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Roberts promotes conscience and courage in public life


Cokie Roberts addressed the CSB/SJU community Wednesday night for the seventh annual Eugene J. McCarthy lecture | Evan Gruenes

The crowds overflowed Wednesday night as one of America’s leading political commentators and journalists spoke to the CSB/SJU community.

ABC News broadcaster and NPR contributor Cokie Roberts delivered the seventh installment of the Eugene J. McCarthy Center lecture series at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Stephen B. Humphrey Theater. Roberts’ lecture was entitled “Conscience and Courage in Public Life.”

Upon graduating from Wellesley College in Mass., Roberts went on to become a nationally-known journalist and commentator. She co-anchored ABC’s “This Week” with Sam Donaldson from 1996-2002. She has reported for World News Tonight, other ABC shows and served as a correspondent for CBS.

In addition to television broadcasting, Roberts is a political contributor to NPR, where she was the congressional correspondent for more than 10 years. Roberts and her husband publish a weekly column for newspapers around the nation.

Roberts has also been heavily involved in civic engagement, an area of importance for the McCarthy Center at SJU. She has served on the board of the Kaiser Family foundation and on the President’s Council on Service and Civic Participation under George W. Bush.

Roberts focused on the need for progression in society and specifically on the role that women and minorities can take. Roberts described her beliefs on the roles of religious leaders in society.

Nuns are “historically more involved as citizens than any of us realized,” Roberts said.

She shared a special connection with the community of CSB, attending an all-female liberal arts college herself.

“The nuns don’t give up,” Roberts said in reference to a long history of religious women taking positions of leadership.

Roberts went on to say the role of religious women in society has not only been a gift to the church, but also the country.

She mentioned the yearlong centennial celebrations at CSB, and encouraged the Bennies in the audience to “be the agents of change in society,” and to “give voice to the powerless.”

“We need you to do that kind of work as a public servant,” Roberts said.

Roberts’s education at an entirely female institution hit home for some CSB students.

“I think it’s fantastic,” sophomore Diana Elhard said. “Being a Bennie, it’s important to realize that in (Roberts’) first months after college on the job market, it was legal for people to say ‘I am sorry we don’t let women do that job,’ and that was impressive being that was her first experience in the job world, and it’s important because that wasn’t that long ago.”

Roberts also spoke about the world of changing journalism and the role that younger generations play in new media, making references to Twitter.

“Media plays a very important part in how people view politics and for that reason Cokie Roberts is very influential. She uses media to bring politics to everyone,” SJU Sophomore Edwin Torres said. “She starts debates and talks about how we can bring Congress together and not be so polarized.”

Roberts stressed the importance of looking back at the history of the country and the institutions of CSB/SJU, and stressed the importance of continuing forward with the work that has already been done in the world of civil and social rights.

We need to have “the conscience and courage to go into public life and make a difference,” Roberts said.