Since I may (or may not!) work in politics, politically-related biographies are of great interest to me. It can be fun to pull back the curtain and see how administrations or offices are really run, or try and get an insider’s perspective on major events. (Both Bill Clinton’s My Life and George W. Bush’s Decision Points are great. I recommend the audiobook version of My Life since President Clinton himself reads it.) Former White House Press Secretary Dana Perino recently wrote And the Good News Is… so I grabbed it and breezed through it in a couple of days.
The front half of the book is mostly autobiography. Perino writes about growing up in Wyoming and Colorado. She has a lot of love for her family, ranch life, and America. Her family’s interest in civics and current events led her to pursue a career in journalism and actively participate in debate throughout high school and college. However, her career bounced around between public relations and politics.
If you are politically active, you have either worked in D.C. or have friends who have. (I may or may not be more involved in state politics and international politics than D.C.) Perino’s comments on D.C. are similar to what I’ve heard from my friends who have or do work there. It’s a great place to get work experience, regardless of what you want to do with the rest of your career. It can be a toxic environment, full of people looking to get ahead at your expense. However, it can also be a great place to network and form lifelong partnerships. Perino writes about networking her way through agencies to the White House and tells some stories about 41 (Bush), 43 (George W. Bush) and President Obama. She also spends time talking about civility in political discourse, and how important it is to see those with opposing views as people with the same goals and differing methodologies. Her dogs feature prominently, both because she’s a dog person and she makes the point that people’s differing political views don’t matter nearly as much as who they are (dog lovers!).
The back half of the book is advice for young professionals on how best to make a career. Perino advocates for proactively helping peers, shouldering blame, spreading credit, and intentionally keeping in touch with peers and mentors. There is practical advice on emailing, handwriting letters, mentor relationships, deciding when and where to move, and generally being open to life. A lot of this advice comes from her professional organization for women, Minute Mentoring. I found the advice pretty helpful and will incorporate some of her suggestions into my own life.
A quick note on Dana’s political views – she is conservative and even currently works at [gulp] Fox News. Even if you hate Fox News, I think you could get something out of this book. As previously mentioned, a big chunk of it deals with civility. Perino puts that in practice and speaks highly of several Dems, including President Obama and her friend Donna Brazile. This isn’t a book about torching the views of others. It’s more about trying to make America and individuals better. After all, we all love our dogs.