Nina Totenberg is a total boss

nina totenberg

As a big fan of NPR, I was pretty pumped when I heard that Nina Totenberg would be speaking at Brown. All my fellow radioheads recognize that she is a big deal, up there with Ira Glass (Class of 1982, by the way), Terri Gross, and Sarah Koenig. Totenberg specializes in the Supreme Court, and with decades of experience, she is a regular contributor to NPR’s newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition. Her know-how is hard to match; she has been covering supreme court justices longer than any of the current nine have been sitting on the bench! Needless to say, there was a huge turnout when she came to Brown this past Tuesday; all kinds of people were there–undergraduates, professors, grad students, and even Providence locals.

Totenberg’s most striking feature is her voice, which is so unmistakably her own. She speaks like someone who understands their own importance, with crisp sentences and penetrating looks. Despite her intimidating demeanor, she opened with a joke about how she could not have gotten into Brown as an undergraduate. Her mother went here, though, and she explained how she always had a special spot for Brown in her heart.

Totenberg had no time for customary throat clearing, so she immediately got to the point of her speech; she understood why people had come and wanted to cut right to the meat of the lecture. First, she claimed that the folklore behind certain justices were simply myths. “They are just real people,” she said, explaining how in today’s world they’re “more accessible than ever.” (Just take a look at the Notorious RBG.) The way she spoke about each justice was riveting. Instead of being fixated on their conservative or liberal tilt, she showed listeners who they are as people.  Continue Reading