Ari Shapiro | University of Portland

Ari Shapiro

When journalists-in-training ask Ari Shapiro—co-host of NPR’s daily news program All Things Considered—to name the most important trait for a successful career in the field, his answer is invariably “curiosity.” This quality has always helped him stay attentive, follow a story, ask a question, and try to understand a different point of view. In his present work as well as his many previous roles with NPR—as White House Correspondent, Justice Correspondent, and the London-based International Correspondent—his reporting has taken him all over the world to speak directly to those in power and those without. He has covered wars in Iraq, Israel, and Ukraine and the devastating aftermath of the Pulse nightclub mass shooting in Florida. “Friends ask me all the time how I stay optimistic in the face of the hard stories I hear,” he says. “I often talk to people on the worst day of their lives, a school shooting, a refugee crisis. The more I meet people I think, How could I allow myself to slip into despair when people are fighting so hard? It would be an insult to them if I were to allow myself to sink into pessimism.” In his new memoir, The Best Strangers in the World: Stories from a Life Spent Listening, published this spring, he shares stories of many people who have exhibited a kind of defiant joy in the face of hardship: a Zimbabwean activist who organized a community flower-planting event to celebrate renewed citizen agency after the end of a dictatorship, a man who pursued a career in interior design after experiencing a period of houselessness. One path to joy for Shapiro himself is music and live performance. He has been a singer for Pink Martini since 2009. He also performs Och & Oy, a cabaret show with Tony Award winner Alan Cumming. He is everinterested in the connections that grow out of stories and music—whether that’s through an intimate radio conversation on air or through a song he learns to perform in Arabic with a Jordanian-collaborator, who makes a point to introduce Ari Shapiro as his Jewish friend during performances in the Middle East. Shapiro grew up in the Portland area, and his mother is a former communication studies professor here at University of Portland. He now lives in Washington, DC, with his husband, Mike Gottlieb.