Geraldine A Ferraro

Talking Leadership Series - April 29, 2002

Geraldine A Ferraro
April 29, 2002— New Brunswick, New Jersey
Talking Leadership Series: Conversations with American Women Leaders
Print friendly

This conversation was hosted by Mary S. Hartman, University Professor and Director of the Institute for Women's Leadership consortium, Douglass College, Rutgers University and Ruth B. Mandel, Board of Governors Professor of Politics and Director, Eagleton Institute of Politics, Rutgers University.

HARTMAN: It is, first of all, a pleasure and an honor for both of us to be able to sit and chat with you quietly about lots of things. When I think about you, now that I have an opportunity to see you across the table, most of the time when I see you these days it is in Ruth Mandel’s office. I go over to Ruth Mandel’s office, and she has, of course, photographs, buttons, and everything all over the place. But in a very special place, and I understand it was a birthday present, in August of one year for her birthday, she got a collage picture of you. In fact, there are three pictures of you because you were on the cover of the three national magazines that summer.

FERRARO: It's even more than that.

HARTMAN: I’ll bet you were. They managed to get three of them for this birthday.

FERRARO: So they gave you a small present, huh? I have all the others. I can let you see those.

HARTMAN: Oh good. Well, I can’t exactly ask questions of what does it feel like to be a national icon, but there are, I’m sure, upsides of that as well as downsides. You’ve described both of them in earlier versions of your life, this wonderful biography of that particular experience, but now in 2002, looking back, what would you say about both the upsides and the downsides of that experience?

FERRARO: You know, it’s kind of like if you've have had something horrible happen to you, you kind of forget the pain. You only remember the good. When I put – I’ve had friends of mine who have gone through face lifts and things like that, and they’ve talked about when you come out the pain is unbelievable. Afterwards, after a couple of months they forget the pain. They looked great and that’s all they remember. This is the same thing with having a child. Sometimes, I mean in the olden days, you’d go in and you’d say, "Just give me shots so I can forget the pain." Then you have this beautiful, magnificent baby. Well, it’s the same thing with a campaign. There were times during the campaign when I would turn around and say, "Oh, God, I wish this thing would get over with," because there were so many unpleasant parts to that campaign. Most of them had to do with the media’s attack on me and with my own church’s attack on me, and I just wanted it over from that viewpoint. But, the flipside was, there were so many good parts of that campaign. The traveling around the country, the response of the people. The recognition that we were changing things in this country once and for all. Women would become serious national candidates for office. And so good parts, the parts that I kind of remember and have held onto, and those have been wonderful, wonderful parts to look back on. I was at an event yesterday, an Italian-American event, and a young reporter who was an honoree – I was an honorary as was he – he was talking about the fact that he was at the University of Indiana, I guess it was, in 84. He said he had, when I got the nomination, he was watching this on television, and he said a Japanese-American friend of his walked in and said, "Well, I guess you guys now have one of your own there." He said, "You know, I had never identified as an Italian-American before even though my family was." He said, "Now I really do celebrate my heritage." Which I though was an incredible way of dealing with this. I had never heard it from the ethnicity aspect. I hear that from women and I hear, till today, the impact that that campaign had on their life. It’s all the good stuff that is important. The negative stuff, I’m glad that that is over because it’s the type of thing that was all political. It came up during the course of the campaign and it ended at the end of the campaign. I just hope that we’ve made a difference again for Italian-Americans running for office and for Catholics who are pro-choice running for office.

MANDEL: When I hear you say that, and of course, there were moments during that campaign when everyone knew how brave you were and what you had to confront and challenge, and I keep thinking, remember that ad – I don’t remember if it was about that time but it was about 20 years ago. There was a series, I think it was for mink coats or something, and they would have Lillian Helmond and these other women wearing them and the line was "What becomes a legend most." Do you remember those?

FERRARO: Yes. They’re still running some of those.

MANDEL: Are they running those still? I think of you. I think, what becomes a legend? I mean, you are a legend, and it’s true what you are just describing now and the contribution to U.S. political history. Opportunities for women, Italian-Americans, all of those. You can know that you have done that. On the other hand, when I think about that campaign, I think about personal cost, not just during the campaign but after. I think it cost you a lot in the career that you were developing as well.

FERRARO: Yes. I would have loved it if New York State had been as progressive as Texas or as Connecticut. In both of those instances Lloyd Bentsen was able to run for vice-president and still run for the Senate at the same time. Joe Lieberman was able to run for both the Senate for re-election and for vice-president. New York doesn’t have that so what happened when I got the nomination, in fact right before it when they talked to me about it the night before, and they said, "You know you’re going to have to give up your congressional seat." I knew I did because I could not run for reelection to my congressional seat and accept the nomination for vice-president. I would have loved to have been able to remain in the Congress. I would have been delighted to have input into the issues. But you know what, Ruth? There are a lot of benefits that have come out of this, too. My children are, I mean, they’ve all succeeded. They were young adults, Laura just turned 18, John was 20, and Madonna was 22. I look at them now. These are three professionals. They are family people. We are so close. I credit that in large measure to not only the campaign itself because my kids got very involved in the campaign, but I credit that to some of the tough times because my kids kind of literally and figuratively put their arms around us. They have not let those arms go for 18 years. It’s amazing how when anything comes up that is not easy, and in one instance this is my diagnosis a couple years, 3-1/2 years ago, when that happened my children kind of circled again and it’s fascinating to watch. That was a benefit that I got out of that. I also, I must say, I’m also in a position where if I speak up I can make a difference for things. I had an opportunity because of President Clinton to serve in Geneva at the Human Rights Commission. Everybody knew who I was when I walked in there. I wasn’t in public office, but there wasn’t one representative of any of the countries who didn’t know who I was. I was important because I was the United States, but it was also nice that they had someone that they kind of knew, and it got me – it gave me credibility right off the bat. Those are some of the benefits that came out of it that you can’t really quantify. It’s been wonderful.

MANDEL: If you were giving – and I’m not meaning this to be in "the message" or anything – but we think all the time, especially Mary and I interacting with students all the time and I’m sure you do, too, because I know you speak to young women around on college campuses, you would tell them it’s worth it? Go to it and do it?

FERRARO: Absolutely.

MANDEL: You would?

FERRARO: With any of the things that happen in life, you’ve got to figure out what your main goal is, first of all. When we looked, our goal was to get elected, obviously, but it was also – I mean, if you take a look at the discussions that Fritz and I had before, that we had during the campaign, and that we’ve had even recently, it’s getting rid of that sign that was hung on the door at the White House that said Men Only and White Men Only. We did make a difference. We opened that door for women. I think the Reverend Jesse Jackson opened the door for African-Americans. I think that once those doors are opened, who’s going to say that they’re going to slam them shut again?

MANDEL: Let me ask you a question. If they’re open, why, and I’m not going to sound down about everything today, but I want to get this one off my chest, really, and I want your perspective on it. If they are open, why aren’t more women coming through them? I just want to give you two recent statistics. One is we’ve just finished a study of women in state legislatures. After ten years, looking at the late 1980s and the end of the 20th century, the age of women in legislatures is not going down, it’s going up. That’s one thing that we’ve found that strikes me as perplexing.

FERRARO: Is it because more women are running for office when they’re older?

MANDEL: Well, the numbers aren’t going up that much. The numbers are pretty much level.

FERRARO: They are fighting incumbency. Incumbency is a big thing.

MANDEL: It’s true, but I want to know – well, let me give you the other figure.


MANDEL: So that’s one thing we’ve noticed, the age is going up. The other is that another project that I’m involved with is giving us the opportunity to identify young elected officials around the country, age 35 and under, men and women to find out who is there at the beginning of the 21st century in various levels of office, who is there. We’re just in that process so I can’t give you finals yet, but I can tell you that in the Congress of the United States in this session there are six people 35 or younger. They are all male. They are white male. In state legislatures, so far I think we’re finding a little over 300 [aged] 35 and under, maybe ten percent of them are female.

FERRARO: You know what? That doesn’t bother me.

MANDEL: Why? They’re not coming through the doors.

FERRARO: Well, no, they are coming through the doors. I think a better statistic is the number of women who are in the Congress now compared to what they were in 1984. I think a better number is the number of women in the United States Senate. In 1984, you know there was only Nancy Kassebaum. Now we’ve got 13. It’s just wonderful to see what’s happening. Remember that incumbency is, to me, the biggest problem to keeping people out of office, male or female new, coming in. Most of the incumbents are white males. But, it doesn’t surprise me that women who are under 35 are not running as frequently. A lot of them are trying to move into a professional career and are not choosing politics. A lot of them are wanting to have kids. It’s very hard, I think, to be in office and do both. Part of it is because an elective office is not like a job. It’s just not an ordinary job. You go to work, or I come to work here and I come in if I want to come in at 9:00 or I come in at 10:00. When I leave at the end of the day, I’m finished. I don’t have to work weekends. I don’t have to work at night. If I want to go out to dinner, I do. There isn’t a member of Congress who can say that, not one, male or female. There isn’t a male or female member of Congress who can say, "I just want to take off. I don’t feel like going to that. My kids are off on spring break now, and I want to go down to Disney World for a week with them." You know if you do that, what about all those things that you have to do. If you’re on a committee that has to go look at the Middle East. Do you go to Disney World while this is all going on or do you go to the Middle East? They don’t have control of their lives. I have to tell you that if my children were young when I ran for Congress the first time, I would not have run. And if I lived in California when I ran for Congress I would not have run because, for me, I was a shuttle flight away. My youngest was 12, and I have to tell you she did resent my going, but I would go down on Tuesday morning and come back on Thursday night because I was in New York and then weekends my husband and I would go to five and six events. Our kids were teenagers. I mean, they would turn around, and I used to say that they were the luckiest teenagers in the country, but they had worked so hard on my campaign because they figured that was a way to get rid of their mother for at least part of the week. But it is a very difficult position for a young women who wants a family to be in. It is because it’s a very unusual job. Men who are under 35 who are married don’t have those same problems because their wives are the ones who will be with the kids.

MANDEL: That hasn't changed.

FERRARO: No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change until today, I mean, with any of us. We do the things that parents and grandparents do, no matter what you're…. You may be a big deal with other people, but you’re still mom, you’re still gammy, you’re the person, "I really need you. Do you think you could come over and babysit for me? I have to go over and do something." "Sure." It’s that type of thing.

HARTMAN: Well, I think it really is beginning to change, but, I think you’re absolutely right that it’s still very much there and also that the young men still perceive that they can get away with this kind of thing whereas young women don’t. In fact, they don’t want to more than the young men. So we’re still in that situation, but another thing we’re noticing -

FERRARO: If I could just interject.


FERRARO: There are lots of young men who are quitting the Congress.


FERRARO: And who are saying, "I don’t want to do this. I want to spend more time with my kids."

HARTMAN: When that begins to happen is the institution itself going to change? Are some of these expectations that it’s a 24-hour job going to change?

FERRARO: No. No because it’s not the institution that is putting it on. It’s the politics that does, and it’s the people, who expect it. If you are a member of Congress, you have to go back to the voters in your district every two years. People are very demanding. They want you to know every that is going on in Washington. They want you to vote in their interests only, forget what’s happening in the rest of the country. They’re interested in what they’re interested in. You’ve got to be able to – if you don’t always vote the way they want – I mean, you have to go in and spend a lot of time why you don’t. Then you end up with – if they do an event, if they have – it’s important in the lives of maybe 30 people, and they don’t understand that you may be representing 500,000. They want you at their events. "Do we only see you only every two years?" "Well, you know, I’ve got like 40 different organizations that are just like yours that are doing events every year. I can’t come every year." It’s really hard.

HARTMAN: Just as you were suggesting earlier that young women are choosing professions now in larger numbers, talented young women that aren’t in politics. I have to confess that the women that Ruth and I have been interviewing, yourself included, seem to us a kind of group of super women in a way because you’ve been able to deal with all of these situations and at the same time, yes, you’ve talked about some of the compromises, but basically you have given 150%.

FERRARO: Yes, but you know, I always tell young people, please don’t really believe we’re super women. We’re not. We’re just as human as anybody else. I lucked out. I told you that my children were older, but in addition to that I had a housekeeper who did everything that a wife would do. She was there early in the morning. She was there through dinner. She did all the washing, ironing, the housekeeping, the cleaning. She didn’t go to school and talk to the teachers; we did that. If they were sick and they were home, I was in touch with the doctor and all the rest of that stuff, but she was there to make the tea or whatever, the juice, give them the soup and stuff like that. She was wonderful. So I cheated. She kept the house really nice. Now, I think if you can’t afford that, that’s fine, too, but just then prioritize. You’ve got to figure that if the house isn’t totally spotless, hello, who cares? That should not be on the top of your priority list. If you are worried that you don’t like to iron, and that’s something I like to do, by the way, then wash and wear is big and dry cleaners are fabulous to getting things done. There are ways to get by these things, but don’t think you have to be perfect wife, perfect mother, perfect housekeeper, perfect laundress, perfect cook. You can’t do it. That’s the super woman. I was not that. I don’t think you’re going to find many women who are.

HARTMAN: Another part that I think creates some problems for the younger generation is that they are aware of what happens on television, and they are aware of the conflict and the kinds of things that you’ve described. They say, who wants to buy into that when I can go into a professional career that I don’t have to answer people to every day and I don’t have to take the slings and arrows of all that stuff that politicians have to deal with. Is there any hope that the climate can be changed? That we can educate more American voters that this is really not fair to their elected representatives? Or do you think that’s just going to be that way?

FERRARO: It’s going to be that way because people will say, if you don’t like it then don’t do it. This is a voluntary position. Nobody’s forcing you to run for office. It’s changed. The person who represented my district before I was elected in 1978 was someone by the name of Jim Delaney, very powerful man. In the Congress for something like 42 years and very conservative. He decided not to run for reelection because for the first time he had a challenge coming from the right. It was Al DelliBovi, an assemblyman. The district was very much a district that was conservative. He used to get Republican, conservative, and Democratic endorsement. He never had an election, never had to spend a dime. And he was Rules chairman – he certainly could have raised money. He decided not to run because, to be quite frank, I think he would have been beaten. When he pulled out, I went in. When I got elected, I looked to see how much mail he had. I actually had hired, because I knew nothing about the Congress, I hired somebody who was his chief of staff and kept him on with myself. I said, "Okay, so the mail that comes in now I will deal with when I get it." There was like maybe 13 letters a week. I said to him, "What is with this? Why isn’t there any mail?" He said, "Well, Jim used to have a fabulous way of dealing with the mail." I said, "What was that? Didn’t he answer?" He said, "No, he used to read it and say, 'What is this person bothering me for?' and he’d rip it up and throw it in the garbage," you know, crumple it up and throw it in the garbage. I became crazed about that because I said, "How do you – computers?" No computer. He did not want any of that stuff. Everything was kind of old. He never came into the district. He had an apartment some place, but he used to also have a place down in Florida. I forgot where it was, Boca Raton or someplace down in Florida. He’s traveling to Washington was Washington to Florida. It was never Washington to Woodside or Sunnyside. The district office was on a side street in Forest Hills that we could not find. Now, the difference was, and it was one of the first things that they did when we first got elected. They have this kind of meeting for new members and they have some of the older members come through. Tom Downey was one of the older members at that time. Of course, he’s like 15 years younger than all the rest of us, but he had been elected in a very Republican district and he had won the second time around, really, with big numbers. He said, "What you’ve got to do is make sure that your constituents know you. You’ve got two jobs. One is your district office job – that’s the one that gets you elected. The one down here is where you do the good for the district and the country. But the one there, without the one there, nothing is going to happen." So he had a van, one of these mobile offices. He had it out in the island where they had a lot of distance between our offices. I had one office in the center of my district, and I rented a mobile office that I used to bring to different parts of my district so that my people did not have to come into my office. I used to say to them, "You don’t have to come. If you have a problem, call us." I would have all the people ready, each with a specialty, to handle all the problems in my district. I welcomed mail. I loved getting mail. We did town hall meetings. We did all of those things that was – it was important for the district. It was important for reelection. That changed, but that will never go back to the way it was under Jim Delaney, never.

HARTMAN: Also, because these days you can’t decide not to have a computer probably, right?

FERRARO: Absolutely not.

MANDEL: They know they can get to you.

FERRARO: Absolutely.

MANDEL: You know, you belong in the pantheon of leaders, right? No question about that. You will always be in history as one of the major leaders, American women leaders. Did you learn leadership anywhere? Do you think of yourself as a leader? Can we teach young women leadership? We can open the door, as you pointed out, they can use it or not choose to use it at whatever stage of life works for them, but when I say to you that you’re a leader, what do you –

FERRARO: You know, I actually have been thinking –

MANDEL: You have a pained look.

FERRARO: I’ve been thinking about that because I’m doing an event next week, and someone asked me to talk a little bit about that. I started thinking back to when I was a kid. I guess part of it – I don’t – it’s amazing how things have an impact on your life. My father died when I was eight. I think if he had not died I would have probably been very spoiled. I was his baby, and I was his princess and anything I wanted I got, but I had to work very hard after that for everything. My mother told me that I could have whatever I wanted. I could be whatever I wanted to be, but I had to work for it because we couldn’t afford it. After my father died, things were very, very tough. My mother was a crochet beader. She worked harder than anybody. Without her leadership I would never have gotten to where I am, but she taught me by her example, I think, how to lead. She taught me to strive for the things that I think are important. She taught me also to not focus on things that you can’t change, to move where you can make a difference, and move where you can accomplish things. She did that with her own life. She was not an educated women. She had had to quit school when she finished eighth grade in order to help support younger brothers and sisters after her father had a stroke. It was, I think, her example, but from the time I was in high school I was put in a position where when the school was split into two teams for sports, I wasn’t the best athlete in the school, but I was chosen to captain the white team for the school and we won. I moved into leadership positions on the school newspaper in both high school and college, leadership position on the yearbook and in law school –

MANDEL: How do you account for this?

FERRARO: Because I wanted to get something done, and so in order to do it…

MANDEL: And people knew that.

FERRARO: Yes, and I wanted to do it to make sure it was done. I think people see that. In law school, the same thing. I ran for the student bar association, not the president, I ran for secretary which was a position, I can’t say it was a position that women held because there were only two women in my class, but I wanted to be in the leadership of the bar association. I knew that as a woman it would be very hard to do, but I also knew that as a night student it would be very hard to do, to run for president, so I ran for a job – I mean, I think you also have to know what you can accomplish so you move out and try to do it. I’ve enjoyed, I think part of it is, if I see a need to get something done I want to get it done. I want to do it. I put myself in that position.

MANDEL: So it’s some combination, as you’re describing it, a very important example, your mother. I know you’ve often talked about her. Clearly was such an important force in your life and a personality that you brought to it, making sure that what needed to get done you were going to tackle at least. To achieve it or not, you were going to tackle it. It’s because we’re perplexed all the time with how to approach this if we think about teaching leadership. I’m always a bit skeptical about that.

FERRARO: You’ve also got to teach young people that it’s okay to fail. You learn from failure. I don’t recommend it. I mean, don’t go into something because you don’t want to win. If you’re a leader you want to win. But if it doesn’t happen, get up and move on and try again. That’s important to do. The second thing I think you have to teach them – among the second things, there are lots of second things – is that you’ve got to be willing to take a risk.

HARTMAN: Yes. I think, here I am. I direct something called the Institute for Women’s Leadership. I ask myself the same kinds of questions. What are we up to here? Can we really do this? What are the things we can do well and where do we have to just stand back and acknowledge, you know, not everybody is leadership material, as it were? But, lots more, I think are than even think they are. It’s with that particular mix we want to play a bit. We do have a project in which young women have to set out a leadership activity and carry it through, but as you were saying, they don’t have to succeed. We told them it’s all right if you fail. We had a young woman who tried to organize women in a local housing project. She failed, and she got up and talked about her failure and how she was going to go back and do it differently next time.

FERRARO: You learn from your mistakes.

HARTMAN: If those lessons can be learned when they are still, I think, kids, you know, it makes such a difference later on, I think.

FERRARO: Let me just stop you for a minute because -


FERRARO: - I think, too, that that young women who went into the housing project may have failed in what she wanted to get done, but she succeeded, perhaps, in at least raising awareness of her issue and who knows what impact she has had on younger children who may have seen her and in ways that she may not understand. Here she is a college student. People saying, "Wow, that’s something I can do, too. I can go to college." They’re in a housing project. That is nothing bad to feel bad about. That is giving little kids an incentive to go and do what she’s doing. There are lots of pieces about success. She may have failed in her one goal, and I think it’s great that she’s going back and redoing it, but there are lots of other pieces of that journey that she took that might have ended up with success that she doesn’t even know.

MANDEL: It fits your description of, which is actually, I’ve not quite thought about it this way, but it fits your description of "I’m the kind of person who sees something that needs to be fixed and then I want to do it. I want to figure out how to do it." Sometimes you do it and sometimes you don’t do it, but the kind of person who notices and then sets out to do it is someone who would, I think, have what we call leadership impulses. How that develops, a lot of other number twos, as you said.

FERRARO: The thing about it is that once you start going out to get it done, there are lots of people who come in behind. They won’t take the first step, but they will be there so there’s your leadership.

MANDEL: That reminds me of something else I was going to ask you. Mary has planned a program for later this week. She’s going to have a panel discussion with a number of people, and the title is Women’s Leadership: Individual Mission or Collective Endeavor? Is women’s leadership about an individual mission or a collective?

FERRARO: It’s both.

MANDEL: I have a feeling the whole panel is going to agree.


FERRARO: I remember when I was – I stayed home when my children were little – and I was at the beach, and our beach place did not have a swimming program. They also did not have lifeguards at the bay. I kind of became a little crazed about that and got some other mothers and said we’ve got to do something about it. We hired a Red Cross instructor. Some of us took senior lifesaving, we almost drowned, but we took it. We all got our little badges, and we put in place a program. There was a need, and I said okay, let’s do something about it. It was all of us. I mean, I didn’t do the program all by myself.

HARTMAN: But you took that initiative.

FERRARO: Yes, because it "let’s do something." But that’s the type of thing. You really do, you need the collective movement.

HARTMAN: Let me ask you about another aspect of that, and this is fast-forwarding up to '84. I loved your description in your book, the account of that whole campaign and election, of Team A – the group that identified themselves and they were sort of behind your back. It was just wonderful. Now, it wasn’t that you hadn’t thought about being vice president, but they were ahead of you in terms of all that strategy. I’m interested both in anything you’d like to say about that group and also whether the fact that 20 years are going to elapse, at least, before we have another woman on a ticket, to say do we need more Team A’s out there? Are we missing something?

FERRARO: My Team A were my chief of staff and people who were in Washington who had been with me from the time I got elected, who had kind of – they were looking at my career with the anticipation that I would eventually end up running for the Senate. We would sit down for breakfast or lunch in the members’ dining room every couple of months with my chief of staff. We would talk about what to do. For instance, when the Democratic National Committee, well, I can even go back further than that. In the midterm conference in 1982 I had, after the 1980 election, I had seen what damage the '78 midterm conference had had on Carter and then saw what had happened during the convention and then saw his terrible loss. I vowed at that point that we had to do something about eliminating the midterm conference. I said, After '82 we’ve got to make sure it’s not there and at the '82 we have to make sure it does not hurt the Democratic nominee in '84. We were successful in all those things. My Team A was very involved in how we strategized that midterm conference. The guys didn’t know that we were doing it. I mean, we ended up having panels in Philadelphia, and we ended up having women on all the panels and we ended up having women’s issues being part of it. They talked about wanting to have a second panel for women but we said, no, no, no. You’re talking about the economy. Women are concerned about the economy. You have to have women talking about how women are specifically affected within the economy as a whole. When we talked about an environmental panel, we talked about the result of the environment on women and children. We did all that stuff. We had women participating in all the panels because all those were all of our issues. Team A was very much, I mean, I looked like the brilliant one coming out with all these suggestions, but this was people sitting together and helping to shape the dialogue. The same was true with picking the spot that I would request of the chairman of the Democratic National Committee who at that time was Chuck Manatt. We decided that there were three spots that would be terrific for me because I was planning on running for the Senate in '86. One would be as chair of the platform committee, one would be as chair of the convention, and the third would be as chair of the rules committee, I guess, because when Ella Grasso had not been able to serve in that position in 1980, I was the deputy and they put me into chair of the credentials committee. What we did was, we figured the platform committee would really be the best – again, this Team A input with this thing – because we figured that would put me in a position where I would be going all over the country doing hearings, six hearings, so I would get lots of national attention, I would be meeting with money people from the party and stuff like that which would be terrific for my Senate campaign. They said, first list, chair the convention, second Platform, and third Rules, because you’ll never get the one that you want first. Chuck isn’t going to give it to you. I said okay. We ended up putting chair of the convention first, Platform committee, and I ended up getting what I wanted which was Platform committee, and it was fabulous. They made that decision. In a lot of ways it wasn’t specifically for this. When it came to discussing the vice presidency, they thought there was so much discussion going on about a woman vice present, and they figured that if they are talking about a woman why not you? I kept on saying, you're wild. Now there isn’t very much you can do specifically to get a nomination for vice president, but they were there. They were there with the women’s groups. They were there with labor, with friends and labor. It’s very funny. The friendship that I’ve had with them has lasted all these years. I was at an event in Ohio about a week ago and someone came up to me and said, "I’m a friend of Joe McClain from the A Team." That’s just so funny. They talked about Millie Jeffrey. It’s very funny. Eleanor Lewis, still, when she’s in New York I see her. When I’m in Washington, too. It’s amazing we’re still friends.

MANDEL: When you’re describing that, I realize that it’s not that different from what men have had. You hear about these groups strategizing how to make Ronald Reagan president 20 years before he ran or that sort of thing, but it doesn’t happen by accident. There is a plan. There is a strategy. You may not have been strategizing or they may not have been for vice president, but as you say, developing a career, a Senate career, and then figuring it out. I think that story about which committee and how to position yourself at the convention is really very important. It’s important for people to hear.

FERRARO: I have a seat on the committee assignments on Congress. I mean, we sat and talked about where would be a good place. My first assignments were totally because of my district, totally political. I had an opportunity in '80 to get onto one of the special committees. We talked about it and Budget was a wonderful committee for me because I felt that the budget, especially after Ronald Reagan was elected, was definitely a women’s issue. There it wasn’t for the politics of it, but it was where could I get the most done. We talked about that and I ran out, I didn’t run out, I got the Budget committee.

HARTMAN: So a lot of it was strategic. And that’s really -

FERRARO: Yes, yes.

MANDEL: - not happenstance.

FERRARO: You raised an issue before about, is it going to be another 20 years before we see someone on the ticket. No, no. I think part of it, I think the problem – I think if Kay Bailey Hutchison were not from Texas, I think she would’ve been on the ticket with George W. Bush because she had all the things he needed. She is as conservative as he. She is knowledgeable certainly on foreign policy, which he was not. She is an expert on what’s going on in the Senate because she’s been a member for God knows, what, two terms already?

HARTMAN: Christy Todd Whitman was too liberal to be the on national ticket.

FERRARO: Absolutely. I mean, conservatives, the people who were going to elect them would not have been happy with Christy Todd Whitman. It had to be different states, constitutionally. I think she would have been on that ticket. Now, will someone run in 2004? Nobody on the Republican side, obviously, is going to challenge George W. Will a Democrat run? I don’t think so, but I do think in 2008, unless a Democrat gets elected in 2004, that you are going to see, I think you’ll see Hillary running. There are other Democratic women in the House, but there are two things that you need. You need not only the spot, which is why Kay Bailey Hutchison won’t run in 2004 but I do think she is going to run in 2008 as well on the Republican side. But you also need to have the desire to do it. I just don’t see any of the Democratic women besides Hillary who really wants to do it. Barb Mikulski is one of my closest friends, and there is no way that she wants to do it. She kids. She said that I got the nomination because I’m like four inches taller than she is or three inches taller. She’s funny as anything. She’s my closest friend, but she would no more want to do this for national office. This is not her thing. She loves the Senate and she is so effective. She loves her people in Maryland. Everybody is a hugger there. I mean, they all love her. So you know, she doesn't want to do that.

MANDEL: What it speaks to is because one could go through the list, as you mentioned before, 13 women in the Senate, there are five women governors now so there are 18 people and those are the obvious feeder offices.

FERRARO: That’s the universe in which these candidates come from.

MANDEL: That’s right. Then you can go through the list and say this one isn’t really interested and this one…When you have a very small groups like that, only a universe from those two positions of 18 people, it’s a very small group so the chances you are going to produce ten people who want to run for president –

FERRARO: It's not going to happen.

MANDEL: No, and that’s partly why it’s taking so long. Though I agree with you entirely that Hillary Rodham Clinton is a person who is so obvious because she’s got the whole combination.

FERRARO: And she will be in her second term by 2008. But the other thing that I find fascinating is I think there is a real difference with how women approach this and how men do. Men, when they get elected to the Senate, I mean, the next day they’re running for president. It’s just the most amazing – they wake up the next day and say, "I’m presidential material." Women sit there when they get elected and they say, "Okay, I’ve got to do this job. I really want to do it right." We take a look at the job we've got and we’re going to take it seriously. It tickles me when I see some of these guys who have been in like six months and they’re already running for president. You turn around and you say, "Okay, guys, take a deep breath and get your job done that you’ve got."

HARTMAN: But the flipside of that is, will we get enough women because the women take those jobs so seriously and they tell themselves they have to take longer to learn them. So that becomes part of the reason why there are so few women. I worry about that.

FERRARO: Now, I don’t think so. I don’t think women think they take longer than men to learn them. I think they understand that – I think women kind of feel that the voters have gone out and put their trust in them. It's pay that trust back with devotion to the job that you’ve got. Don’t let your ambition get in the way. People, presume, for instance with Hillary when she got elected, people presumed that she was going to dive into the presidential race immediately. Hillary is a very smart women. She’s got time. Would she be a fabulous president? I think she will. Notice I say she will instead of she would. I think she will be, but I do think she is absolutely right spending the first six years, I think she owes that to the people to stay, and by 2008 she will be in that second term and if she wants to run, run.

HARTMAN: Are you, Geraldine Ferraro, predicting that the first woman president of the United States will be Hillary Rodham Clinton?

FERRARO: Well, I sure hope so. I want to be there. I really do. This state has produced some wonderful things. Look at Seneca Falls, for goodness’ sake. If it wasn’t for Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony. These are all New Yorkers.

HARTMAN: That’s right.

MANDEL: She found she had to first find her New York?

FERRARO: Yes, and she’s a New Yorker, very much a New Yorker.

MANDEL: She had to move herself to New York. Yes, there’s something about it. I think those of us who watch this closely and have watched, I don’t mean her, I mean women in politics, it seems so obvious to me that there are some people you can say, well, that’s not going to happen for whatever reason. It doesn’t mean they’re not great. It doesn’t mean they’re not doing a wonderful job in the Senate.

FERRARO: Olympia Snow is one person. I love Olympia. I served with her, a Republican. In a million years I can’t imagine she would ever say yes, let me go, I’m going to run. Now, some of the others, Mary Landrieu, I think, with time, also, I think she’s a potential. I think a whole bunch of other women in the Senate are in a position where they could do it.

MANDEL: Do you think George W. Bush would consider. He’s going to have to put a, presumably, another vice presidential candidate on the ticket next time. As you point out, it can’t be Kay Bailey Hutchison. Do you think there’s any chance it could be Condoleezza Rice?

FERRARO: Possibly. I mean, especially if we’re still at war on terrorism, which I assume we will be and especially if that’s the main issue. I mean, she’s certainly a credible person, and if you take a look at the fact that the Hispanic vote in this country is a very large vote and growing larger each day and certainly a vote that people are anxious to hook into, I think, sure, it’s a possibility. Flipside of that is, what does he get from it? Is she a leader in the political sense? Not really. I don’t know her views on any of the issues that women are concerned about. Women are not generally involved as much in the defense issues, military issues and there she is an absolute expert. Does he benefit from having her on the ticket or still having her as his right-hand person? You know, I mean, those are things that he will have to sit down and figure out.

MANDEL: This is one of those crazy questions that I know there’s no answer to, but –

HARTMAN: But you’re going to ask it anyway.

MANDEL: Just because, you know, it’s the sort of thing that buzzes around in one’s head because you just raised, say, women are not as involved with or haven’t traditionally been with the defense issues and those.

FERRARO: At least perceived.


FERRARO: Perceived.

MANDEL: In some fantasy of women in the major leadership positions in this country and maybe in some other countries, would we know how to solve this incredible, terrible, frightening, horrible mess in the Middle East that threatens to bring us all down? Could we do something different? I mean, it is only men who are –

FERRARO: Well, actually Condoleezza Rice has been involved with that, too. But you know what? We had Madeleine Albright in one of the most powerful positions in this country. She did a magnificent job as secretary of state. There’s nothing genetic about this thing. But if you take a look at women voters, women when they go to vote are not voting on the military issues. They are voting on whether or not their kids are getting an education. They are voting on whether or not their kids are going to have enough food, if they live in a decent house. Those are the issues that a lot of women are voting on. They’re not so much voting on military issues, on military budgets. That’s generally not where we’re going unless, of course, you’re at war then it’s a different thing. I think when push comes to shove with voters, if they look at someone who is on a ticket, they’re going to look for someone who is going to be able to address the issues that are of concern. We’re the ones who are talking about health care. We’re the ones who are pushing for, you know, for drug coverage. I mean, the guys are, too, but we’re the ones upfront on this stuff because under Medicare for drugs you turn around and you’re looking at your mother and your father and you’re the one who is taking care of them and you’re saying dear God, they’re not going to make it if they can’t get drug coverage from Medicare on this stuff. Women will tend to vote on those issues. It’s not that they don’t understand them or that you don’t expect your leaders to understand them and not that you couldn’t have confidence in a women who is an expert on military issues. I don’t want to give the wrong impression.

MANDEL: You know what it reminded me of, actually, just as you were saying this, I was in the audience when you did your famous debate with – that was actually a big experience for me, not only because it was so wonderful to see you up there debating then-Vice President George Bush, but also because it was the first time I’d been in the audience of a national vice presidential or presidential debate and then I wasn’t naïve, but boy, was I shocked when the coverage came out the next day because I walked out of there and I knew that you won. Then I watched the coverage.

FERRARO: But you know what the interesting thing was at that time, the reporters were all white males. They were all. There were very few women who were anchoring. They were very few women who were participating in the discussion as reporters and so when it came out, they were the ones who made the decision.

MANDEL: Yes, they played that coverage of debates. I know some reporters have called me after debates saying, you know, there’s just so much pressure to not, as far as I can tell never to say anyone won but always to say well, it was a tossup.

FERRARO: It has moved now, I think, that we haven’t had any women in the debates yet, in the national debates since, but I do think that now you do get other views as well. There are more women after the '84 campaign now as part of the discussion.

HARTMAN: What about in general? Has the double standard for women in situations like that and just generally, has it become less onerous for women? Is it easier with the media? Is it easier with their colleagues? I remember the wonderful account that you gave at the time that you were named to be the vice presidential candidate about who was briefing you on the status of foreign affairs and so forth and were you getting the same briefing that Fritz Mondale was getting and were you getting the same people? I think a lot of women are asking themselves now because things have changed. It’s not so blatant. It’s not so obvious. They don’t quite know when something comes zinging past them. Was that sexist or is that just the way things are now?

FERRARO: I think there will always be a double standard. I think part of it is that women kind of do it to themselves, too. We kind of demand more of ourselves, and we’ve got to, in many instances, be better in order to show that we’re as good. I don’t think it’s as much now as it was in '84. And I do think it’s not as much coming from the media now because you have so many women now who are part of the media. Also, it’s not as much coming from the Congress now either because the numbers are better. I mean, once you get a bigger group of people on your side, the standards change, I think. The dynamics changes.

MANDEL: Gerry, you have been so wonderful and generous. I would love to go on forever, and we’re winding down. I want to ask you a fast closing question. It’s a big one, but I need a fast answer. You’ve got two daughters and a son, all grown up now. I know you’ve got grandchildren. Are your daughters living different lives because of what you and the other women leaders who came out of the 70s and into this whole period we’ve been describing, experienced and did?

FERRARO: I don’t – my younger daughter, perhaps – they’re all married. The two girls, both are professionals. The one thing they’ve gotten out of it is that they can do what they want to do. I’ll give you a little story. Laura, the youngest, went to college, graduated as a graphic designer. After three years of working, called us up and said, "I always wanted to be a doctor." Went back. We said, "Why didn’t you mention that while you were in college?" She went back to school, got her basic credits, went to medical school, did the medical school. I don’t know if she would have done that if she were not part of the campaign thing. Let me try this because this is something that I really want and let me go for it. I don’t know if she would have turned around and said my time has passed. I mean, I can remember her looking at me with all the jobs I’ve had and saying, "What are you going to be when you grow up?" Even at this age, I think that’s one of the things that I’ve said to them.

MANDEL: So you, like your mother, became the example.

FERRARO: Well, my older daughter, too, who was a producer for the Today Show, quit and is now into independent production. Risk, take a risk, and go because that’s what she really wants to do. So I guess in some ways they learned from the campaign.

MANDEL: From their mother. Thank you, Gerry.

HARTMAN: Thank you. Congratulations.

FERRARO: Thank you.

Speech from