Cokie and I essentially had the same job, although not identical titles, and we forged a strong partnership. It was possible in part because we became very good friends, as did our husbands, Steve and Fred. When Cokie and I began traveling to cover presidential campaigns, we worked it out that one of us would be on the plane and the other on the ground. I thought I had lucked out because I don’t drive and therefore had to stay on the candidate’s planes and buses. Cokie was barreling through the country in rented cars talking to voters, roaming around the fringes of political events, asking about issues. I was listening to candidates make the same speech over and over again, digging through the mush for something to report that voters might care about. We traded places from time to time, and I quickly learned what I believe Cokie had always known—that if you talk to enough people in enough places in this great country, you will never be surprised at how elections come out.
Cokie worked very hard for NPR and later for ABC, but she worked for other organizations as well. She flew all over the world, often on little planes, which terrified her, for Save the Children. She helped organizations supporting research on children’s health and on cancer, and she worked for institutions that preserved and protected our history and culture—the Library of Congress and the National Archives. She wrote books about another great interest, the contributions women have made to our country, starting with the families of the framers, the original Founding Mothers.
Cokie and I shared, along with Nina and Susan, some of the credit for building NPR from the ground up, trying to make sure that women were valued, paid and promoted as they should be. We collected some bumps and bruises along the way, but we largely succeeded. I like to think that we demonstrated that if you bring in enough good women and put them in good jobs, the organization will thrive. Cokie, with her love of politics and politicians, taught us all a great deal about how to make that happen without bloodshed—when to gather and march to the boss’ office and when to keep your head down and keep filing stories.
I have many memories of those campaigns we covered together: late nights, getting our stories written and our tape edited, and filing. We would race to see who could finish first, and then we would proof each other’s work. One night, we were flying back to Washington, and we had asked the ticket agent to give us three seats so we could have some room to work. Just when we were finally ready to send in our stories, we became aware that a child was shrieking maybe a dozen rows ahead. Suddenly, Cokie was on her feet, heading for the hysterical baby. She held out her arms, and the very young mom, with two other small kids, just handed her the baby without a word. Cokie walked up and down the aisle of the plane, bouncing the baby, until he stopped crying. We tucked him into our middle seat, and he slept all the way to Washington.
You won’t find a story like that one in the rough and ready pages of Boys on the Bus.