In 1973, the 37-year-old Diane began her radio career as a volunteer producer at WAMU 88.5 FM, with no prior experience. As the story goes, her first day on the job as a volunteer, Diane Rehm was asked to assist the station manager in the studio when Home Show host Irma Aandahl called in sick. Ten months later, Aandahl hired Diane as an assistant producer.
She became host of WAMU's Kaleidoscope in 1979, and hosted her first session of "open phones" when one of her guests failed to show up. Her question -- "Tell me what you do?" -- generated a tremendous response. Shortly thereafter, in 1984, the show got a new name: The Diane Rehm Show. It soon gained a reputation as one of the country's leading regional radio shows, and started attracting authors and celebrities visiting Washington on publicity tours.
When satellite distribution made it possible to take the show to a national audience, Diane raised the money to pay for the satellite time, and in 1995, the show became part of National Public Radio’s (NPR) "Talk Track." Listeners across the country joined the audience. Three years later, Washingtonian Magazine named her "Washingtonian of the Year."
In 1998, her career nearly came to a halt because of a mysterious speech problem. She took a leave of absence from the show and saw specialist after specialist until, finally, she was diagnosed and treated for spasmodic dysphonia, a neurological disorder. Not one to be defeated, she returned to the show and made a point of bringing attention to the condition. In 2000, she interviewed President Bill Clinton and became the first radio talk show host to interview a sitting President in the Oval Office.
Today, The Diane Rehm Show is distributed nationally and internationally by NPR and NPR Worldwide, and can be heard online (both live and archived audio streams are available) and on Sirius satellite radio. Diane's weekly U.S. audience is estimated at 2.2 million and growing. In 2007 and 2008, the show was named among the top ten most powerful program in public radio based on its ability to draw listeners like a magnet to public radio stations and away from their competitors. It is the only live call-in talk show in the Top 10 list.
Diane has received many personal honors over the years, including being named a Paul H. Nitze Senior Fellow at St. Mary's College of Maryland and becoming an inductee into the Class of 2004 Hall of Fame by the Washington, D.C., Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. She was also honored as a fellow by the Society of Professional Journalists, the highest honor the society bestows on a journalist.
In 2006, Diane became the inaugural recipient of the Urbino Press Award, headquartered in Urbino, Italy, which recognized her "long and prestigious career in journalism and…special focus on the problems of human frailty." Also in 2006, she was named by Washingtonian magazine as one of Washington's "100 Most Powerful Women." In 2007, Washingtonian named Diane one of the "150 Most Influential People in Washington." In 2008, the University Club of Washington, D.C., honored her with "The Distinguished Washingtonian Award in Literature and the Arts." She has been awarded honorary degrees from the Virginia Theological Seminary, Washington College, and McDaniel College.
Diane became a best-selling memoirist with the publication of Finding My Voice (Knopf 1999), and she followed that with a compelling, deeply personal book about marriage, Toward Commitment (Knopf 2002), co-written with her husband, John Rehm.
Diane's keen curiosity means that her topics range from Iraq and the U.S. economy to the art of landscape design and James Joyce's Ulysses. Her guests have included former presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter, Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, V.S. Naipaul, Toni Morrison, Annie Leibovitz, George Soros and Ted Koppel. It is her touch with callers and less well-known guests, however, that has endeared her to her listeners. As Diane says, "It's crucial we hear not only the voices of policymakers and experts, but that everyone has a chance to offer their opinions and ask questions."
Diane's loyal connection to WAMU 88.5 and American University was recognized in spring 2007 when she was invited to receive an honorary degree and deliver the College of Arts and Sciences commencement address. Diane told the graduates, "I feel fortunate to have spent so many years in broadcasting under the aegis of this fine University. Our goals have been one and the same: to expand horizons, and to promote a deeper understanding of the world around us."