House Speaker Nancy Pelosi nearly met her match Thursday, when she opened a weekly press conference to the group of youngsters taking part in "Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day."
Pelosi invites reporters to bring their children to her office each year and this year she spent several minutes answering questions from the floor. What the students were interested in is fascinating on its own. Apparently, the city of San Francisco is a big interest back east.
Add to that, her answers and find a little something for everyone no matter what side of the political spectrum you find yourself.
The scene started with the speaker moving away her regular podium for a real face to face. She then hunkered down and tapped into her highly honed grandmother skills.
"I believe that most of you are children of journalists who are here. Some are not. But I want you to know how much we respect what your parents do. Freedom of the press is one of the most important principles of a democracy, because they can write and tell what they see going on in the community, in government, in the economy, and in so many ways. So sometimes when your mom and dad are not home in time for dinner or can't be there for one occasion or another, know how important the work is that they are doing and how much we in Congress respect what they do," Pelosi said before taking what she called the really hard questions.
One of them caught the eye of the Website Politico who thought her answer to the first question below shows she is a good candidate for ABC's next Dancing with the Stars season.
Q: When you were a kid, did you want to be Speaker of the House? When I was your age, I wanted to be a teenager. When I was a teenager, I wanted to dance — I don't mean dance professionally, I mean just dance. Just dance. Dance with my friends, dance — I wanted to be a teenager. And when I went away to college, I just wanted to be in college. Every step of the way, I loved what I was doing. But I certainly had no interest in being Speaker of the House, and I had no interest in running for office. So what that says is, though, you never know what opportunities might be there for you. You might think, maybe I want to be a doctor or a lawyer or a veterinarian, or I want to be a scientist, or I want to be the most wonderful of all, a schoolteacher and teach children. And then somewhere along the way, another opportunity will come your way, and you have to be ready for that. You have to be ready for that. And it is — no, I had absolutely — in fact, I wasn't even that involved in politics when I was young — my family was, but I wanted to do, you know, more normal things like play with my doll or go swimming or, then when I became a teenager, be a teenager. I was a teenager in the '50s. It was a great time to be a teenager. Elvis came on the scene, Elvis Presley. He was so great, "the king." So my interest was more in Elvis than who was President of the United States. Q: Would you ever run for President since you have so much experience? No. Dare I repeat the question? Did I understand it correctly? Would I ever run for President since I have so much experience? Was that the rest of it? Says she. No. I love the job that I have. And I believe that one of the reasons that I do it with the success that I have is that my Members know that I am here for them, for the House of Representatives, and I'm not thinking of another career path for myself. But I'm very proud to be the Speaker of the House. It is a great honor, especially being the first woman.
Q: Does it bother you that so many people don't like politics? We had a lot of laughter right up front here, I want you to know. I think more people like politics than we know, but a lot of the people who don't like politics are more vocal about it. The day we passed the health care bill, my grandchildren were here. One is 3, and one is 2. And when we were walking through the halls and around, all these people were shouting at us, shouting and shouting. But my grandchildren call me Mimi, and then my daughter's name is Nancy. And these people were shouting "Nancy" this and "Nancy" that. And my grandson, who is 3, said, "Why are those people all mad at Aunt Nancy?" They did seem to be angry. But there are many people who are interested in what happens in politics and may not like one thing or another, but a lot of people want to know about it. And we want young people to take an interest and, if you don't like what is happening, to say so very clearly, but to be open to making your own suggestions. Thank you.
Q: Where do you live? Well, I live in San Francisco, California. I work in Washington, D.C. And when I work in Washington, D.C., I live in the District of Columbia. But my home is California. I was actually born in Baltimore, Maryland, which is close by here. And I feel a very special relationship there. But I hope you all come out to California. It is a very, very beautiful place. In San Francisco, we have the Golden Gate Bridge, and we have — it is a beautiful place. And I'm very proud to represent it. But that's where my home is.
Q: How did you get the job of Speaker of the House? It is a long story. Some think it began when I was a very little girl in Baltimore, Maryland, learning about politics from my mother and my father. But after I came to Congress, I never thought about being Speaker of the House. But, after a while, I did think about — I'm a Democrat, see, and I wanted the Democrats to win. So I thought I had a way for Democrats to win. And when we did, they elected me the Speaker of the House. But it wasn't what my goal was, but it just tells you, you never know when an opportunity may come along that you better be ready for. Because while you might not be thinking of one thing, some good thing might be out there for you. But being Speaker is a very big honor. It's the President of the United States, the Vice President of the United States, and then the next person in the Constitution is the Speaker of the House. And they have never had, in over 200 years of American history, a woman in any of those positions — until now, where we have a woman Speaker of the House. I have no doubt that when you grow up and are old enough to vote, so a dozen years or so, that by then there might even be — someone might become a woman President of the United States. And that would be very great, I think, for our country.
Q: Why are there so many problems with the government? I think I'm getting a tenor of the dinner table conversation at home. I guess this is not an appropriate time to talk about the previous Administration, then. Right now, we have serious challenges facing our country. We have two wars that we are engaged in, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. And we should all be very, very grateful to our soldiers and our men and women, we say, "in uniform" who help to protect, keep America safe. But we have two wars going on. We have a lot of people who have lost their jobs. We have issues that relate to the education of our children, the pollution of our air, the amount of money that we are going into debt. And we have to make some very, very difficult decisions on how we go forward. But not everybody agrees, and so what you see is that debate, which is a struggle. It has always been so in our country. When our country was founded, our first President was George Washington. He was a great soldier and a great statesman and a great President. His picture is in the Chamber of the Congress, and one day we will go down there and see it. Maybe today, who knows? When he became President — everybody wanted him to be President forever, but he said no. He said, “I'm only going to be…” He was President one term. Then the second term he said, “I'm not going to go for a third term.” Well, that's when all of the debate began. Because everybody listened to him when he was President, but when he said he wasn't going to be President anymore, then the debate began. And since that time, our country has had a very lively debate over different issues. And that is a healthy thing for our country. That is a healthy thing for our country. We have always had struggles about states' rights, about slavery, about going to war, about how to create jobs, how to not put debt on to children. And that's the nature of a democracy. Sometimes it doesn't look very neat.
Q: What advice would you give to people in my generation who want to get more involved in politics? Speaker Pelosi. Well, I'm glad that we have a positive question about politics, too. And not that I took the other one as a negative. It is a most — well, let's say first this: Have a tremendous enthusiasm for it. It is very, very exciting. Secondly, understand that — and I firmly believe this — that the increased participation of women in government and in politics is the most wholesome change that we have seen. We need women in politics. Women make a difference. They bring a special contribution to the debate. And there should be no important decisions, whether it is our national security, whether it is the economy or issues that relate to the education and health of our children, the safety of our neighborhoods, the condition of our environment, that women should not be at the table and, in fact, in the lead. So I would say, the need is there. I encourage an enthusiasm for addressing the issues of the day. And, in your own personal situation, I think what has served me well was I never had a plan to be even run for office. It wasn't even — I had five children, and, as they were growing up, the last thing in the world I wanted to do was run for office. I wanted to be with my kids. And I volunteered in politics when they were in school, but I wasn't taking any full time jobs. But, as I went along, I received recognition for my volunteerism, that I was dependable, reliable, that I was effective, that I could get a job done. And then I went on the Library Commission and I had official recognition. And I loved being on the Library Commission. That was my first official job — it wasn't a job, it was still volunteer, but an assessment. And so, what I would say is: Know if you have a passion for it, channel it into a particular issue, which might be your passion. It doesn't mean there aren't other issues, too, but demonstrate your knowledge, your long-term commitment, be recognized for that. And then when the opportunity comes, your enthusiasm, your knowledge, your commitment will be recognized, and you will attract support in a very substantial way. And nothing is more eloquent to people that you want to lead is that you are strong and committed to that leadership. I hope you will remain interested.
Q: How do you balance your work between representing San Francisco and as Speaker of the House? Well, this is a challenge every leader in Congress has because we do wear a couple of hats. My title is Representative, to represent my district; my further responsibility as Speaker of the entire House. And so I can't just come to that role and say, "This is what would be exactly how my constituents would write this bill." I have to be able to persuade many more people about a bill for them to vote for it. But my constituents give me a lot of opportunity to represent them but understand that I have a different job as Speaker of the House, certainly to bring the values of my district to the Congress, but to find solutions that respond to the needs of people across the country. It is a great honor that I have, and I'm grateful to the people of San Francisco for giving me the freedom to do this job.
Q: Do you enjoy being a female Speaker of the House of Representatives? It is fabulous. It is absolutely fabulous. I love it. And I love the response that I receive across the country where women of all ages — young women, grandmothers like me — are excited about what it means that there is a woman Speaker. But what is interesting to me is also that fathers of daughters have written to me and said, "Because you did that, now my daughter knows she, too, can be Speaker of the House or whatever she wants to be." So I not only enjoy the job, but I love the fact that it has given some confidence to other young women — well, not other young women — young women, as well as others. Now, some of us came out of the kitchen. So, in other words, I raised my family, my five children, came out of the kitchen to the Congress. So, while I was older than some young people going in, I was new to being in the workforce. And there are many women like me who've raised their families and now they know that they can do something pretty important, even though the most important job is of course raising our children. But even though they have spent those years, they can now achieve success otherwise. I don't think anything prepares you for dealing with people and being successful at it than raising a family. The discipline, the focus, the interpersonal skills, the diplomacy, the sense of organization, the joy. And, by the way, I regard my life in politics as an extension of my life as a mother, because I want to act on issues that improve the world, the future for not only my children but all of the children of the world.
Q: What kind of tough decisions do you have to make? I welcome the opportunity to make the decisions. That is my job. So I don't like to think of them that they are tough. But I do have some difficult responsibilities once the decision is made. But I don't make the decisions myself. I work with my leadership and we work with all of our Members to build what we call "consensus" as to where we would like to take the legislation. The difficult part is getting it all done. And the most difficult job I have had in this past year is to get my Members to vote for the war in Afghanistan and Iraq. We are going to be having that vote soon again. It is a very difficult vote. But to be Speaker was great when I became Speaker three years ago. To become Speaker with President Barack Obama as President of the United States was just glorious, because he has a vision for America that is so big. He has an eloquence to communicate with the American people. He thinks in a way, in a planned way. And he is a great leader. So, while I love being Speaker of the House, I love it even more with Barack Obama as President of the United States.
Thank you all very much for coming. Thanks, kids.