‘Made’ anchor asks the tough questions in Democratic debate

With election season in full swing, “NBC Nightly News” anchor and former Sacramento State student Lester Holt took center stage during a critical Democratic primary debate this past January – a highlight from a year in which the anchor’s profile reached new heights

Holt, the host of NBC Nightly News since February 2015, co-moderated the fourth Democratic debate between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley in Charleston, S.C. Holt and co-host Andrea Mitchell drew widespread praise for their tough questioning and ability to tease out differences among the candidates.

Lester Holt
NBC Nightly News anchor and former Sacramento State student Lester Holt at the 2015 California Hall of Fame induction ceremony in Sacramento. (Sacramento State/Rob Neep)

In a campaign cycle that at times can feel like more spectacle than substance, Holt, 56, plays a critical role cutting through the rhetoric as one of the most visible and trusted personalities in broadcast media. Over his 30-year career as a reporter and anchor, Holt has become a stalwart ambassador of the fourth estate and one of its marquee faces.

Holt is a graduate of Cordova High School in Rancho Cordova. The Sacramento native started at Sacramento State as a government major before leaving his junior year for a job at a San Francisco radio station, a decision that eventually would lead to him regularly broadcasting to millions. In February 2015, he stepped in as NBC’s Nightly News anchor.

Holt returned to his hometown in October 2015 to be inducted into the California Hall of Fame with the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Kristi Yamaguchi and Charles Schulz. Earlier that year, he spoke at Sacramento State’s College of Arts and Letters commencement, where President-emeritus Alexander Gonzalez awarded him the honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

Holt credited Sacramento State for exposing him to the power of journalism and the impact it has on society.

He told a packed Sleep Train Arena: “Graduates, you are sitting tonight where I never sat, and in a short few minutes, you’ll be walking in a place I never walked. I took a different path that has brought its own rewards, yet we do have something in common: Many of you will leave this institution much as I did, full of optimism with a very clear path and an idea of what you’re going to do and what you plan to make of yourself.

“And, like me, you’ll discover that life has a way of not exactly sticking to the script.”