Rachel Maddow receives Steinbeck Award

Jeffrey Cianci
Spartan Daily


Rachel Maddow, host of "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC, received the John Steinbach Award on Saturday night in Morris Daily Auditorium at SJSU. Saturday, February 25. Photo by Derik Michael Irvin, staff photographer

Morris Dailey Auditorium played host for a discussion and award ceremony Saturday night with MSNBC personality Rachel Maddow.

In her discussion with KGO radio host Pat Thurston, Maddow spoke about her career in talk radio, becoming the host of her own show, as well as political issues including the Occupy movements, gay marriage and the 2012 election.

The evening was later highlighted by Maddow being awarded the John Steinbeck award, which was presented by the author’s son, Thomas Steinbeck.

Thurston and Maddow began their discussion with Maddow’s childhood in the Castro Valley, where Thurston explained that even as a high school graduate, Maddow was ruffling feathers with her progressive ideas.

According to Thurston, the speech Maddow previewed to her high school administrators was completely different from what she ended up delivering in her commencement speech.

“Mostly, the thing that was upsetting was the unknown, that I could actually do anything at that point,” Maddow told Thurston and the audience. “Castro Valley was a conservative community in transition that was very, very freaked out by the idea of sex education … and I decided to needle them a little bit.”

In her commencement address, which is now available on YouTube, Maddow told her high school class of 1990 that despite being, “in one of the most politically and culturally diverse regions in this nation, and yet our parents and our leaders cannot even say the word ‘condom.'”

Thurston transitioned from Maddow’s life in Castro Valley to her choice of becoming a radio talk show host, despite her prestigious degrees from both Stanford and Oxford.

Maddow, who received a bachelors degree from Stanford and later doctorate in political science from Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship, said those at her first job didn’t know why she wanted to be in radio.

“(My education) was not actually helpful in getting my job, it made them think I was crazy,” Maddow joked.

“‘Well then what are you doing here? Why aren’t you out being a professor?’ I said, because I really want to do talk radio.”

According to Maddow, who was an AIDS activist in her early life and wrote her dissertation on AIDS in prison, she never had any intention of starting a career in media.

“I started doing radio just as an odd job … my friends I was living with dared me to do it,” Maddow said.

On Thurston’s question of what has made Maddow successful as a radio and TV personality, Maddow explained it comes down to her detail in explaining issues, rather than being the liberal activist many of her critics paint her as.

“It could be political causes, you can be a crusader … talking about stuff, explaining the world, that’s exposition and that to me is really hard and really fun and really satisfying when you get anywhere close to good at it,” Maddow said.

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