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World traveler and author Rick Steves sees himself as a modern-day court jester
Rick Steves compares himself to a medieval jester, only in modern times.
It's a serious role for Steves, who is host of a popular public television show on European travel and a public radio program, a syndicated columnist and author of more than 50 travel books and guidebooks.
“The king gave the jester room and board so he could go out to be annoying and find the truth. The king needed the truth,” Steves said in a phone interview with The Oklahoman. “As a travel host and traveler, I can learn the truth and tell the people what they do not know. You cannot let the evening news shape your world view. I can be that jester.”
Steves will bring his act to Oklahoma Christian University on Saturday as part of a 15-state, 20-day speaking tour. He will speak on “Cultivating a Global Perspective Through Travel,” one of his most passionate topics.
“There's a lot of fear these days. It's tough to broaden your perspective by staying home,” he said. “Fear is for people who don't get out very much. Smart people do.”
Rick Steves the jester, the warm and entertaining TV show host who traipses through Europe nearly a third of the year, has also become Rick Steves the industry who shows a much deeper side and who seems unafraid to speak out on issues. His company, “Europe Through the Back Door,” in his hometown of Edmonds, Wash., employs 80 people, and Steves thinks it may be the city's largest employer. He also writes and expresses his views on drug and prison reform, civil liberties, affordable housing, possible American intervention in countries such as Iran, support for public television and other issues. He's also an advisory board member of NORML, the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
“I'm not soft or hard on drugs, just smart on drugs,” Steves said. “I'm a Christian, a leader in my Lutheran church, so I don't see my views as being a contradiction at all. It's nice to live in a democracy where we can have these discussions.”
His passion also goes toward his own community where he recently pledged $1 million to the arts, according to The Herald in Everett, Wash., and provided the local YWCA with a 24-unit apartment building for homeless mothers.
Mendy Kooi, Oklahoma Christian's Study Abroad coordinator, said she has received some concerns about what Steves might say and has discussed with him that he is coming to a “very conservative state.” However, she hopes he might address a few issues, too.
“At times, we may not agree with everything that he pushes, but we should make sure our eyes are open and hearts are open to listening to all sides of the issues and listening to all perspectives,” said Kooi, who added that students then are able to form their own opinions based on their beliefs.
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IF YOU GO
Rick Steves at OC
Tickets: Although tickets are expected to be sold out to the event at Oklahoma Christian University, OETA will be offering up to 200 tickets to those who participate in his pledge drive today.
• Visit to Oklahoma: www.oc.edu/ricksteves
• “U.S.A. ROAD TRIP”: ricksteves.com/news/
• Sponsors: The Oklahoman, OETA and KOSU.