tv Maria Hinojosa One-on- One PBS March 3, 2013 8:30am-9:00am PST
>> hinojosa: coming up on one on one: national public radio host diane rehm talks about growing up arab-american, her battle with spasmodic dysphonia, and the importance of finding her voice. >> i think there are those who say, "you go, girl. you hang in there and you keep doing it because you represent what all of us are."
>> hinojosa: diane rehm, it is such an honor to have you on our show. >> and a real pleasure for me to be here. >> hinojosa: you have a way of conducting your interviews that is just so intimate, so special. people probably hear you on national public radio, on your talk show, across the country. and u've written a couple of books now, several books, three books. >> three books. >> hinojosa: finding my voice, which i just love as a title, is your story of kind of how you ended up where you are now. >> it's a story of how i began as the child of immigrants who believed that young children should be seen and not heard, who should never ask, "why?" so the fact that i am doing the daily interviews, maria, asking anybody and everybody...
>> hinojosa: anything? >> anything, and why, is for me the greatest pleasure and freedom in the world. >> hinojosa: and let's just start off at the top, because there might be some people who have heard you on the air, and they may say, "i know diane rehm, but i'm not sure why sometimes she sounds a little bit different or a little bit halting with her voice." >> or why she sounds as though she's 105. >> hinojosa: "and why is she on the air sounding like this?" >> "and why is she on the air?" i began my career as a volunteer at wamu back in 1973. by 1979, i had begun hosting the daily morning show. by 1998, i had begun to develop atirstmy voiceegan to
wobble, so i went to doctor after doctor, trying to find out, "why the wobble?" at first. >> hinojosa: did you... was there a part of you that was like, "oh, this is just nerves. it's all in my head"? >> yeah, absolutely. >> hinojosa: "the wobbling is just because i get nervous because i'm a woman and i always am doubting myself and questioning whether or not i can do this"? >> but there was part of me that knew something was wrong. so i went to doctor after doctor, who proceeded to put tube after tube down my throat, and then who ended up saying exactly as you've just said, "it's all in your head." >> hinojosa: oh, my god. >> "it's all in your head, nothing to be done." until february 1998. maria, i don't want to frighten you or your viewers, but this is
how i sounded: (voice straining): i could barely get a word out. >> hinojosa: oh, my god. >> and on that last day in february 1998, i did the show and then i had to go downtown to moderate a program at the four seasons. i raced back to the office and to my boss, my manager, and i said, "i'm out of here." and he said, "what do you mean you're out of here?" and i said, "i've got to find out what is the matter with my voice." and he said, "when will you be back? fundraiser is next week." >> hinojosa: (laughs) "this is public radio, we need you around for the fundraiser." >> exactly. so i said, "i have no idea." i sat at home for four months,
not speaking to a soul except my husband, not answering a phone, not going to a drugstore for a prescription because i'd have to say my own name. it was terrifying. until one day, my internist called my husband and said, "well, you have to take her to johns hopkins. we need to find out if she's got throat cancer someone's missed, parkinson's, als." in one hour at johns hopkins, they diagnosed me with spasmodic dysphonia, which is... >> hinojosa: when you heard... when they finally said, "oh, we actually have a diagnosis," was that liberating? was it like, "oh, my god"? or was it absolutely terrifying?
>> i had already suspected it. i had begun doing my own research. and it seemed to me that what was happening to me matched this kind of problem, which begins in the basal ganglia of the brain, hits wen 50 and over-- which is right where i was, 50 and over-- causes the vocal cords to clench inappropriately. there is no known cause, no cure. the only treatment at the time: injections of botox botulinum toxin directly into the vocal cords, which i had every four months from 1998 until last september.
and maria, i am so glad to tell you that i have begun working via skype with a voice coach in los angeles. >> hinojosa: wow. and it's making a big difference for you? >> it's making a huge difference, and i haven't had a botox injection for awhile. >> hinojosa: wow, congratulations. >> thank you. >> hinojosa: so, what... you know, one of the things, dne, that actually, in preparing for this interview, i've spoken to other people who listen to your show, and you have so... you have such a loyal fan base, and i think, as you and i were speaking, it's because you're so intimate, you're so honest, you're so authentic, you're so real, you're so respectful. >> thank you. >> hinojosa: and there are other people who say, "you know what? i love diane, but i cannot listen. it is too difficult." and what i find interesting is when people say, "the fact that diane has..." and i don't know how you want to call it, but "a disability, and that she's on
thair and i have to listen to it makes me realize that i am vulnerable, too. anything could happen to me, too. there but for the grace of god go i. it could be me." and the fact that you're there and still doing it is hugely important, but then at the same time, kind of scary for people. >> and the fact that npr, that sirius satellite, that armed forces radio network have continued carry me and to expand coverage all over the world says to me that... and i totally understand the vulnerability that my voice makes people feel. i understand that, but at the same time, i think there are
those who say, "you go, girl. you hang in there and you keep doing it, because you represent what all of us are," which is human. with frailty, with disability, with problems. with the reality that none of us on-screen or behind the microphone is perfect. >> hinojosa: there is that image though, you know. if you're on-camera or behind a microphone, somehow it's like, "oh, it's all perfect for you." "it's all in your... you're fine, you're invincible!" >> "she has no problems." >> hinojosa: "no problems whatsoever." >> "she is the height of perfection, she makes all the money in the world." >> hinojosa: yeah, in public media. >> yeah, exactly. "and she can choose her clothes." you know, it's fiction. and that is...
>> hinojosa: though you do look fabulous, wonderful. >> thank you. >> hinojosa: the clothes are fabulous, so, you know? >> but i choose carefully. i am a person who loves clothes more than food, so therefore i choose very carefully at i eat and what i choose in the way of clothing. >> hinojosa: diane, there is something that... i mean, again, you are a hero to so many women because, you know, you didn't go to college, you didn't have a kind of academic professional upbringing, and yet, 37 years old, at a time when other people might be saying, you know, "what are you doing starting a new job?" that's exactly when your career basically takes off. where did you find it in yourself to say, "i'm going to be in washington, d.c., this powerful city where everybody is educated from harvard and yale and this and that, and i'm going to do a talk show, i'm going to take..." where did you find that kind of "oomph" to do that? >> remember: i began as a
volunteer. >> hinojosa: and everyone should become a volunteer in public radio? >> oh, i think it's a wonderful apprenticeship, and my mentor was my boss, but the first day i got there, to the studio as a volunteer, susan harmon, the manager, was there at the door, and she said, "oh, you must be diane rehm, the new volunteer." and i said, "yes." and she said, "well, i'm sorry to tell you, the host is out sick." >> hinojosa: (laughs) >> and so she said, "so i, susan harmon, am going into the studio, and i want you to come with me." i was on the air the first day. >> hinojosa: oh, the good old days of public television... public radio, public television. >> totally. but i did not think the way you
are talking about it. i only thought, "here i am at this academic institution, which was the american university, and thinking, "what am i doing here? what am i doing here? i don't have a college education. they're going to find me out. they're going to say, 'she doesn't belong here.'" hinojosa:she'not one of us." >> so i worked harder than any human being should. but that's what we do in order to make up for when we don't believe in our own ability. we just keep working and working and working and working. >> hinojosa: so i've talked about the fact that you are very revealing with your life, and i'm hoping that, you know, people will be inspired to read
arso realing.work because you but of course, the question that i have, and this is coming from someone who also wrote a memoir, who was quite revealing, is: why? why do you want other people to know? and i do want to talk about what your childhood was like, because you were a little girl who had to suffer through being silent, being silenced, being punished physically a lot. but the thing that struck my heart was your relationship with your mom and feeling like sometimes your mom didn't love you. and so i'm like, "why? there's a reason why diane wants us to know this." >> because in all of our lives, there is something that drives us, and we don't know what that driving force is.
i think in my life it was, for many years, because my mother died when i was 19 and my father died just 11 months later. i had been married just before she died, and married because she was dying, to an arab. i am a first-generation arab in this country. she wanted to see me married to an arab. i married an arab and two months after i was married, she died. >> hinojosa: your mom... you know, and i guess you want other young women to say, "look, even if your mom doesn't show you
love and criticizes you and maybe turns away..." what, "plod forward"? "it's okay"? "there will be a hole in your heart but, you know, it will make you stronger"? you know, the fact that you talk about having the arab immigrant roots, that there is a real strong sense of patriarchy and men having power, i think... i'm like, do you want young immigrant women to be reading this and saying, "wow, i never thought diane rehm was a daughter of arab immigrants, but i'm going to learn from her"? >> i think that writing finding my voice, people have asked me, "was it catharsis?" and my response is, no, it was revelation. it was revealing to myself who i
was, where i came from, what influenced me growing up. and the extraordinary part was that finishing that book, maria, i began to realize how much courage my mother had had, how she had left her entire family behind, whereas my father came to this country surrounded by sisters and brothers. >> hinojosa: so it's like your mom was maybe even a little angry at even being here, having to do this. >> the flipside of anger is depression, and i think both were at work in her. and there's one other factor,
which i didn't start thinking about until after i finished the book, which was, ours was the only family of all his sisters and brothers without a boy. and i was the younger girl out of two girls. >> hinojosa: so they were all expecting... >> who knows? she would never talk about any of that. >> hinojosa: because you couldn't ask why. >> couldn't ask why. >> hinojosa: that dynamic that was set up as the daughter of immigrants, you know, this family dynamic, made you... and you talk about this, again, in a very, you know, intimate and revealing fashion, which is you talked a lot about never feeling good enough. >> never. >> hinojosa: and you know, how many women do you run into who are just like, "oh, no, no, i could never do that, i was never smart enough," you know, "oh, my god, i've been so afraid." but why, again, why do you want
other women-- i think you have a real solid following in terms of women and certainly men-- but you want women to kind of look at that, this whole notion of never feeling good enough, always feeling like you're performing and someone's about to find out the truth that you don't really know anything about what's going on. >> i can't tell you how many women and men have come up to me and said, "you've written my life story." >> hinojosa: all this insecurity going on. >> exactly. there's one other factor: i am 74 years old, and the fact that women begin hiding that age factor-- from the time they are 25 on, they start shaving that age factor.
and think about the number of women, especially, who are changing their faces for youth's sake. and i have always said to my children, because my mother had died at 49, when she was beautiful, "i want my children to see me grow old." so i have never touched my face. i have always talked about my age and believe that talking about our age is a freeing factor. and the fact that we pretend that we are younger than we are is giving in to that male patriarchy. >> hinojosa: which means, basically, that we don't
recognize the quality of the life that we have led, right? >> the value of the experience, the weight of understanding. >> hinojosa: the maturity. >> the maturity. >> hinojosa: i mean, getting older... that is the one pretty amazing thing about getting older is that you do, in fact, fi your voice, and you do, in fact, become a lot less fearful about kind of owning your voice. so before we go, because your two other books are about two other beings that are important in your life. >> ah, yes. >> hinojosa: and i love your book toward commitment. >> thank you. >> hinojosa: it's a very intimate, again, revealing story of love and staying married. you are now... how many years have you been married now? >> fifty-two. >> hinojosa: 52 years of marriage, a beautiful, beautiful thing. and about your little dog. >> oh, maxie. >> hinojosa: maxie. but we'll talk about the marriage, because what... you know, you have revealed that you guys have struggled through this. >> oh, you bet. >> hinojosa: and you love each
other. >> you bet. >> hinojosa: when you talk about the book toward commitment, in fact it is a book that you didn't write on your own. you wrote it with your husband. your husband, john, basically had to say, "okay, i'm going to dive in. you reveal things, diane, but i'm going to reveal things, too." and that... oh, my god, getting corite a book with youto about... >> you know, he was more in favor of doing it even than i. and the way we did it was really extraordinary, maria. we each wrote our own essays on, i think, 22 subjects. and then, after they were finished, we exchanged them and then went up to our farm in pennsylvania and recorded our dialogue on each of those
subjects. and then i, as a former secretary, transcribed those dialogues. we fought those same fights over again in writing the book. >> hinojosa: so do you think, in some ways, that the process of the book helped your marriage become stronger? >> it was glorious. >> hinojosa: it's almost as if you feel like you're saying to people, "you know what?" not everybody can write a book together, but the notion of reading and responding to each other's thoughts at work... >> the notion of having a dialogue about the kinds of issues we raised in the book before marriage, during marriage, ten years into marriage, 20 years into marriage... the problem is we don't talk enough before about money, about religion, about
sex, about children, all the things that become so important in marriage. >> hinojosa: so you want american couples, and, of course, those you reach around the world, to basically say, "listen, hunker down, hold on to the love, but know that the hard work of it is the essence." >> and john and i are in a new stage of that love, because john now has parkinson's disease, and he has terrible back problems. as we speak, there is a caregiver with him. he is still as lucid and as fun to be with as ever. but those of us who marry for a
second time-- as i did when i married john, since my first marriage to an arab ended-- i felt so strongly that whatever it takes, i'm going to keep this marriage going. >> hinojosa: so diane, at this point in your life, you know, you have confronted so much. so tell us where you are. are you at a place of, "you know what? new challenges, every day's a new situation and i'm just kind of going to roll with this"? or is there a part of you that's like, "you know what? maybe i need to wind down, you know, take stock." or is it just like, "hey, mid- 70s is all about the next big thing"? >> it's the latter. >> hinojosa: oh wow, okay. >> it really is. god has given me good health,
good strength. my voice is still going. i am still so interested in what's hapning in the world. and i know that i'm going to learn through what happens with john, what happens with me in the process. i have the most wonderful friends you can imagine, and that circle of friends keeps me strong. so maria, i'm not retiring, i'm not looking for a new job, i'm not backing away from the world. i'm taking each day one step at a time. >> hinojosa: well, i hope i'm