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tv   Oral Histories Women in Congress - Lynn Woolsey Interview  CSPAN  September 19, 2018 8:12pm-10:09pm EDT

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fast-paced, and there's releaks every two years, so a lot of information isn't written down. that's something i've we'll learned through the history we've done here. so it's just a way for people to see how unique the institution is. and also just the personal stories that the women give that make things a little easier to understand. maybe a little more interesting, and just the information you wouldn't find any place else. >> i agree on all those points. and i'd add that going into it, i thought that these people might reflect more on individual pieces of legislation. and they do through the interviews. but the scene that really emerged with a lot of these women was how important it was to grow the number of women in congress so that there was a woman's voice at every table of leadership or committees, and how important that was. and that's a striking thing that almost every one of the interviews touches on. >> thank you very much. >> thank you.
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>> now a look at one of their interviews. >> march 7th, 2015. and i'm here with the house historian. and we're in the house recording studio. we are so pleased to have joining us today former congresswoman lynn mullvey of california. thank you for coming in >> my pleasure. >> this is a part of a series of interviews we've conducted. the first women elected to congress. we have a lot of questions to ask you today. we wanted to know was when you were young, did you have any female role models? >> well, absolutely i didn't. [ laughter ] >> and i didn't ever even think about it until people started asking me, who are your role models? and i have to be -- i did not have a role model until
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my daughter became a woman. an adult woman. and she's a lot like me. only she's way involved. i watch her and i'd go oh! i could be like that. i could be less anxious, less edgy. she really is my role model. >> when you were growing up, what were the expectations about what you would be as a woman? career-wise or as you matured in your life. >> well, okay. remember i'm 78 years old. so i was -- i grew up in the '50s. good housekeeping magazine was my bible. for a young mother. and it was important that i be popular, that i be pretty, that i dressed well. and there were no expectations for what kind of a career. i on my own knew i was
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going to go to college. and did with support from my family, but it wasn't because they thought, well, of course she goes to college. so i'm kind of -- that way. but not too different from most women in the '50s. we grew up to be wives and mothers. >> and how did you first become interested in politics? >> well, i've always been an activist of sorts. if i'm interested in something i get involved in it. and i always have for some reason. and i was laenthed in -- elected in the 9th grade to be the vice president of my junior high school girls' club. but to me that wasn't politics. it was just because i was interested in what was happening with the big
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school. and if i'm part of something, i'm a good team player. but if the leadership isn't going right, eventually i become the leader. >> did you have an early mentor or someone that might have inspired you to pursue a political career? >> no. i didn't. when i was -- well, i was well into my 40s when i ran for city council. and then one of the city council members adopted me. and he was a great help. and he became a terrific mentor. but i was already into it. and he just helped make it happen. >> you were on the petaluma city council for a number of years in the 1980s. what from that experience helped you when
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you made the move to congress? what did you find most youthful from that city council experience? >> well, first of all it was a huge step from city council for a city of machine 50,000 people to -- city of 50,000 people to the congress. but i learned that every vote is not the end of your career. and it all measures out in the long-run. and it's what people can trust in you and believe in you and that you are who you say you are. and that shows when you're making decisions. >> what prompted you to run for congress in 1992? >> well, barbara boxer announced that she was -- she called a bunch of democrats to her home that were activists. and she said i'm running, i'm going to run for senate. and she
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had been our congresswoman for ten years, and i knew that that was the only chance i'd ever have because it was an open seat. i would never have run against her. it would have stupid. [ laughter ] >> so i waited for our -- the redistricting to come out. that was -- and where i lived, i lived in petaluma, northern california. north of san francisco. my town was very northern edge of barbara boxer's district. and she had san francisco, some of san francisco, and she had vallejo. and there was no way you could live in petaluma and run in san francisco. they'd have lost. like huh? so i had to wait and see what happened. and for some reason, nobody knew i was running so it had nothing to do with that, my house was the very center of that district.
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the new district. no san francisco, no vallejo, all of marin county, and most of the -- sonoma county, which was the largest population. and that's where i lived. things happen for a reason. timing is everything. and it was my time. >> you mentioned hearing from congresswoman boxer that she was gonna run for the season. had you known her in that decade prior while she was serving in the house? >> i knew her because i was a follower. and shame on me for saying that i didn't have anybody that i looked up to. i really looked up to barbara. but no, she wasn't a personal mentor or anything like that. but i so respected and admired that she could stand for her beliefs and she was so fiery. she was great. >> you decided to run for her
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seat. did she offer you any advice? >> no. she actually really wanted somebody else. and there were nine people in the primary. and there were two women. the other woman was a bit of a plant. because there was one outside they're came into town. sarnlt johnson's son -- se johnson's came to petaluma to run for barbara's seat. and they thought, well, we can't just have one woman in the race because it was the year of the woman. so i had to figure out how am i different from all these people? beside being a
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woman. that's obvious. you're a woman. so i -- it was just sitting and thinking, why am i so different from all these people who were up here having all these debates? we have had hundreds of them. and i went ding! yeah, welfare with your family, none of these people have experienced anything like this. you know? you need to talk about it. and tell what that experience meant! and what you learned from it. and that identified me as somebodying who had walked the talk. and running in one of the wealthiest counties in the country! marin county. but they really
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respected that i struggled and prevailed and knew what i was talking about. >> was there one turning point, and perhaps that was that people could relate to you on, or a specific memory, something that stands out in your mind from that first campaign? >> well, it was the year of the woman. lucky me. [ laughter ] >> really. and my base support came from the women's movement in sonoma county. i had been the chair of the commission on the status of women when it was first formed. and i went to my friends that i served with in the '70s on the commission. i said okay, here's what i'm thinking of doing. they went yeah, well, we always get behind the people we want. nobody ever wins but we'll do this. and
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those women got busy! and i had a terrific campaign. and when i won, it was like what! we never win! [ laughter ] >> and i won the primary. one person dropped out. so i won 8% above the next person, and that's pretty good. so we did a good job but they did and they started saying what do you need another tape, and they put tape over for wo. so they had all the right energy and the grassroots in these -- we really had a good campaign. i had no money. i got no
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support from dc. except for "now." they were the only national group that endorsed me. but i was so naive, that didn't matter. [ laughter ] >> i knew so little about here. after i've lived here for a while, it was like wow, you didn't know anything, how did you get here? [ laughter ] >> you mentioned the year of the woman. in your opinion now looking back on that, why was 1992 the year of the woman? why was there such a surge in women elected to congress that year? >> well, the supreme court justices -- gosh, i can't remember. anita hill? okay. that just that -- made women in this country furious. and it was the year of the woman.
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and the next election, four years later, all the women that had been elected went to dinner with every thursday night, we had the most fun. there was only two of us left. women lost. they won, and four years later they lost. so it was a short year -- short season for women. >> when you were campaigning would you have women come up and talk to you about run something >> they liked that i made a difference because i was a woman. in the same way i had men not like me because i was a woman. but i was an executive, i was the only woman executive in the group of -- at a start-up company. and i i've never been a
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threat to men other than i always told them when they're being sexist or inappropriate. you know, that they have been chauvinistic. so i helped in that regard. taught a lot of men how to grow up that way. >> and you said about campaign materials, hi they chose bumpers and bumper stickers. >> well, i had a graphic artist friend who made my first bumper sticker when i ran for city council. and he designed it. and it stuck. it was just my name. but with the way he did it, it worked. and it was red, white,
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and blue, and it was good. and that's why i used forever. >> and later on, it was in times of reprints and everything. and he -- you know, that was the unique part. that he was an artist. and he had the oo's, he had them just a certain space. so i'd have to insist that my staff would keep that all wait through. but it meant something manage to me that it was his art and it was good. >> when you're on the campaign trail, the first campaign you were on, was that something you enjoyed doing? >> ooh, nobody can enjoy
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campaigning. it's hard. it is really hard. important to me was -- personal to me was i didn't realize this, but i was absolutely not a public speaker. i had done all these things all these years. got things done. but i wasn't out there on the platform talking to people and convincing people. and it scared me to death. and people would just say that's not lynn! that's not the person we know. who is that person on the platform? and i was just scared out of my wits. and so i had to say -- no, so this nice lesbian couple said we need to get into your campaign. or we can send you to
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a person we want you to meet to talk about your fears on the stage. i said that would be great. and i said oh, god, i'm gonna have to have speech coaching and stuff. but i needed it. well, this woman didn't do that. she just took me and said tell me what happened to you when you were a kid that scared you to death. we talked about it. and she said okay, here's the deal. when you start getting up on that stage, you're gonna say to that little 4-year-old, hey, i'm in charge. don't worry. i know what i'm talking about. you don't have to carry the burden at four 4 years old. and it worked. so my heart was pounding and i'd go hey, it's okay.
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the little girl in me. and that girl got to grow up. so what a gift that was! wasn't that a gift! and it was women to another woman. and women willing to say -- she's no good up there. you know? [ laughter ] >> she can't win if she's gonna be scared to death. and willing to say it! and help me. >> yeah. >> the first campaign must have been difficult for you too because your opponent developed cancer. and had to quit campaigning. >> right. >> before the election. what was that like for you? >> well, that was the republican. once we got through the >> primary, it was obvious that i was up against a really popular republican. and he was a good guy. and he's the one that once i started talking about my welfare experience pulled me aside, he'd come to our debates.
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he said i want you to know you found the perfect thing to be talking about. and you're really doing it well. that's a nice guy. he did, he had brain cancer. he should have pulled out of the race. they should have run somebody else. but he didn't. and -- but his campaign manager was really nasty. so i didn't have to worry about not being nice to bill because his campaign manager was so awful to me. he'd say things in the newspaper about bill with no brains has twice the brains as her. can you imagine being that stupid? but they thought they'd -- the republicans thought they'd run him, and he'd win on name recognition. and they'd
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have a special election. but it didn't work. so timing is everything. >> before we move on, for people that aren't familiar with northern california, can you just explain a little more about the district demographically and just a description of it as well? >> sure. the 6th congressional district started halfway across the golden gate bridge, coming north from san francisco, and it's two full counties of the pacific ocean on the west coast, both counties. and the san francisco bay has always been part of it. and up to sonoma county where it's the wine country, and ag. and cows and chickens and sheep.
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it's really a beautiful district. a lot of high -tech. in the appropriate places, lots of green spaces. and marin county is one of the wealthiest districts in the country. and marin and sonoma are equally progressive. they're very progressive. so the most liberal in many years when they do those comparisons. it was -- if i didn't, i would have been in trouble. i didn't have to pretend i was because i absolutely am. you about i just had the best constituency on earth. and very well educated. and i'm absolutely clear that the better educated you are, the more you care about
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your world. >> can you shift to the house experience for you? there were 24 new women elected to the house in 1992. five were coming from california. jane harmon and lucille allard. >> uh-huh. >> did a special bond develop between that group of you in particular? >> yes. we were all good friends. particularly northern california. because we flew together every week. we flew to dc. and we flew home from dc. every week. so we got to know each other very well. right. and nancy pelosi was part of that. she was on that plane with us. and she taught us a lot.
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>> what -- you had mentioned before we get away from it too far, you mentioned the dinners you had with that group of women that were elected in that class. who were some of the people who participated in that? and what were those dinners like, informally? >> anne sheppard from utah. karen english from arizona. lucille, lynn shank sometimes. i can't think of who else. and some guys came along. we had men in the group. we would go because we were -- the democrats ran the congress, you never knew when you were gonna go home. they were really not very well organized at all. i don't know if you were here for that.
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but whew! that's the only good thing as far as i'm concerned the republicans have brought to the congress. [ laughter ] >> they run a tighter ship for coming and going. you knew when the day was gonna be over and when the week was gonna be over. but we never did. but we knew we'd always be there thursday night. we'd go out and have dinner, and it was such good camaraderie. when we broke for the first election, 1994, i sort of stood on the house -- we all hugged each other goodbye and stuff and watched the members just walk out, not say goodbye to each other, and see ya, and i thought wow! that's cold. after that, i got it. because such a great group of friends don't
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come back! they don't get close. it's just a very male thing, and i'm being very sexist saying it. but you go and you represent your islands your districts. and i don't have to get close to other people. i don't work that way. i could never do that. but i got the lesson right away. oh, my gosh. oh, the other elizabeth ferns was with us. but she didn't lose. she just barely hung in there. we were still there when it was over. >> you mentioned nancy pelosi, and she came into the late '80s into the house. did she serve as
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a mentor to you? >> she served as a mentor to all of us. she was really a good mentor. she would show us just by example, she would push us upfront in the press conference. and she'd stand back. she is so gracious. it was a lesson, and it was a good lesson. that you can be on the other side of something with somebody and you can still be gracious. you don't have to be all fiery and hateful hateful. show really taught me a lot. >> did you have any other mentors? >> that's the main of my mentors. she came and campaign forward me. when i first ran.
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we became just really good friends. i ran, one of the reasons i ran, was because i saw a news reporter, maxine waters, trying to get into the white house for a meeting that she should have been part of, that she hadn't been invited to, and i thought she needs -- maxine waters needs me! [ laughter ] >> and she did! and we, maxine and barbara lee and i became what we call the triad. we became good friends. but i -- well, i learned a lot from the women that i respected. pat schroeder and i are friends. people all thought i was pat schroeder at first. they'd stop me in the hall and start talking to me. you think i'm pat
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schroeder don't you! i learned how to say that, and they'd go ah! a car passed me on the street one day honking, pat! pat! and then started swearing at me, is it are and i don't ever -- and i didn't know they were even calling me. so just before she retired, she came up and said you won't believe this! somebody just came up to me! [ laughter ] >> but just coming up here by yourself, i can't imagine it. this can be a cold place. >> it can also be a place with a lot of scrutiny at time.
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[ laughter ] >> when you were with that group of women members, what was it like to have that kind of press attention during that year? >> oh, they weren't paying any attention to us. first we weren't senators. we were freshmen women! nobody cared. nobody followed us around. >> did you find any difference with dealing with the local press back home and national press from time to time if you were trying to push an issue? >> oh, well, yes. for me, my main newspaper didn't endorse me. and for 20 years i was in congress, they never forgave me. ever. for being -- having beat the boy. so yeah! [ laughter ]
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>> they were -- their first endorsement, they spent three quarters of the column saying why not to vote for lynn woolsey, and then they endorsed the person they wanted. and one of the things they said is she's not up to the rare air of washington dc! [ laughter ] >> and incensed people. they just didn't get it! why p liked me. you think about voting for me, i just wasn't what they thought i should be. then i got elected. ten times. and if there was anybody running that they thought might beat me, they'd always endorse that person. so yeah. and the press did pay attention to me. they did for
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the war. and they did on labor issues. and it was easier for me to deal with them half the time than my own newspapers. and one of my newspapers that always endorsed me, didn't endorse me one time, and the editor's family didn't talk to them for a week. [ laughter ] >> you know, politic is politics. it can be hurtful. truth be told, my ego was never really in. my real ego, the real lynn woolsey. my ego was with my family and me as an individual. this politics stuff, it's harsh. you buy into it to a point where it's all you are, it doesn't work.
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>> more generally speaking, did you notice a difference between the way the press would ask questions of women versus male members or just in how you were treated as a woman versus how the men might have been treated? >> not particularly the press. because i probably wouldn't have let that happen. when i first got here, and i told you that i helped work with the guys, you know, become current on how to treat a woman. and everything wasn't him and all this stuff. when i got here, in 1993, it was like oh, my gosh. this was a real male clique. and i knew i had a choice.
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i could keep on teaching all men how to be good humans, or i could get something done for my district. and so i let the teaching go. i stopped. i stopped correcting men that said the wrong -- called women girls. i stopped it all. it was too much. it was too engrained here. but i really wasn't able to go home and tell my women friends, and the women's group, how has it been! oh, it's fine. you know? we're all the same. because it would have broken their hearts that i didn't go there to change these dudes. because i just -- it was not possible. and little by little, and younger men started getting elected. things got better. but yeah, oh, it was tough at first.
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>> were there parts of the institution particularly that were more difficult for women to be a part it was >> well, the gym. [ laughter ] >> men go out and golf, and you hang around with people you're comfortable with. and women were left out. they weren't part of the gang. but it was starting to change by the time i got here. it was -- the ones before me, pat schroeder didn't have a chair on her first committee -- she had to share a chair. that was gross. making changes. and maxine waters was already here.
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and patsy mink was already here. they were making changes. so i can't imagine what it was like then. >> did they offer any advice to you? the women members who had been here for a while when you faced something? like if a male member maybe wasn't treating you the way you should be tre did they offer any sort of advice? >> they offered advice about issues and politics. and i can't remember ever saying -- no, i remember asking for something, and the chair of the appropriations calling me missy. [ laughter ] >> he really liked me! he was a darling southern gentleman. and he liked missy lynn, and you know what? i let it go. well, mr. chairman, and went on.
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ah! so i don't think anybody would do that today. 25 years later. >> just to get your general memories of the women's caucus during your first term. >> pat schroeder was the leader at that time. it was vital, it was exciting. the democrats were in charge of congress. we were in the majority and had been forever. then it all changed. so the caucus ended up being a nonentity for me. i'd go see other things to show support for whoever was the democratic
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chair. then they had the cochair. so no, we just couldn't agree on anything. everything that was important to women, the r's wouldn't do. so witness in a while, the two co -- once in a while, the two cochairs would find something that they could do together, and we would all support it. but it was -- it just was not what i thought it would be when -- when we first got here, and pat schroeder, you know, was the chair, the head of us, that was a dream come true for me. >> just to be clear, was it the caucus itself that became more partisan? or was it just the fact that the caucus's agenda didn't loin with the new majority?
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>> well, when the republicans took over, they first of all changed the caucus system and the committee system. and frontal committees. so nothing had any support, for one thing. and they made the women's caucus of bipartisan. i suppose it was just partisan in the first place because there were just no women republicans for a long time. but i don't know what the cause and effect was. it was -- the line was drawn on me, and not just abortion any kind of pregnancy prevention. and it just became kind of meaningless. >> there were some issues that as an organization, that you did have some success with. do you remember any in particular for you that might have been important that you thought the
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caucus really worked well together? >> no. i just didn't have enough. it just wasn't that important to me. things that were important to me for women were the convention then, discrimination in the u.n.. i took that and introduced it i took that and introduced it. and i had to fight the republicans in the senate forever. so that. but that and women in work. it was very important to me. and i had legislation on making it easier for women to take care of their families and things like that.
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it was called the balancing act. i'm having a hard time remembering all that stuff. i don't think about it anymore. but the balancing act. somebody i think carolyn maloney has it now. somebody else is doing good leadership, you do your part with what they need, you don't compete and try to be the leader. and she's always -- she's great. >> what about the family medical leave act? that was something that you -- did that was important. >> i did. actually as a freshman. i did a lot of tv. because i had been a human
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resources manager for a decade. and i knew what it meant to companies and knew that companies could do it. and then heart got the veterans -- later got the veterans. i got that act expanded for veterans families. so veterans could get the help they needed. even though it wasn't the individual leaving. they left to go help. and i think that's the only time the family medical leave act has been extended. >> how did that issue about veterans become important to you? is that something that was brought up among your constituents? or was that just something that you knew there was a need for? >> well, there was a need for
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it, yes. and we had constituents who needed -- yes, had to leave their jobs and go to a veterans' hospital and sit with their husband or kid or boyfriend for months on end. and it was so clear that veterans were coming back and they needed a lot of help. and i was not for the wars ever. but i certainly was for veterans. and that was something that could help. that's all we -- at that point, see there's not a lot of places you can go and make it actually help. and so we found -- we decided that that would be a place we could weigh in and republicans voted for it too.
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>> another piece of landmark legislation was the violence against women act. do you have any memories of congress women rallying around that? and the caucus and its role? >> right, yes. but no. not that i can talk about. i just don't have -- it's just not right there. >> okay. >> all of that, i was part of. i'm not saying because i didn't care and i didn't do it. >> absolutely. >> i did it. and -- there is so much you have to make important. and in our offices, every two years we'd put together our action plan of what we hoped to accomplish. one was the marine sanctuaries that finally got
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accomplished. and we know those were our priorities. and we did it all. but you can't have -- everything can't be a priority. >> right. >> women members face certain scrutiny as you would know. and some issues, no matter what, if you took a local stance or not, you were gonna be questioned about. one was women's reproductive rights. >> yes. >> we're just wondering for you personally in your career, and for all the women that were in congress, how important this debate was. the pro-life, pro-choice debate. and how that might have influenced your work as a legislator. >> well, it was never a question for me of how important that was for women. that they have -- that the choice be theirs. and it was something i had been working on way before i
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became a member of congress. i had to learn to accept some friends who didn't believe -- you know, who couldn't vote for abortion. and still -- and not -- i had to learn about the district spectrum on everything else just because of that. it was hard. that's one of the places where i would draw a line. but i can remember going over to the pennsylvania guys -- okay, stop this, but they wouldn't vote for birth control. okay? they one vote for it! and i'd go over there and say, okay, you guys, i know you won't vote
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for abortion. you don't have to have an abortion if you have birth control! yeah, lynn, we know. and we know you're right. but our catholic constituents won't hear of it. and we're just not gonna put the effort in. and we know you're right! i just hated that! i just thought that was -- for me, if you knew something was right, you went out there and you argued for it. and you debated for it. and you tried to convince pe because they elect somebody to go to congress to go to the senate, to go to their city council to, represent them. and they think that person knows something. so they will listen at least to what you have to say. it might not change their mind. and there are a lot of
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people that don't have an opinion one way or the other. and they'll listen to a person they respect. and they wouldn't listen to those guys. they said, you know, i know we're ag abortions but you don't have to have an abortion if you don't get pregnant! but they weren't do it. so yeah, it meant something to me. but you know what i found disappointing? okay. we would have an abortion, they would bring them up once the republicans ran the show again, they'd bring stuff up, late-term abortion and they'd just go on and on and on. and the groups quit scoring both roads.
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well, we're in the gonna score this. how was it you received your missile -- >> my committees were labor and
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science and we were big enough that i got onto government operations. remember i told you i was really naove when i came? i knew nothing about any of this but i was a good human resource executive, that is what i was. i know how to hire people and i know right up front quickly what i did not know here. i had people that did. okay, i came to congress because i wanted the country to be better educated. i still do think it is the core of the country knowing what it needs to be doing. i campaigned and i wanted to be
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on the committee. nobody wanted to believe me when i would say this is the committee i want to be on. this is what i want. i don't know that when i come here. i don't know that big money does not go to the education and labor. labor unions work but i don't know any of that but i know where i want to be. i got on it. thank heavens. i had a no disappointments her. -- they are. all of the technology in my district and i came from me -- a high-tech company. that was a gift because they
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asked, did i want to own it. i loved it. i did not get to stay on it. i stayed on the committees for the entire two years. appropriations came up about six years before i left. it was my turn and i was the one who would get it from northern california and i got the letters out and i did all that i needed to do to get to this. you learn. it is a campaign. every one of these things as a campaign. it was going to be my seat.
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i started thinking, do i want to do that compared to making law? i changed my mind. i said thank you for your support but i am not going to do it. i want to stay where i am. because i was the ranking chair of the labor committee for the work force protection and i loved that. that is where i belonged. i have been places where nancy pelosi was speaking and she referred to me in the audience. when they gave up the big money committee because she wanted to be where heart was and that is
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what i liked being in congress to make the choices. >> when you joint, there was -- first joined, what was your reception like? >> i like to the chairman. i got along with him. i always knew how to do that. it was okay. we had a nice relationship. there weren't very many women up here and i was used to being the only woman executive. the only woman on the city council for many, many years and when i
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left it was all women and one man. i don't to the credit for that but that was not all that strange for me. just to be alone as a female but i learned a lot. you just have to learn so fast when you don't know anything like i didn't. i knew it was important to me. i did not have a clue how to say it and get it done but we learned. >> when you think of someone who is really involved in education issues, patsy mink comes to the topic what was it like having her on the committee and what kind of advice did she offer specifically about the committee and getting legislation through? >> i followed her. i watched her and i knew what was important to her and she
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knew i was her comrade and she knew she had me listening and caring and learning because she was terrific. fiery. actually, just before patsy got sick and died, it wasn't even two weeks before that. we went to a professional women's basketball game in dc and she was honored. it was something. they were honoring for something but i am not sure. you just knew what she had accomplished. >> what did you learn from her?
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either on the committee or how she was a representative and they house? >> well, as i am talking i am realizing the people that i was most and all of and the people that would stand up for what they believed in and all she did and patsy was fiery. she could say it. people respected her because she had her fax and she knew what she was talking about but she was passionate about what she believed. barbara lee is that way and she is one of my best friends in the congress. pat schroeder. that is who patsy was she -- to me.
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there was some things that we did not agree on because she had to do for her district but we all know that about each other's districts. somebody who was not thinking about having a drink or a glass of wine would never support the stuff i would support for the wine industry and might district but i got it. we all knew that. i would always tell patsy that she needed to be taxing marijuana in her district. she was so darling. a great woman. >> how important was it to have women on all they committees. what you can talk about with labor and science? >> women on every committee. we bring a perspective that wasn't under consideration until women got there.
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title eight or title 9, patsy passed, that would not have happened without a woman saying we need to do this. it is very important to have women. not all women think the same and so believe me, if you are a woman it is not like you are going to do the right thing. if you are a man you will do a wrong thing either in reverse. just because we were an individual female does not make her care about the last -- less fortunate females.>> when the democrats took control 2007, you share the subcommittee. what
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do you remember about your experience and how do you describe your leadership style? >> that was a good time for me. it was a tiny committee that did not have a lot of respect from the leadership and the chairman of the committee actually and because it did not have interest but i was very -- when major earns -- owens was the chair i was always on the subcommittee. it was important to me and so i had a chance to go chair another subcommittee and i chose this one and i thought i hope i did not make a mistake. donald payne came on the committee and he had such respect from everybody and the
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committee was made up of people that i got involved in what was happening and talked to and got them -- let them know i was planning this committee. they came and little by little the staff and my leader, george miller, started referring and respecting what i was doing but it took a while. you got to earn it. you really have to work to earn your respect out there. for man was paid -- for me it was by producing and doing right. i don't mean respect just because you are somebody or something. it became my committee.
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>> do you think women members had to work harder? >> gosh, yes. heavens. >> did that change over time? >> i think it is getting better. i truly do. i believe it is getting better but there is no question that women have to work harder to raise money and the whole thing in politics. >> you mentioned george miller. what were your impressions of him and his leadership? >> he really knew his stuff. he was a big leader but he did not have a lot of patience. he is a good friend. i had to prove myself to him.
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i don't have to worry about that. >> he would like you to do this and then you start feeling like i am there. >> wasn't there one particular piece of legislation of business before the committee that you felt that i finally turned to -- the corner.>> i am always going forward. i don't remember stuff like that. remember the incident. something was going on and we were fighting like mad with a hearing. and it was a set up and the republicans set it up so that something
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tv pick it was a hearing that was a battle and george sent his staff and because they were afraid i would not be able to handle it and i said i am fine. and i was. afterword they were -- i got a lot of compliments but from them on -- than on i had what it took to deal with the issues. >> there was a quote that we came across and we wanted to ask you about. it takes 10 years for you to stop being a teenager and to become a full adult and congress. can you explain? >> you are learning and learning
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and trying and testing and experimenting and seeing what the other people are doing to make decisions and then all of a sudden, boom, you start making your decisions totally without having to worry about your chairman, your mother, your father. do you know what i mean? your leader. you know who you are in the process. you are no longer scurrying around being a teenager. teenagers are trying and learning and it is much harder to be a teenager than an adult, i think. throughout your career you reminded people you are a single mom who was on welfare. how did this
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experience shape your future career in congress? >> well, it was very important to my career in congress of who i was. as an individual because for one thing i have never been the kind of person that made it so why can't you but but what i got out of it because of circumstances, my three children were one years old three years old and five years old and we were on our own and i would work but work did not cover all of our needs when i want on the eight for dependent children and i did not stop working. it was so difficult for me and i was educated, my children were healthy, smart. we didn't
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have any horrible problems and i got a job. the first job i applied for. all of these things and i kept thinking, how do these women that have so much less than i get through this? how do they do it? and then with all the criticism, all of the women cadillac welfare mothers and all of this stuff, it became something important to me to try to set straight at least until people know that people know and respect that they have had hard times and come through them. they needed help and they have paid back.
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my staff, after i got elected, my staff would say you cannot go down there and talk about being a welfare mother because that is all you will be known for. my answer was, if i don't do it, who will? come on. you've got to show by example. you can't just talk about things. it turned out that that was not all i was known for and i would stand on the floor and i remember this. i was part of the road for -- welfare reform and one of the cochairs was on the committee in the house when i was a junior before i was in congress. i would stand on the floor and talk about my experiences and the place would be, you could
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hear a pin drop and somebody would say she is different. i said the picture of a welfare mom, the average welfare mom is vacation -- caucasian, they are on welfare and have been offended by their -- abandoned by their fathers and have been on for four or five years and i am on for three years, i think and when you make people realize that, then they start may be paying attention but because i always go forward, i had not even thought about it. when i talked about being a
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welfare mom when i was running for congress, one of my sons said, we were never on welfare. he had no idea. i was not ashamed of that in the least little bit but i was on my way to the next hurdle to get something else done and get it done. it made a difference. >> it sounds like you really embraced talking about your experience but was it difficult to talk about when you are campaigning or on the floor? >> no. at one point my opponent in the general election the first time around, they found a house that my husband and i had lived in. we were very successful as a young couple and i was a stay- at-home mom but he was very successful.
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they started to put it all over the paper. look at this house. the house was gone and barely was it taking away from me and that was embarrassing. it was one week from being repossessed when i moved kids out and we got $500 and that was it. offer that beautiful house. that was embarrassing. >> it wasn't. when barbara lee came to congress, she never told anybody and she watched me and she went down on the floor and talked about it. when she talks about a people pay attention.
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people respect a lot. >> when you were first elected and the democrats were in control of the house and in 94 the republicans took the majority, how would you describe this shift in atmosphere under the republican majority? >> yuck. it was awful. when i was first elected, people would say, what is your impression of congress? i would say, the good is how polite and respectful people are to each other. across the aisle they talk to each other, listen were at least pretend to listen but talk with
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respect and kindness. that is the good. the bed is the schedule is helter-skelter and did nice -- enough to anybody. we lose the respect and it disappears year by year and they take care of running the train sometimes. we had a schedule. that was the good but i wouldn't have -- i would have traded it back in a minute. it just changed. it was harder to get things done. i had some very meaningful to some but meaningless in the big picture of legislation to honor the school administrator level. the clerks and nurses and
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teachers and the republicans would not go for it. that had never happened before. you honored -- anyway, it was not good and it is worse now. i can't imagine. i want to tell you. my successor is really terrific and i am lucky. he is getting stuff done because he is able to talk to the other side a little bit. i give him credit. >> with all of the changes and back and forth with democrats controlling congress you remain consistent with your beliefs. you have the opportunity to show the progressive caucus and what was that like?
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>> the progressive caucus was there and ready. i am a good team player but when the team can be better i end up being the leader but barbara and i decided to be the leaders together because it could be diverse but we took the caucus that had 20 members and built it up into the 80s and it became a force to be reckoned with. the progressive caucus was invited into the leadership meetings when they wanted the views from all of the entities that made a difference and it became and it is still very vital and it was a good experience and i cochaired it
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with the barber for two years. i code chaired it -- cochaired it for six years and i carried that as a badge of honor.>> what did you do to boost support? >> we asked people and we started having real meetings and we started having issues. we wrote a budget that progressive caucus budget and introduced it and started making a difference and speaking out from the progressive perspective on issues. as a group, the progressive caucus because there was the black caucus in the spanish caucus and we needed us and there there -- then there was the blue dog and we had to
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balance some of that. we were really key to the healthcare when we passed the healthcare bill and trying to get the public options. we really worked hard on that. stepping back, had i known that what we passed was not going to have a chance of getting better but it only had 78 votes and they dismantled it but i put that energy in but we didn't but we thought that was a nonstarter and we really thought that we could get the public option but it didn't work.>> what you think the larger role, the progressives in the institution? why was that important? >> we needed that anchor to
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pull to the left or to show that there was a left edge to the democrats and otherwise we were floating so that centrist were left and everything goes right and what was the country going to have or who was going to represent the progressive part of the country? >> the people. >> what were your responsibility ? >> i was a great whip. i was so good. it was my job. i did it.>> what made you so good at it?
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a lot of people don't -- i don't know why. if i have a chore i do it and i wasn't out there to count. >> i always had something i needed to be doing.
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>> you have something that stands out during your time -- >> as the whip? one story was somebody who asked me for a lot of detail on what we were doing. what the bill was. i didn't realize i didn't know. that was a learning experience. if i am going to do this, i have to know the depth of what is going on with the bill. another story, i was personally whipping people because i had a boy scout issue. i had a bill that said the president of the united states has to stop supporting the boy scouts.
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the federal government has to stop giving them free space, when they discriminate. so i got around all the people that i thought should be voting with me on this. i didn't intend to have a vote. the republicans found it and said, oh, we will embarrass these guys. so all of a sudden it was on the floor. i didn't want to be the only one to vote for it. some people voted for it because i asked them to. they got in so much trouble in the district's. it took years before they wouldn't come up to me and say you aren't going to boy scout me on this, are you? it was not good. i mean, i was right.
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but nobody knew enough about it. i whipped them and they did it. they said, she is voting for it, it must be okay. yeah. one of the most fun things about being the whip is when nancy was our whip. nancy pelosi. we would go to meetings and she would have the most wonderful array of food. i was going to be a fat person. really. she made it so people really wanted to come to those whip meetings. but no, i don't have any experiences -- >> that is fine. that is exactly what we are looking for. >> you alluded to it already that in 1999 your part of a group of democratic congresswomen who went over to the senate to protest a
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committee. can you tell us what you are protesting and how it played out? >> well, we wanted to have a meeting with the head of the foreign relations committee. senator -- >> helms. >> helms, thank you. senator helms. and i have tried and tried. it was for the convention to protect women against all discrimination. the u.n. convention. that was my legislation. every woman in congress signed onto it. i wanted to talk to him about why he would not pass it. or even have a hearing on it. so, he would not cs. so we knew he was having a hearing on something else.
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nancy came. nancy pelosi, me, patsy. a bunch of us. so, we made a big poster. it was the convention to end discrimination against all women. we said, vote for cdaw. we sat in the back with our poster. he said to me, you sit down young woman or i am going to call the capitol police to come in here and remove you. we said, well, we are just standing. we are just standing here, mister chairman. waiting to have a meeting with you. the capitol police came in, so we left.
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he would not talk about it. it was because they had some conviction that if we passed this, we would be saying that all women in the world could have abortions. and it had nothing to do with that. but he would not even hear us out. we almost passed it wants. when madeleine albright was secretary of state. we, the senate, almost got it that far, but then we didn't. it is hard to make the senate do what the house wants sometimes. i don't think anybody thought the opportunity was so narrow, either. because, the next time around, we would not be in charge.
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>> you are the woman, when you were elected, the numbers went up dramatically. but still, overall, women were a small minority of representation. in this example you provided of the international treaty, did you feel that you want just representing your constituents, but women in the u.s. and around the world? >> oh, around the world. for the united states to not ratify that convention. we were in company with, libya, i think was one. three other countries. talk about embarrassing. the united states of america. it was mostly american. there were women all over the country that were part of this. there were methodist women who sent letters to every single senator, because it is a senate
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thing, saying, do this. do it now, please. all kinds of handwritten. postcards. none of it, it did not move them. >> with this other issue, did you feel you are representing women across the country outside your district and the world, as a member of congress? >> yeah. education and healthcare. all of that. all women. not just who i worked for. >> you also mentioned earlier that you came out against the wars in iraq and afghanistan. we are curious to know if you can explain who came up for the idea for the out of iraq caucus and talk about what you hoped to accomplish. >> yes.
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first of all there was the afghanistan vote. barbara was the only one who voted against. it didn't take 15 minutes before a group of us knew we made a mistake. we really should have voted no on that. she tried to convince us, but it all went so fast. i can still see leader gephardt coming through the room to convince me that i had it wrong. what it meant was, afghanistan. well, barbara knew it didn't. but, i went with the group. i didn't go with her. i wish i would have gone with her, because it would've been easier for her not to be alone,
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with everyone who came at her after that. and she was right. also, having not voted for that gave us a little bit of room to speak out against the war as it was going and against afghanistan. it just gave us some room. when that afghanistan stuff started, maxine waters -- well, the progressive caucus, i thought, would be the caucus to take the anti-iraq. but the progressive caucus is made up of a lot of jewish members. and they were into, at that time, thinking if iraq was
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under control, then israel would be safer. i thought just the opposite. but, anyway. the progressive caucus would not take it up. so, maxine waters said, let's start in out of iraq caucus. she and barbara and i started it and i coined us the triad. we just started a real movement. then, from that i have the first piece of legislation on the floor to tell president bush to get out of iraq.
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it got on the floor. people would come up to me. good, liberal democrats. they would say, take that off. talk about it, debate it, but don't ask for a vote. we will be so embarrassed, because we will lose so badly and it will take us backwards. i said if i am the only one who votes for this, i will not be embarrassed. you do what you want to do. we had 156 bipartisan votes and that was the beginning of members of congress knowing they could be against that war and not get killed by their constituents. because, the country was way ahead of us. they were against the war. they did not want us in there, fighting for something that wasn't even real.
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so, that is what that was about. and we had hearings. not formal hearings, because none of the house committees would do it. but we had hearings and we had press and we traveled around the country. we spoke and went to rallies and marches. and stuck to it. and i spoke on the house floor over 450 times, for five minutes. during our five minute speeches. either against the iraq war, iraq and afghanistan, and for peace. it was always there, on that. i don't think anybody has ever done that in the history of the congress. the same subject.
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they have spoken 450 times, i suppose. when i had announced my retirement, i was leaving, some of the republicans on the other side, waiting for their five minutes, regulars, of course. a lot of them came over to me and said, you know, i have never voted with you. i probably never would. but i want to tell you, i respect your determination. that was nice to hear. but, you know what, we are still there. so i am not saying that as, look what i did. we were talking about the effort. we are still over there. >> another topic we wanted to ask you about is the task force
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on children and families. we were wondering how this fit into your legislative ability and what your experience was like on that task force. >> we never did anything. it was a task force that was good to be on. it was certainly one i would be on, but i don't know that we accomplished all that much. >> okay. we have been asking interviewees about historic firsts, or something that was a different part of their career. something we came across was your the first member to play in the annual congressional basketball game in 1993. what are your memories of that event and why did you play in this game? >> first of all, you have to remember i was elected in 1992 on my 56th birthday.
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i was not a young, spry, athletic woman. but, i was certainly in decent shape. i thought that would be fun. so, i got on the team. they played real basketball. hard basketball. they put me in and threw the ball to me and broke my finger. worse, they broke my fingernail. i was stunned. i had no idea. they played real ball. i wasn't up to that. but i loved being part of it. i think my picture was in people magazine or something. i don't know what. i just thought women should be on it. but i wasn't -- i played, but it was not like high school.
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it was fun. they were so fun with me on it. respectful and fun. but i didn't need to take up one of their places. i stayed the whole year, and went to the games. but i broke my fingernail, so i wasn't going to do that. >> was it pretty welcoming? >> i remember, now governor inslee in washington state, he was my biggest supporter. he made sure i got to play and they set it up so i got to shoot. but you know, they were playing real ball. so i didn't need to be a distraction. >> how important do you think it was for women members to be part of events or traditions that are typically reserved for men? >> it is very important, because a lot gets done during
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those practices and during games. people get to know each other. they get to talk about what is going on. in corporations and business, women have been left out of all of that for so long. it is less and less now. but, the basketball court was not the place for it. a really good female basketball player could play with them, but i was not that. and i knew that. i just thought it was going to be fun. nothing is for fun around there. it was really competitive. >> what did the other women members say? were they supportive of you being on the team? >> they kidded me. yeah.
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what you have to know, everybody doesn't know what everyone else is doing. they are so busy doing their own thing. it is hard when somebody has real needs, then people reach out. but that is about it. there is not a lot of mutual interest. because, it is, one, so competitive. two, you are there working for your district and then you go home. in the olden days, on the weekends people stayed and did stuff together. i actually did stuff, because i can't work that way. and made friendships. we would go out to dinner. bernie sanders was part of our dinner gang. we would have fun. people have to go and talk to
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each other and humanize. but it was not bipartisan. but in the olden days, it was. >> talk about breaking barriers in 2007. nancy pelosi is elected as speaker of the house. i am curious to know, what were your impressions of that event? what did it mean as a woman member of congress at that time, particularly one from the california delegation? >> it meant a great deal. i was always one of nancy's lieutenants. when she ran for whip. i could not think of a better person to be the first on these things, than leader pelosi. she was good. i was proud. as proud as i could be of
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anything, ever. when she was sworn in as speaker. my grandson came with me. my oldest grandson. he was about 11, i think. she and nancy were friends. they like each other. it was wonderful to share that with him. >> having watched her move up that leadership ladder, how would you describe her leadership style? >> firm. and fair. and, she is not even close to wishy-washy, ever. she knows her stuff. she is really good. i mean, i did not always go with her. you know, i am from the bay
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area. we have mutual respect. i really like her and i think she likes me, too. i watched her, when she was the speaker and president obama was first elected. the senate couldn't get anything done. i will tell you, none of what happened those first two years of obama's administration, none of the things that got past would have been passed without nancy. i mean, she did it. nobody can deny it. so, it is just such a shame.
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now she does it differently as the leader, keeping the democrats together. because they can't afford to be going in 1000 directions. it is, she is a really good leader. that is all i can say. >> how important do you think it was to the institution to have a woman speaker and in the future to have more women in leadership positions? >> i think it is essential. i think she was the perfect first speaker. a woman. because she has a way. she is gracious and smart and firm. she knows what she is doing. she is very organized. she set a good example.
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i think that was important. and i think hillary will make a great president. >> did you ever have any leadership positions? >> no. none whatsoever. that is a distraction. i do not fault anybody. you have to raise so much money. it was hard enough to raise money in a fairly safe district, where people know you. you are safe. but, no. i just did not want to do that. i wanted to run my committee. i wanted to be chair of that little subcommittee for life. that would've been fine with me. we were getting stuff done.
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>> we are going to move to a wrap up section of retrospective questions. as we do that, we want to know, why did you decide to retire from congress? >> well, i was 75 years old. it was because i had to get off that airplane. to and from, every week. i had two major back surgeries while i was in congress. i was going to have to do it again if i kept that up, or a wheelchair. i did not want to do that. i just knew i had to go home. i also feel that there is a
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time and a place for everything and it was my time not to be there anymore. i just do not know about staying forever. for me, it was time to go. so, that was a major difference. >> we ask you a lot of questions about the past and asked you to be retrospective, but in this case we are going to ask you to do a prediction. there are now 108 women in congress. how many do you think will be in congress when it is the 150th election, 50 years from now. >> half. >> how do you think that will happen? >> well, there was 57 when i was first elected. >> there are 88 in the house right now. >> okay. it is going to happen.
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this is very cynical. for one thing, they don't pay anything, anymore. it is a very expensive job to have, unless you are independently wealthy. which, of course, i am not. good, regular people, men, are going to not do it. they are going to want to make big money. unless they want power and right now it is not such a powerful place to be, either. i think women will want to do it and they will do it and they will get elected, now. >> what advice would you have two author -- would you have to offer to any woman or man who came to ask you about the
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prospect of running for congress. should i run for congress? >> believe me, many have. i am just really honest. what i say is, make sure you have a support base. make sure that your district fits you and you, your district. if you are going to get elected and then try to change yourself to be somebody you are not, or you are going to wish your district wasn't whatever way it is, then you are going to be miserable, forever. through the whole thing. and you will eventually lose. so, know who you are and know your district, who they are. if you are a good fit, it is the best thing that can happen. >> throughout your career, you were often referred to as a
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person of conscience. do you agree with that characterization? >> absolutely. that is the nicest compliment i can get. >> and you think this is a role that women tend to play more or do you think it is something that men and women, equally aspire to? >> i am not sure you aspire to it. i think you either are or you want and i think both when -- both men and women are, or can be. >> during your time in the house, what piece of legislation passed by congress do you think of the most impact on women, and why? >> i think, the healthcare bill. because, women are the least wealthy, have the least in the
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country and they can have healthcare, for themselves and their children. >> do you think that your congressional service inspired or may inspire other women to run for elected office? >> i do. >> has anyone ever shared that with you before? >> yes. not always congress, but elected office, yes. >> what does that mean to you? >> i think it is a nice complement. >> was there anything unexpected about your house career or that surprised you about your time in the house, as you look back on 20 years? >> the biggest surprise was at the beginning. i knew nothing about this job. i did not know anything. i mean, i was a smart woman.
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but how little i knew about what i was going into, that was a huge surprise. the next surprise was how well i fit the job. it was really a good thing for me to have done. >> is there any kind of orientation for new members? >> yes. harvard. you go to harvard and it was bipartisan. i don't think they do that anymore. it was very important. they don't tell you nearly enough. we didn't know. i was on my way to lunch. the capital, one day. somebody more senior than myself said, where are you going for lunch? he said, come to the
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congressional lunchroom. i said, what? i did not know it was there. none of us knew. of course, i told everybody i knew. all the rest. none of us knew. and we did that for months. see, get elected and they think you are clever enough to figure it out. i don't know. >> earlier in the interview, we asked if anyone had served as a mentor. now we were wondering if you might've served that role as a younger member when you had been elected? >> yes. i think i was helpful to a lot of the younger, new members.
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they might not of been younger. they weren't kids. yes, i was intentionally hopeful, when i could be. because i realized how hard it was to be so alone when you get there. >> this is men and women members? >> mostly women, of course. you know. i had some little sisters there. yeah. i just was protective of them. >> what do you think your lasting legacy is going to be, in terms of your house service? >> well, for sure, my biggest accomplishment that will last
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forever is the national marine sanctuary along the coast of sonoma county. it is 25,000 square miles of additional ocean protection. it is, in the middle of 2015, it happened. the president committed to me that he would do it, before i left. and it is done. and it was mine. and i am very proud of that. i think most people think of me for my stand against the war and all my speeches and all of that. and that is fine. but, the war is still going and the real legacy will last forever. no oil exploration, no gas
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exploration, and protecting fat absolutely beautiful coast. >> it is beautiful. was there any single turning point moment in that struggle to make that come to fruition? >> yes. one, it passed the house unanimously and didn't get out of the senate. so, when i told nancy pelosi privately that i was going to retire, she said, what do you want for your legacy? i hadn't thought, but i knew. the marines sanctuary. she said, okay, let's make it happen. i had to first prove that it couldn't happen through the congressional process. everything was wrong. nobody was ever going to let that happen, because
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republicans ran everything. so, i had to prove to her that it could not be done that way. and i got a group of people that were with me on it. ed markey and sam farr. you know, people that cared about the coast. and nancy. and we worked out whether it should go through a sanctuary or it should be a monument. oh, and vice president biden and secretary salazar both talked to the president and nancy talked to him and he said he would do it. but he wanted to do it administratively. so, it took a year and a half.
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but he would tell the department of commerce, to give it to noah and it was their number one priority for protection. i am not in control anymore, remember. but they kept me involved and kept me part of it. when it was all signed, they gave me credit for it, so it was nice. but, it would not have happened without nancy. so, she took that and got that commitment from the president. and barbara boxer had a companion bill, of course. but the senate just could not do anything. so, we did our stuff. we did it. >> that is all we have for
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prepared questions. we ask you a lot of questions, thank you. >> our look at the women of congress continues in about 30 minutes. this time, former connecticut congresswoman nancy johnson. first, american history tv is in prime time with a look at how espionage has changed u.s. conflicts over the last century and a half. we will hear the story of a union abolitionist who ran a spy ring out of richmond during the civil war. duane evans recounts time in southern afghanistan, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. american history tv is in prime time every night this week. each week, american history's tvs american artifacts explores the history of the united states through artifacts. ,


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