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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is front-and-center this year as the legislative leader guiding the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump through the U. S. House to the Senate where Trump’s impeachment trial resumes Tuesday.
Nancy Pelosi says she has no plans to run for president because she loves legislating. As speaker, she is the highest ranking and most powerful elected woman in U.S. political history.
Nobody can get Trump’s goat better than Pelosi and very few candidates in the presidential race have her guts and depth of 33 years of legislative and leadership experience.
Pelosi’s daughter, Christine, was in Honolulu this Martin Luther King Jr. holiday weekend to promote her newly released book: “The Nancy Pelosi Way: Advice on Success, Leadership and Politics from America’s Most Powerful Woman.”
Christine directs candidate training sessions around the country including a session she held in Honolulu Saturday for new or first-time candidates.
I interviewed Christine at a book signing and community conversation with her Friday at Planned Parenthood Honolulu Health Center.
She says many of her mother’s skills described in her book may be helpful to anyone interested in entering public service or becoming a stronger, more inclusive leader.
“Her story is historic and unique but I hope the lessons are universal,” writes Christine Pelosi.
One of Pelosi’s most important skills is outlined in a chapter titled “Be Your Own Authentic Self,” which is about the House speaker’s ability to be comfortable in her own skin and refusal to let anyone put her down.
The book’s cover features the now famous photo of Nancy Pelosi in a red coat and shades leaving the White House after she gave a dismissive Trump a smack down that left him momentarily speechless on national television.
That was on December 11, 2018, during what was supposed to be a polite photo-op in the Oval Office after the Democratic House and Senate leaders met with the president to discuss pending legislation,
Trump decided to hijack the supposedly innocuous event to goad Pelosi and Senate Democratic leader Charles Schumer into a debate about the possibility of a government shutdown if he didn’t get his border wall with Mexico. During the heated back and forth, Trump tried to belittle Pelosi who had not yet locked in the 218 votes necessary to become House speaker.
In a story retold in Christine’s book, Trump looked directly at Pelosi yet spoke to her demeaningly in the third person, saying ”Nancy’s in a situation where it is not easy for her to talk right now, and I understand. I fully understand that,…”
Pelosi shot back, “Mr. President — Mr. President, please don’t characterize the strength that I bring to this meeting as the leader of the House Democrats, who just won a big victory.”
She then took control of the conversation, coaching the president on how legislation works. Before they left the meeting , she and Schumer had rattled the president enough for him to admit on TV if there was a government shutdown it would be his initiative, not theirs.
And days later, House Democrats quickly gave Pelosi the votes she needed to become speaker.
Pelosi, whom Trump has dismissed as Crazy Nancy or Nervous Nancy, seems able to befuddle Trump in ways no other person can.
In telling Nancy Pelosi’s story, Christine traces how her mother forged ahead in the male-dominated world of elected politics that she was never expected to enter — even though she grew up in an extremely political household.
Nancy Pelosi was the youngest of six children of Baltimore Mayor Thomas D’Aleasandro and his wife “Big Nancy” D’ Alesandro, First Lady of Baltimore.
The boys in the family were encouraged to run for office. But not the D’Alesandros’ only daughter, known then as “Little Nancy.”
Christine says, “They would have liked her to become a nun.”
After she moved to San Francisco, the hometown of her husband, Paul Pelosi, she eventually rose from volunteer work to chairwoman of the California State Democratic Party and the chair of the 1984 Democratic Party convention host committee.
According to the book, Pelosi worried then that she was getting too much power, too many titles at one time. Louisiana Congresswoman Lindy Boggs told her, “Darling, no man would have ever said that. And so, darling know thy power and use it.”
Christine writes that the lesson in that is: “Do not confine yourself to other peoples’ expectations for you. Know your power.
If Nancy had listened to what 1950s Baltimore had expected of her, her life would have been different.”
Knowing their power is what Lindy Boggs and Pelosi and the nine other women Democrats in the House did when Nancy was first elected to Congress to represent San Francisco in 1987. The women lawmakers refused to let themselves be sidelined by male leaders in the House.
That leads into another Pelosi lesson described by her daughter in the book as: “Claim your seat at the table.”
She writes, “It is not just about getting to the table but about having the courage to work with purpose once you have gained power. Step into the pool. Step up to the table. Enter with confidence knowing that you belong and bring others with you.”
Christine says her mom was attacked in more than 137,000 ads in the 2018 election cycle but she never internalized the negative messages and she never takes it personally when Trump is itching to draw her into a fight.
“She declutters her mind from distractions, speaking in shorthand and simply changing the conversation to ‘how are your children?’ when she’s had enough. She eats chocolate ice cream for breakfast and reads in bed at night. And goes for long walks,” her daughter writes.
Her mother stayed completely out of the writing and editing of the book and was not interviewed for any of the chapters, she said.
Nancy Pelosi saw it only when it was finished.
“Except for pointing out some grammar errors, she liked it. She did say it might be a little too positive,” Christine said.
“I told her. You are my mom. Let someone else write a mean book about you.”
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