Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi joined with Amanda Gorman for a virtual Q&A to mark International Women’s Day, and the youth poet laureate had a semi-personal question for both of them: “I have some interest in the public sphere, and I wanted to ask: What advice would you give to your 23-year-old self, or me, you know?”
Gorman, whose breakout inaugural reading of The Hill We Climb landed her the cover of Time, has said that she plans to run for president, and the answer she got were words of encouragement.
“When women are thinking about what path they may take, they should feel very confident about who they are and chalk up their experiences, whether they were positive or negative, as a plus. And if they have any questions about it, they should be inspired by you,” Pelosi said. “I believe that the arts are what are going to save our whole society.”
“You have the ability to express aspirations and give people voice that they didn’t know they had, and good leadership does that,” Clinton said. “So if you follow through with your goal of running for president, you can take every day and think about how you can use your gift to try to lift up other people so they know that they are not alone.”
The event was actually a fundraiser, for Clinton and Pelosi’s political action committees, Onward Together Committee and PAC to the Future, respectively. Tickets started at $25 per person and rose to $10,000, and while there was some grousing on social media about the price, the session is up on YouTube. About 6,000 participated, with Chrissy Teigen hosting.
Gorman also asked questions submitted by participants, including whether Clinton and Pelosi have a trick or a method in dealing with “ridiculous people. How do you deal with the men when you are getting a seat at the table?”
Pelosi pointed to what she said was a common experience for women: “You’re at a table. You make a suggestion. Two people later, the same suggestion comes out of the mouth of a man and people say, ‘What a great idea.’ And you say, ‘Well I just said that two minutes before.’ And I decided that the reason that happens is because they didn’t really listen when women spoke. They didn’t even hear it. It wasn’t ignoring it. They didn’t even listen. It’s a lot different when you have the gavel.”
Clinton said, “I really encourage other women to repeat what one woman said. So for example, if I’m at a table with Nancy — it doesn’t happen anymore because she is the speaker with the gavel — but in the old days, if she were to say, what about, what about, I think you jump in and you say, ‘I think that is a really good point that Nancy’s making. What do you all think?’ You sort of force the attention to the woman who is speaking.”
She added, “I also think humor and deadpan looks go a long way. When people say outrageous, ignorant, intolerant, silly things — and sometimes they don’t even know the impact of what they are saying and how it lands, how it feels to women who are hearing it — I think you can just kind of look like, ‘Really do you really mean that? I didn’t expect to hear that come out of you.’ Something that raises the issue without taking the club out. Sometimes you have to take the club out, but if you can make your point without bringing it out … you can use some humor to diffuse situations to give people a little bit of space so that they are more conscious of how they came across.”
Pelosi then added, “I always say to my members, ‘Start with a feather. You may end up with a sledgehammer, but …”
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