Throughout his career as a broadcast journalist, Mike Viqueira, an ’86 Government and Politics alum, has interviewed numerous members of Congress and covered a variety of national attention-grabbing topics like President Obama’s trip to Cuba, the Papal visit to Washington, D.C., the Affordable Care Act and the killing of Osama bin Laden. He’s served as a producer/reporter for NHK Japan Broadcasting, an NBC and MSNBC Congressional Correspondent, White House Correspondent, and as a Senior Washington Correspondent and Bureau Chief for Newsgathering for Al Jazeera America. Viqueira also wrote a book, You Didn’t Get This From Me: A Novel of Media and Politics, satirically chronicling the challenges faced by today’s journalists.
According to Viqueira, however, it all happened, “quite by accident.”
“I graduated from Maryland and instead of getting a real job I didn’t know what I wanted to be so I put on a backpack, got a Eurail pass and traveled Europe for three months,” explained Viqueira, who recently returned to MSNBC as a political commentator on a temporary basis. “I had a friend that was teaching English in Japan and I decided that that would be a great thing for me to do too.”
Viqueira spent the next 18 months in Kyoto, Japan doing just that, only to return to Washington still “without a clue” of what he wanted to do. However, things started falling into place once Viqueira caught wind that a roommate he had lived with in Japan had started working for a Japanese television network in the District.
“I was always naturally interested in politics,” Viqueira reminisced. “When I was a kid I was the only one listening to my father, grandfather, aunts and uncles arguing about politics. I thought that it was interesting- though if I had to sit there again I’d probably poke my eyes out!”
“I ended up as a 29-year-old intern at NHK,” Viqueira went on. “It took me a long and circuitous route but that’s how I wound up in politics.”
Just as his career path was an unconventional one, Viqueira didn’t have your typical college experience. Viqueira went to Montgomery College for two years before transferring to the University of Maryland, and during those last two years he commuted from his mother’s Bethesda home.
Nevertheless, Viqueira was able to make a handful of Maryland memories spending time with friends in the Easton quad, breaking up a fight (and getting punched in the face) at the Rendevous, and taking Dr. Don C. Piper’s classes.
“Back in the good old days, before that huge upper deck was built, we could go over and sit on the aluminum stands [at Byrd Beach] on a pretty day,” Viqueira recalled. “We were young and stupid enough to think we were invincible, carcinogenic UV rays be damned, and sit out there for hours soaking up the sun and checking out the girls doing the same.”
However, Viqueira said that serving as the commencement speaker for the Department of Government and Politics in the spring of 2013 “was easily the best, most favorite memory.”
Viqueira and his wife Kim live in downtown Bethesda with their three kids; Joseph, 17, Ava, 14, and Nick, 12. Now, Viqueira likes to spend his time cycling and hanging out with his family, especially by watching their basketball and field hockey games.
“The conclusion I’ve come to after 26 years of having a front row seat to American politics is that our political system is a product of genius, but it only works when people are engaged,” Viqueira noted. “One of the ironic results- or positive potential outcomes- of all this turmoil and controversy today is that people, I hope, will start to understand what is at stake. Because the election was such a surprise to many, they now realize what’s at stake and are getting engaged (or if they weren’t engaged before, re-engaged) in the political process.”