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Cokie Roberts Brought Institutional Memory Front And Center With Reporting

September 17, 2019


It seems that Cokie Roberts has always been a part of my life.  Always a journalist and author who contributed to the national discussion about the times we live, while adding context with the lessons from the past.  Her institutional memory was such that she was a joy to listen to as she weaved the present with the past.

Today it was announced that Cokie Roberts, the daughter of politicians who grew up to cover the family business in Washington for ABC News and NPR over several decades, died Tuesday in Washington of complications from breast cancer. She was 75.  

Her life story is known to most people who follow news and media.  Her dad was Hale Boggs, a former House majority leader from Louisiana, and mom was Lindy Boggs, who succeeded her husband in Congress. She worked in radio and at CBS News and PBS before joining ABC News in 1988.  In addition, she was a congressional reporter and analyst who co-anchored the Sunday political show ‘‘This Week’’ with Sam Donaldson from 1996 to 2002.

Roberts, who was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002, kept working nearly to the end. She appeared on ‘‘This Week’’ in August, drawing enough concern about her evident weight loss that she released a statement saying ‘‘I am doing fine’’ and was looking forward to covering next year’s election.

It was most obvious from the public offerings that she never became cynical or lost her love for politics.  From the rich tapestry of a family steeped in politics, I suspest there never was a fear about that happening.   All the same, it was wonderful how she made politics always seem like a continuous journey we can watch unfold, but also when times call for action, take time to shout out a warning.

As she did in 2016 when writing a column calling on ‘‘the rational wing’’ of the Republican party to reject Donald Trump as their presidential candidate.  She did so using that long arm of history as her guide, and also a moral compass about the needs of the nation.

Her interest in history and understanding of it allowed her to write several books about the role of women in our nation.  Founding Mothers is simply an essential read if one wishes to have any grasp of the power and necessity of Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, Dolly Madison, and Esther Reed.  I would highly recommend the read.

We have lost a mighty fine reporter and a seasoned voice in our nation with her death.  But we can honestly say it was so much fun to have had her as a part of the journalism profession, doing the work that needs to be done in a republic.

Godspeed, Cokie.

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