Review: ‘Diane Rehm in Conversation’ at The Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History

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Hosted by the Smithsonian Associates, at an event at the National Museum of Natural History, NPR host Tom Gjetlten interviewed former NPR radio host Diane Rehm about her new book, On My Own, her time at NPR and what she is doing now. The talk, entitled Diane Rehm in Conversation, had a political angle to it with her strong views on Dying with Dignity .

Diane Rehm.

Rehm came on stage with her striking gray hair puffed out, looking svelte in her red and black dress, and black heels. Her voice barely had any trace of dysphonia. She calmly, confidently, and vulnerably answered the moderator’s questions.

Rehm’s third book delves deeply into her marriage and her Parkinson ridden (he could no longer walk, feed himself nor use his limbs) husband’s choice to die as he wished. Rehm is refreshingly candid about her marriage and her husband’s death. The moderator had her read a passage from the book about her husband choosing to forgo water, food, and medicine because Maryland doesn’t allow assisted suicide. After two days of abstaining he slipped into a coma and never work up. This made me cry. Rehm made it very clear she is for Dignity with Dying and wishes Maryland would allow this.

Rehm is shockingly open about her emotionally abusive relationship with her husband. How he told her he didn’t want to be married anymore, but she fought hard to save the marriage for her children. Rehm also shared how he didn’t talk to her for one whole year. Heartbreaking!! I admire her authenticity. She explained she bravely shared this to help others going through the same thing as she has.

Diane Rehm in conversation with Tom Gjetlten. Photo by Norwood Photography.

Rehm took questions from the audience and gave impressive in-depth answers. She shared her most favorite guest was Fred Rogers. He was playing the piano and talking to her from Pittsburgh via telephone. She asked him what he does when he is sad. He replied, “I play the piano and it looks like I will be playing it all day.” She asked him why he was sad. He responded, “Because my stomach hurts.” She didn’t dare ask him why his stomach hurts, but he died a year later from stomach cancer. She believes she was the last interview he gave. After the interview he sent her a book that was titled, “You are Special.” Inside the book cover, Mr. Rogers wrote, “ You are special Diane.” Rehm kept the book by her bedside table. This heartwarming story stole the show.

Rehm enjoys the freedom of being away from her show at NPR and now sleeps in past 5am and hosts her own podcast. She says she has more freedom in what she covers. She still commands top guests and loves her new life, but it’s hard for her being a widow.

The talk was refreshing, insightful, inspiring and empowering. Rehm gives power to the voiceless with her candor, vulnerability and authenticity. I highly recommend attending events like these at the Smithsonian Associates.

The Smithsonian Associates ‘Diane Rehm: In Conversation’ was a one-time lecture on March 28, 2017, at National Museum of Natural History Baird Auditorium– 10th St & Constitution Ave, NW in Washington, DC. For tickets to future events, call (202) 633-3030, or purchase them online.

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