS PRIME EVENT FEATURING COKIE ROBERTS ON SUNDAY, OCT. 28, HAS BEEN CANCELED DUE TO HURRICANE SANDY!!!
Roberts is a senior news analyst for National Public Radio and a political commentator for ABC News, where she co-anchored This Week with Sam Donaldson. She and her husband, Steven V. Roberts, are contributing writers for USA Today. Together, they wrote Our Haggadah: Uniting Traditions for Interfaith Families, and the book From This Day Forward, sharing wisdom from their 40+ year marriage.
Roberts also wrote We Are Our Mothers' Daughters, then Founding Mothers: The Women Who Raised Our Nation, and most recently Ladies of Liberty: The Women Who Shaped Our Nation.
She is the youngest daughter of former ambassador and longtime Democratic Congresswoman from Louisiana Linda Boggs and the late Hale Boggs, a Democratic Congressman from Louisiana, who was the Majority Leader of the House of Representatives.
JUF News conducted a phone interview with Roberts in advance of her speaking engagement in Chicago.
JUF News: Is there still such a thing as a Jewish vote and if so will it impact the election?
Cokie Roberts: It can impact the election in various states. Is there such a thing? Well, Jews certainly vote overwhelmingly Democratic and in current polling that holds true. [But] is that because they're Jewish or because they're women because Jewish women vote far more Democratic than Jewish men do? There are all kinds of factors.
With the election a month away, is this like Disneyland for you?
It's more like a movie set. You just go into complete election mode. When you're shooting a movie, it's the same idea. You just shoot it until it's done.
How has covering government and politics changed since you began your career?
Covering everything has changed because of technology and the 24-hour news cycle. It used to be that you wrote a story for the broadcast that came on the air that night or the following morning or you wrote a story for the newspaper that came out the next morning. And that's it. Now it's all day, every day. Everything is a recording device—your cell phone is a recording device…the business has changed dramatically.
Has the coverage gotten uglier?
It's not the ugliest period we've had, but it's not pleasant. The anonymity of the blogosphere is such that people feel like they can say anything they want and be very nasty.
What was the most fascinating presidential race you've covered?
The last one. The fact that it was between the first woman and the first African-American really marked a moment in American history.
Your most recent book was on women who shaped the nation. Can you think of Jewish women who have shaped the nation historically?
Rebecca Gratz, who was part of a huge movement that the women of America conducted to create a social safety net, starting in the late 18th and going into the early 19th century. They saw that as exciting and dynamic as the new country was, there were people who were falling through the cracks. Her movement created school houses and poor houses and orphanages and Sunday schools and things that would try to lift people up. Her social work was extensive.
What Jewish women today are shaping the country?
There are quite a few very prominent Jewish women in office. You've got Barbara Boxer, Dianne Feinstein, Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who is chair of the National Democratic Committee, and Gabrielle Giffords.
Why did you write a haggadah with your husband, Steve?
So many people want to celebrate Passover but are intimidated by it. It was your basic how-to.
I know you host a seder every year. What is it like?
It's about 40 people. And now everybody's grandchildren come and we love it. It's a very important part of our lives.
What are your words of wisdom for people in interfaith relationships?
Everybody has to do it their own way. The main thing is to be respectful and caring of each other, each other's traditions, and each other's families, and it should work out.
For tickets to the Spertus Prime event featuring Cokie Roberts, visit www.spertus.edu or call (312) 322-1773.
Spertus Prime is a speaker series made possible with the support of the Harvey L. Miller Family Foundation and other generous donors. The series continues with author Jonathan Safran Foer on Jan. 13 and Israeli politician Tzipi Livini on March 10.
Spertus Institute is a partner in serving our community, supported by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago.