During her 40 years as a working journalist, Cokie Roberts has interviewed countless congressmembers and politicians, fostering relationships that have made her a legend in journalism.
She faced a more unusual subject Tuesday evening – her husband.
Cokie interviewed husband and School of Media and Public Affairs professor Steve Roberts to discuss his new book, “From Every End on This Earth.” SMPA Director Frank Sesno kicked off the discussion by introducing the couple and the book, which was dedicated to the students of GW.
“He is an astounding asset to this University and I am the director of SMPA mostly because he convinced me to come. He writes this book about doers, makers and risk takers. It is filled with all kinds of fascinating adventures,” Sesno said.
Sesno presented Cokie as “the interrogator and the chief,” a title that caused both the audience and journalist to laugh. She began by asking Steve why he chose to dedicate the novel to his GW students.
Steve said he enjoys “seeing the spirit of his students” and getting them excited about their families. He encourages all his students to write about their history and appreciate the fact that “grandma will never say ‘no comment.’ “
Cokie asked Steve a variety of questions about the book, allowing Steve to discuss his childhood in Russia, his work overseas and how his past became the basis for his novel.
“When I was based in Greece, I was able to see from the point of view of countries sending people. It enriched my understanding of immigration,” Steve said. “Seeing families whose children had left for the U.S. reminded me that today families were living like the old stories. It is happening in all countries and there are so many more stories.”
During the discussion, Cokie asked Steve to talk about Alice, a young child soldier in Rwanda whose story Steve tells in “From Every End of the Earth.” Cokie said she had never asked Steve about her before.
Steve said Alice, after narrowly escaping war, received a scholarship to study in the U.S., eventually earning enough money to support 10 survivors of the genocide.
“The line between survival is so thin,” Steve said. “There are so many places in the world where peoples’ lives hang. Alice did so much for her people. One thing that makes immigrants special is their loyalty to their communities.”
Steve told another story from the novel about the family of a former GW student. He explained how Nick Stern – the former student’s father – had grown up in an apartment that was smaller than his wife’s current closet.
“That’s worse than Thurston,” Steve joked.
Steve ended the interview explaining his reason behind writing the book.
“The organized supporters of immigration haven’t told these stories well, that’s kind of why I wanted to write the book. I wanted to write about 12 families that have contributed and not just taken something away,” he said.
Second-year medical student Shelly Bhowmik commended the event’s effect on the audience.
“Listening to the different stories made me think about my own situation. Graduate school is very hard, and hearing about those families’ experiences put what I do in perspective,” she said.