‘Living legend’ Cokie Roberts speaks at recent NJPAC event

Mark Tsyrouk

Student Voice Editor


Seven Fairleigh Dickinson students recently were given the opportunity to see journalist Cokie Roberts, as part of the 2017 New Jersey Speakers Series conducted at the New Jersey Performing Arts Center.

April Patrick and Kim Dennison, heads of the Florham Campus honors program, offered this opportunity to honors students on Nov. 30.

By 8 p.m., the students were seated in the orchestra section of Prudential Hall. WCBS news anchor Steve Scott introduced Roberts.

Scott provided an extensive background on Roberts, including her family members’ legislative careers, her 25 honorary degrees and fact that the Library of Congress named her a “living legend” in 2008.

Roberts is a political commentator for ABC News and NPR.

Roberts, upon taking the stage, first began praising Fairleigh Dickinson by reading the university’s mission statement, which she then used to transition into the polarity of U.S. politics.

“America is not at its most polarized moment,” said Roberts, comparing modern-day congressional gridlock to the Civil War and the period of legalized gun duels. “We have been through these times before.”

Roberts argued that congressional gridlock is more aligned with political loyalty than ideology. In her explanation, she mentioned Alabama judge and Republican Party candidate Roy Moore following recent allegations that he pursued underaged girls when he was in his 30s.

“I think Roy Moore is very likely to win because people are willing to look at ideology [more] than everything else,” she stated.

Roberts claimed that elements responsible for the polarization include media ethics, “permanent campaigns” and the redrawing of district lines – also known as gerrymandering.

“The politicians can pick their voters instead of voters picking their politicians,” Roberts said, in regard to computer-led redistricting.

“Democrats are all on the coast, and Republicans fill everything in between.”

Roberts concluded that a possible solution to the polarization would be to elect more women into legislative positions. However, she worried that most female candidates run as Democratic candidates.

After she finished her speech, she began to answer questions from audience members. The questions, which were read by Scott, ranged in topic from sexual harassment allegations within the news industry to the role of women in American history.

Roberts surprised the audience when she stated that she was in favor of the Electoral College and against term limits following questions of the 2016 election.

She argued that a popular vote would disadvantage racial and religious minorities. When asked if President Donald Trump would be impeached, Roberts was hesitant.

“Yes, I think he will be president for all four years and win the second term,” said Roberts. “But what really worries me is the degradation of facts.”

Questions then transitioned to North Korea, which she found to be “extremely worrisome.” Commenting about the recent Republican tax plan, Roberts used Fairleigh Dickinson University students to discuss college scholarships becoming taxable under the proposal.
The event ended around 9:30 with applause for Roberts. Students were satisfied with their experience, commenting on her comedic and intellectual discussions.

Roberts is the third speaker to participate in the 2017-2018 New Jersey Speaker Series, presented by FDU.

Four more speakers are planned during the spring semester: Robin Wright, a Middle East expert and journalist; Rick Steves, a television host and European travel guide; Paul Nicklen, a National Geographic photographer; and President Bill Clinton.

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