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Mother knows best: Mika, MSNBC anchors share their moms' best advice

The Know Your Value founder and MSNBC on-air family celebrates how their mothers shaped their lives through their impactful words and actions.
Willie Geist and his mother, Jody ; Mika Brzezinski and her mother, Emelie ; Symone Sanders and her mother, Terri.
Willie Geist and his mother, Jody ; Mika Brzezinski and her mother, Emelie ; Symone Sanders and her mother, Terri.Willie Geist ; Mika Brzezinski ; Madison Voelkel/Courtesy Symone Sanders

They are the women who build our character, pick us up after every fall, celebrate our victories and support us through every challenge. Our mothers take on the role of consummate caregiver and provider, yet so often they go unrecognized.

This Mother’s Day, our Know Your Value founder and the MSNBC family celebrate the seminal ways their mothers shaped their lives and share the impactful wisdom – spoken and unspoken – they’ve learned from them.

Mika Brzezinski, Know Your Value founder and co-host of “Morning Joe”

Mika Brzezinski and her mother Emilie
Mika credits her mother, artist Emilie Brzezinski, with maintaining "grace, ease and confidence" no matter what stressful circumstance are in front of her.Mika Brzezinski

“Do what’s in front of you.

My mother had an uncanny ability to focus on what was right in front of her.

Even if she was on a roll with a sculpture, in tune with her chainsaw and really feeling artistic inspiration, and that moment was interrupted — maybe I broke my arm, or my brother came home from school sick or my dad needed her to throw on a pantsuit and show up for a luncheon at the White House — she did what was in front of her without stressing about what wasn’t getting done or what was being missed.

Emilie Brzezinski
Mika, who is the primary caretaker for her mother Emilie Brzezinski, helps keep her active with bike riding, exercise and supporting her art.Mika Brzezinski

She knew there was time, and she would always come back to what she loves and what inspires her. Her ability to prioritize while running a dynamic and challenging household with many competing interests came down to doing what was in front of her with grace, ease and the confidence that everything will be OK if she keeps moving forward.

I’m just learning this now…”

Willie Geist, co-host of “Morning Joe” and NBC News’ “Sunday TODAY”

Willie Geist and his mother, Jody
"Morning Joe" co-host Willie Geist with his mother, Jody.Willie Geist

“My mother, the beautiful and wonderful and inspirational Jody Geist, is responsible for the empathy that runs through me and my family. Her lessons in humanity have been both explicit and learned by watching her example.

My mom is a lifelong social worker, first in the Chicago housing projects where she would bring me along as a young child and then for many years in Harlem, where she helped to launch an innovative school that has changed the lives of hundreds of children in New York City.

In her early 50s, my mother went back to school and earned her masters degree in Social Work from Columbia University. A lesson in commitment.

Thinking outwardly, extending help, love and charity to others, and recognizing the complicated mix of influences and forces that make people who they are, all are maternal lessons I carry with me in my life, and in my work.

I am so grateful to be Jody Geist's son. How lucky I am.”

Symone Sanders, host on MSNBC and NBC Universal's Peacock streaming network

Symone Sanders and her mother, Terri
MSNBC host Symone Sanders posing with her mother, Terri, at her recent bridal shower in 2022.Madison Voelkel / Courtesy Symone Sanders

“My mother’s name is Terri D. Sanders, but we affectionately refer to her as Madre. Over the years, Madre has given me so many nuggets of wisdom, but the best advice I’ve gotten from her is a combination of something she said and what I have seen her do.

‘Don’t wait for someone to throw a party for you Symone. You need to be ready and willing to throw a party for yourself,’ she said.

I do believe Madre meant this literally and figuratively – and she lived it. My mother has never been one to wait for someone to celebrate her or bestow accolades on her to validate her worth. She has always been a trailblazer and a way-maker and did not care if people acknowledged that. She just knew it was a fact.

From the earliest I can remember, Madre owned her business as a seamstress. When I was 16, she pivoted to event planning and became a certified balloon artist (hello Macy’s Day parade). Then one day she decided she wanted to go back to corporate America, and she did.

After that, she decided to take a number of community organizations in North Omaha, Nebraska, under her wing and give them her Midas touch: the Great Plains Black History Museum, the Omaha Economic Development Corporation and now the Omaha Star Newspaper where she works as the Publisher.

Madre never allows anyone to tell her what she is capable of and she never waits for the validation of others. No matter what my mother has done, she has achieved it with excellence, grit and grace.

I am extremely grateful for her early lessons of not seeking praise from the masses to confirm my accomplishments. She is a large part of the reason I am who I am today.”

Jon Lemire, host of MSNBC’s “Way Too Early with Jon Lemire”

"Way Too Early" host Jon Lemire poses with his mother in Massachusetts on May 5, 2022.
"Way Too Early" host Jon Lemire poses with his mother in Massachusetts on May 5, 2022.Courtesy Jon Lemire

“The most important thing my mother has taught me is more than just a wise saying, but rather a behavior, a way to live your life. More than anything, she has always showed the value in treating people with kindness. She’s always so generous with her time to help someone else, on things big or small.

No matter how busy or tired she was, she’d uncomplainingly go the extra mile for a student at school or me and my brother at home. The way she has cared for those important to her has taught me that I wanted to do the same, to take the time to be there for someone else when they need it. I can only hope I can do it half as well. Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.”

Vicky Nguyen, NBC News Senior Consumer Investigative Correspondent

Vicky Nguyen with her mother, Lien
NBC News Senior Consumer Investigative Correspondent Vicky Nguyen with her mother, Lien.Vicky Nguyen

“I wish my mom gave advice, but I realize she is a doer not a talker. The best advice she has given me is what she has shown me in the way she lives. She embodies the adage of ‘what you do matters more than what you say.’

‘Never complain, never explain.’

Daily she shows up to do the work of a loving mother (of one) and now grandmother (of three) who makes it possible for my husband and me to pursue demanding careers outside the home. She has always saved for a rainy day and even though she came to the United States as a refugee with only her clothes and $100 to her name, she and my dad managed to buy and pay off a single-family home in the 1990s when inflation was sky high!

So my mom has shown me through her actions, not so much her words, the value of working hard, always living below your means and being financially independent. I love her for all of her unspoken advice; I’ve learned so much from my mother.”

Alicia Menendez, author and MSNBC host of “American Voices with Alicia Menendez”

Alicia Menendez and her mother, Jane
The host of "American Voices with Alicia Menendez" said her mother guided her through actions more than words, encouraging her to problem solve.Alicia Menendez

“Jane, my mother, is not a big giver of advice. Wear a good bra. Read food labels. Relax. These are her most frequent edicts. It’s possible that she doesn’t give me advice because she knows I’m too stubborn to listen.

After all, she raised me and my brother to be independent problem-solvers who could figure things out on our own, in large part by watching her do the same.

Mom navigated being the first woman in her family to go to college. She learned how to work with kids in crisis with empathy and boundaries. She solo-parented most days of the week. She figured out how to become her own person again once we were gone, and how to let go of some of that freedom as my grandmother grew older and required more care.

My mom was (and is!) doting and loving, the type of mom who believes deeply in our talent and potential. But growing up, she didn’t solve all our problems. She rarely advised. Instead, she allowed us to watch her figure things out, gave us skills to do the same and guaranteed that when we could not, we would always have her love and support to buoy us through whatever life sent our way.”

Yasmin Vossoughian, MSNBC anchor and host of “Yasmin Vossoughian Reports”

Yasmin Vossoughian and family
Yasmin Vossoughian (front, second from right) poses with her mother Nasrin (front middle) and family.Yasmin Vossoughian

“I recently had a conversation with my mom about persistence. You often don’t remember the sage advice from your mother as a kid. But as an adult, at times, you have a moment to reflect.

My mom is persistent no matter what and her persistence is reflected in me today. As a mom of three with my dad working full-time, my mom would often watch us during the day and pursue her masters degree at night.

She has always been the most dedicated, reliant, loving mother who I know I can always go to, but her persistence to learn, thrive and survive through all of it continues to stick with me. I love you mom, Happy Mother’s Day.