Know Your Power
LHJ: What prompted you to write your new book, Know Your Power, now? What message do you feel you have to impart to a woman living in the 21st century?
NP: When I was elected to the leadership I received questions from all over the world -- from young women, older women, from girls in grade school, even -- asking me "How did you get from the kitchen to Congress?" This book was really a way to respond to them, to say "This is how I did it, and you can do it, too."
LHJ: Your achievement is historic. How does that knowledge influence your day-to-day activities? Are you aware on a daily basis that you are really a role model for many young women, myself included?
NP: Yes, it was really clear to me when I assumed my leadership position that not only did I have a responsibility to all who went before, who made my path to power possible, but also to all who would be coming after.
LHJ: On that note, do you feel that you are held to a higher standard than your predecessors?
NP: I don't worry about that too much.
LHJ: The whole "legacy" question....
NP: I want my legacy to be one that compares favorably, of course, with other Speakers of the House. Women are always held -- every step until now -- to a higher standard and that's a challenge I readily accept.
LHJ: But you are the Speaker first and a woman second -- is that the idea?
NP: Yes, and the fact is, when you get the gavel, you get the power.
LHJ: How do you think society as a whole responds to females in positions of great power? Do you think women wield power substantially differently than men do, that they're more wary about being ambitious?
NP: I would say that in terms of how people respond to women in power that we're in a period of transition. Congress is a bit different, because the Speaker is the Speaker, and everybody knows that. And so there's no question -- once you become the Speaker, everyone respects your authority. In terms of the public in general, there are some generational differences, but by and large women of all ages are very accepting and encouraging of women in power, and younger men are particularly encouraging, and fathers of daughters. It has been impressive to me how many fathers have said how happy they are to see this marble ceiling broken here, for what that means to their daughters. So it's not something I worry about, though it is something I am conscious of.