tv Private Lives and Public Image of the First Ladies CSPAN April 23, 2015 7:00pm-8:31pm EDT
because much of them would have meant my political defeat and demise an awful lot earlier than it happened. [laughter] but -- and agreed and fear, it has to be said, very strong motives in human intercourse and in relations between nations. . we see the rise of china in the region as positive in principle positive in the possibilities of office. mutual prosperity in the asian region. we don't accept the judgments that are made and eminating about the security interests in the region. we need a decent discourse with the chinese and if the americans are in, it will be a better discourse.
>> that's fine. and either of you want to make a final comment? >> i think we have -- host: i want to thank our panelists. there were many more questions that people would have liked to ask. i'm going to ask you to remain in your seats for a short period of time. there is a security detail has asked us -- the national archives. foe first ladies, exploring the lives of those women. live coverage. host: our partners in tonight's program. i'm jim gardner executive for the presidential libraries. so probably everything you are interested in.
i'm responsible for. before we begin, i would like to mention two programs coming up. tomorrow, friday april 24, at noon we'll have award-winning white house correspondent kenneth t. walsh. he will be discussing his book "celebrity in chief" taking a look at the history of america's presidents and the need for modern presidents to also be celebrities. then on tuesday, april 28, at noon again, here in the theater, we will have the general dunwoody, america's
first retired four-star general and will be sharing her leadership based on 38 years in service in the u.s. army. and afterwards, she will be signing copies of her book "a higher standard." . to find out more of these and more of our public exhibits, consult our events. copies are available in the lobby upstairs along with a sign-up sheet you can receive it or visit our website another way to get more involved in the national archives is to become a member of the national archives foundation. the foundation supports the work of the national archives, especially its exhibits, education activities and public
programs which are near and dear do my heart, just like the one you are about to experience tonight. applications for membership in the national archives foundation may be found in the lobby and as arclifeists likes to share, no one has been turned down for membership in the foundation. [laughter] >> now c-span's year-long history series, first ladies influence and image, featured interviews with historians and ought thors. in the book, they paint portraits of all 45 first ladies, their lives and ambitions and partnerships with their presidential spouses. this series and the book provide
a historyal work who survived the scrutiny of the white house sometimes at great personal costs while supporting their families and famous husbands and sometimes changing history. our program will feature a lively discussion with these historians who you will hear about. tonight to moderate, we are pleased to welcome susan swain. susan swain is president and co- c.e.o. of c-span, sharing responsibilities of the network. she oversees the three television channels and c-span radio and launched the
"washington journal," book tv and america history tv. and has been involved in the creation of numerous history series such as "the american presidents," the american riders. she has been one of the principalon-camera interviewers. first lady was by public affairs book featuring a collection of her interviews from the television series. it is the ninth book that susan has edited and as you noticed when you came in, we will have copies of the book available for sale after the program and she will be signing copies for you. so now, let me turn the podium to susan swain and to tonight's
programmer. [applause] ms. swain: thank you for being here and i see a lot of familiar faces and i thank you for watching you at home. so many of you are here and as jim toll you, what i wanted to start with is a quote from and i gail adams she sent him with an explanation, john, remember the ladies and tonight we are going to do that, the lives of these first ladies are forgotten and they shouldn't be and they made an he normous contribution to our history. and we are going to tell you some of those stories and video from film from the national
archives collection and some of the historic photographs and some of the clips from our own series and hope to entertain you and inspire you to ask some questions because there are 0 minutes settle aside at the end. learn about the first ladies' contributions to the presidency and embarking to a new presidential campaign and we are looking at the spouses, some changes and changeed our dynamic. to whet your appetite, i want to show you a priceless piece of film. this is from the national archives collection, truman library when best truman was asked to do an early event to
television burst onto the scene and began following first ladies. and best truman held a private life. but this was a great entrance into what we are going to talk about about women who are thrust into these roles. i have four fabulous panelists. now you heard there were 56 people experts involved in our television series from president's day 2013 to president's day 20 is 14. the reason we did the book, there are a lot of books on first ladies but never a very broud points of view. and four of the people who are part of that process. carl anthony is historian of the first ladies museum. and has lots of online material
about them and carl, we welcome you. [applause] ms. swain: edna medford, chair of the hifert department at howard university and she is a lincoln expert specializing in the civil war and reconstruction. part of the national commission on the lincoln centennial celebration. a she has spent the entire year attending all they those of lincoln events. she has is breathing a cy of relief. he had national greene medford of howard university.
[applause] ms. swain: so let me introduce you to carl cannon, washington bureau chief of realclearpolitics. and has covered every presidential campaign since 198 . he is an author himself and a historian. if you sign up for his morning briefing you get the detail politics and get them with a history lesson. he runs a newspaper and politics. his father covered ronald reagan as the governor in california. he grew up in that. great friend of c-span, carl cannon. [applause] ms. swain: someone i have gotten tom meet krissah thompson.
she is the reporter who is covering of the the show "obama." and finished the story on "first gentlemen." in addition to covering laura bush she has covered laura bush and mrs. obama. and brings the journalists' modern-day perspective. krissah thompson. [applause] ms. swain: i know you bring your cell phones and we have a twitter account set up. the questions are going to be at the one-hour point, if you want to send us a tweet, i'm going to be getting them right here and ask your twitter questions and
c-span awedens and i will be using them. welcome everybody. we are going to start with clips. and the first one is delving into the topic, the public life and the private life that these we women have been forced into circumstance. some of them happy partners and others thrusted into the role. and we are going to start with a clip that we did with michelle obama talking about the balance between private life and public responsibility. let's watch. where are in the perspective to this job. pretty much. i think to the extent and i would have never thought living in the white house and being a
first lady would be natural. it's because i try to make it easy. i try to bring a little bit of michelle obama into this but at the same time, respecting and value youing the traditions that is america. ms. swain: this is not a new concept. we included one quote from every first lady. and the quote we chose from martha washington. i never go to the public place. i'm more like a state prisoner. ? ms. swain: grace coolidge in the white house wrote this dash?
>> it really goes down to the very root of what i think has always been a nation. ant ant you all probably know and hear from foreign journalists who are interested in the role of the first ladies and i think we are going to see perhaps at some point certainly the role of the first gent. it is nt about the role. and thrust into it.
early on when the -- you have to remember in the 19th century it was a woman's role should not be in public. you know, it was a real conflict of who they were as people to have this interest in their lives. jackie kennedy said it best. she said, three, four stories about yourself that illustrate a good point about yourself or your family and you let them give them on it and that's it. and you read those things, stories over and over again and you try to read that and that's how much you give to your per son a. ms. swain: the first ladies fought the glare.
>> martha washington was the first and setting the tone for everyone who followed, it must have been incrediblebly difficult. she had the ms. medford: people knew her. she had always been around the winter camps and the soldiers knew her and people appreciated her and after she became first lady she was pretty popular but people became to criticize and she doesn't know quite how to behave. all she has is the example of european royaltyy and trying to establish some practices that would be in keeping with what they have been doing in europe. and americans resented that.
they didn't want her to go in that direction and had a tremendous burden and all that time during the revolution with her husband supporting her husband, all she wanted is to go back home and be a private citizen. ms. swain: watching michelle obama as closely as you have did you see a growing comfort over the years? ms. thompson: she described herself and her husband told stories he needed to get her blessing. you see her now and brought into the role and talks about it as being a bright spot and whatever she stands in front of the light shines there, how do you
use that platform. for her, being able to see the value in the celebrity that came with the role and she isn't comfortable with, i was interested to hear because i think first ladies have done that kept a.m. piece of themselves behind and michelle obama does that as well. you see her enjoying the role, when she is with children and pressing issues that she enjoys and that is going to continue and she and her husband are young and aren't going anywhere and how she continues to engage with the public. ms. swain: carl. it makes it easier or difficult. looking over the first ladies since 1984 election, you have seen up close and covering them,
has any of them struggled with this? mr. cannon: the two quotes -- grace and mark washington, mrs. obama gave an interview yesterday and said, she said, what don't you like about the kids? you can't go out. i'm stuck here. you just can't go out and i said did you always want to be a first lady and i think about grace coolidge. that's not what she wanted to do when she grew up. michelle obama has embraced the role in an uncommon way more than others i have covered. hillary clinton. it'sal stepping stone and often
talks about eleanor roosevelt. eleanor roosevelt could have run for president. and so hillary clinton is a pearson fix of eleanor roosevelt. in terms of embracing all of this role, michelle obama is a transformational figure. i don't cover the white house now. i have to -- i can say what i think a little more. [laughter] >> you have to be objective billion michelle obama. ms. medford: explain that quickly. ant ant people have written
about that. she is something even broader than that, i want to say the post-title-9 first lady. walks with the confidence. mr. cannon: she walks and has confidence, a physical confidence, confidence in mental ability. herself-confidence to me as a person is sort of an inspiration. ant ant so easy and so fascinating when we have our public figures the facts of their story and know their stories and how often we forget those. but michelle obama has perhaps the greatest degree of executive
experience before coming to the white house since ladyy byrd johnson. i think one reason these people are willing, willing to give it up their privacy and the intrusion is that opportunity to really make a permanent change in perhaps the way the american people think or perceive thinking and we are talking about profound things. ladyy byrd johnson changesed the way the americans think about their environment as well as the safety of it. and she was part of that -- she gave velocity to that movement as michelle obama does, what we eat. she has been part of that. and i think the chance to do
that is why a lot of them say i'll give up some of my friends. ms. swain: is it a learning curve and first ladies we have all seen. nancy reagan thought it was going to be like sacramento and it wasn't quite the same when she got here. [laughter] mr. cannon: nancy reagan got tough press coverage. but as mary todd lincoln, the nature of that war, she is fair game. she is a sthrieser a spinthrift a hysteric. slate had a piece five years ago.
campaign? was there a major pullback? >> she didn't have much of a team and she was being herself and always done when her husband campaigned. ms. thompson: when she was in small places in iowa and new hampshire, they were response independent to her and this time it was caught on television and the press corps ignored her because they were covering the primaries tuned in and the campaignso response was to send her some advisers so she would have some guidance, you are not talking to your girlfriend or in that room but talking to all of america. as a matter of making sure that she stayed in line with what the entire campaign was doing and hoping and changing.
and i think we saw her and she talks about herself as being a planner and perfectionist and worried a great deal she would harm her husband's campaign. it wasn't a completely 180. she wasn't a horrible campaigner but in terms of not talking about loosk his socks around so much or thinking and senatoring things that were in her initial stump speech. the ideas are still there but in a much more pal atable fashion. ms. medford: she still retained a part of herself. so she is still michelle obama and that's what is so likeable about her. she has not become a political wife where everything has to be
perfect. there are times that she decides that enough is enough and i'm going to be that person back on the south side of chicago. and that's what we appreciate so much about her and it's true of many of the popular first ladies. they didn't give their all and didn't give up everything about themselves. ms. swain: the two major categories that people fall into those who are themselves from the get-go and have it in their bones and find a partner and go along for the ride and then later on and those who are thrust into the role and have to adapt. this is again from the national archives l.b.j. library and it's a doozy. this is an audio clip because
you might have known that johnson taped all of his conversations in the white house. lyndon johnson he was recording people on the phone including lady byrd who didn't know they were being taped. [laughter] ms. swain: this is a conversation where lady byrd is critiquing miss performance at a public event. let's listen. zphoo [indiscernible]
candid to a president? what are you hearing there? ms. thompson: she had the background and so as an adviser because first ladies are an adviser whether in an official capacity or not, they bring that eye, she wants him to be as successful. ant ant the very attributes they bring to the table mrs. johnson like mrs. obama thinks in an organized way. they are very well structured in their mind. jackie kennedy says i don't have a schedule. and different ones bring different things and mrs. johnson, she had a degree in journalism, her love of writing
and love of cadence and wisdom and the media experience brought that. and that is very political and to the policy, but it ends up having a political result. ms. swain: this is not a new fen no, ma'amon and go back in time and this was a time when women sustained their fear. can you tell us about it. mr. cannon: women were datched to their husbands. they qunt supposed to have political ideas. merd ms. medford: if they did have them, mrs. polk had those ideas and voiced them. and she reviewed his speeches.
she actually tried to influence people to sway them. she tried to influence him as well and she did influence him and definitely stepping outside of that role of the average or typical woman during that period or what was expected of a woman during that period. she and other first ladies of that era did not always follow that will pattern of you are to be -- you need to be the hostes at the party and ok to give these parties they are political. they aren't just entertainment and not just this will emptiness and a reason why they are doing this. she goes much further than that. she isn't interested in the party but interested in the politics and does help her husband to get where she wants to be. she is supporting the whole
manifest destiny and support at home and beyond that. ms. swain: we have one quote in the book, members of congress at the time saying to the president, i would rather talk politics with your wife than you. i have another image and we mentioned marey lincoln. we have her in the political partners because she was indeed a political partner to abraham lincoln. mr. cannon: you would vr heard a lot of conversations like that. when lincoln has found and says, mary, mary we won. when grant is inaugurated, he turns to julia and says, i hope you're satisfied. [laughter]
we think maybe she pushed him a little bit. and so i think those conversations -- look, you don't paper your spouse without telling them. if you had a tape recorder, you would hear conversations like in the campaign not in the white house but the governors' mansion. ms. swain: once they got to the white house, she was shut out. ms. medford: she was a southerner and union states were still there. the union states, the border states she had relatives who were fighting on the side of confederacy. it was alleged she was a spy, she spent too much money. she acted less than sane sometimes and she embarrassed her husband in public, which is
something first ladies weren't supposed to do. you have to understand what is going on. she lost her son before her got to the white house and lost a son while in the white house, a husband who wasn't easy to get along with. lincoln had his problems as well. and this is a woman who is bright and understands politics and loves politics, but she was born a woman. and so she does not have the ability to do what her husband can do by virttue of the fact she was born a wrong gender and living through him. she wants him to be president bru did not anticipate the kind ofville fix she would get. ms. swain: our hour is going to go quickly. eleanor roosevelt ends up in
these categories. how would you assess her partnership with f.d.r.? ant ant people get so petty in looking at people who have been married for so many years. yes, he had a physical and emotional relationship with somebody who was close to her personal secretary during world war i and offered him a divorce and it was traumatic, no question. but when she sort of pulled away and looked at it she realized, there is no one that i shared values with him and they were both progressive, they were like are uncle need or roosevelt and led them to work together and also loved because of his physical disability.
she believed he was talented. and she would believe in his effort than her effort. and she say you must lead. and as both as governor of new york and that's with where the tryout in her role as first lady and then the depression and then everything almost smashed as far as what we have known, she takes advantage of that vacuum where everything is up in the air and she starts saying, this is what i'm going to do and under the guise, i'm going to help my husband. and in a way it was. she didn't start developing her own agenda until the second or third term particularly on civil rights. when he was more political and this is what we can do or can't do, she always brought him back to principle.
while they continued as political partners to share the same values, he often abandoned them for the practicality and she always was sticking with him in a lofty way. ms. swain: i'm going to ask you to watch this, even though you didn't watch these there are two modern first ladies, both political partners but these are from c-span interviews and first is nancy reagan and the second is hillary clinton. let's watch. >> own agenda [indiscernible]
>> i worked on health care and people thought i shouldn't be making recommendations on legislation or working on behalf of what my husband asked me to work on. they thought that was somehow inappropriate. do it behind the scenes where no one can see you. i find that curious. to me, i would like to know what goes on in front of the scenes, because i'm very much the kind of person who believes that you say should say what you mean and say what you mean and everybody else who is involved in public life. ms. swain: there are so many
ways to be political. ms. thompson: hillary clinton set up an office in the west wing and you know, a clear indication that she wanted to be political, not behind the scenes, but in public and when she was working on health care and spoke to the business round table and was a public figure in pushing this policy and sought to engage people and work on it in front of the scenes. you know, nancy reagan, she was frank about the way she was political behind the scenes but we can on imagine how every first lady, or pillow talk, is able to express those views and michelle obama has talked about it and her husband has talked about the ways she has influenced him like same-sex
marriage, and describes her in some ways putting his conscience on those things. so, you know you have to be first ladies as political figures in that way, no matter if they choose to operate in the way that nancey reagan did or hillary clinton. mr. cannon: she says i know when people have their own agenda. age and even got fired. [laughter] mr. cannon: worked out. ms. swain: very powerful force in this town. mr. cannon: i never asked the president about it. the first lady is one of the few people in the world that calls the person by their given name. his brother's, his parent, his
commanding officer but five or six people in the world who don't call him mr. president but by their name. and it conveys the kind of intim asy said and hillary clinton that president knows they have their first interest but he has confidence that their heart is in the right place. that's their power. ms. swain: we are going to look at first ladies other than best truman who found themselves in the job who married someone whose aspirations they weren't sure of when they got married or didn't love politics and first ladies that were shut out by the staffs around them. we are going to start with one woman, pat nixon who had an
[applause] p ms. swain: president nixon, why does she end up in our relucks answer in an unhappy role? ant ant the reality of what was becoming the media, the attack, the questions of ballots, you know stealing votes and i think she got disgusted with it and i think she always felt she had been actually active and interested in politics before she married nixon. she was a supporter -- she was a democrat as a young woman. ms. swain: did their first congressional campaign together. ant ant and it was a break-in by
the way and their headquarters is where the literature was taken. and she got disgusted with the way things were and 1960 election broke her. they came so close and she said don't run. don't run. don't run and asked her permission to run for governor and she said yes and lost that and the famous story where she made him write down and put it in her walt, a promise i will not run for politics again. and of course, he broke it. and that ambition, with all of these men, we were talking about, there is a certain insanity to be wanting to be president. so she was there and she sought and saw the opportunity as a vice president's wife and saw the opportunity, when she did make recommendations, while
those tapes that she didn't know about, she is recorded on a lot of tapes with nixon still technically held by him as private property and should be destroyed. ms. swain: carl, the nixon gaff shut her out as well. mr. cannon: she was tired of politics. she had been the vice president's wife and thought she was done with that. there are all kinds of personal reasons. best truman, we showed her. she was a better athlete than harry truman. and very good third baseman and could swing the bat and there was a secret, her father
committed suicide. her and her mother took it hard. her mother took it hard. she didn't want to be here when her husband was president. they would go back to independence and she decided they had a more important role in life. and i think we forget sometimes these are people and they have these burdens on them. ant ant after truman dropped the first atomic bomb, she came back from missouri and advised him before he dropped the second on nagaski and she was in on the big decision. ms. swain: look back on your period of history and who were
in unhappy? ms. medford: jane pierce. she did not want to be want her husband to be involved. she didn't want to have the role of first lady. it's not even being about in the white house. she didn't want to be in politics at all and her husband promised her that he would get out of politics and for a time, he had. she fainted. she learned that he had won his party's nomination for the presidency. and she's coming to the white house with the loss of a child again. so there's this woman in the white house who is suffering from depression, because she is mourning the loss of a child. she is having to deal with all of the dues of being a political wife and being the first lady and a husband who doesn't
understand why she is so reluctant, so she was a very unhappy first lady. ms. swain: we saw the picture, this is the summer she lost her 11-year-old and lost their other two sons. this is the third just before they came to washington and died in front of their eyes in a train accident. the president -- the child wasally jected from a train accident. such a tragic story. how does a parent recover from that. you can sympathesize with the situation. ms. medford: being first lady to a president, the country is in turmoil. her husband is experiencing all of these tensions between the north and the south. she is a witness to that and
doesn't want to be. ms. swain: we have many other interesting first ladies and katherine adams and elizabeth monroe and mrs. mckinley and others. we have to give it to the books. i'm going to move on. first ladies have taken advantage of their position, this fabulous opportunity and adopting causes, how recent a phenomenon. great anticipation when there is a new white house, what is the cause that the first lady will announce and how much politics, political consideration goes into this decision in ms. thompson: as the president is going from a candidate to president, first ladies are also doing that and michelle obama has talked about being back in
her kitchen in chicago and thinking about planting a garden at the white house and developing this idea of how she would approach this topic of healthy eating and pushing back against childhood obesity and she has embodied and per son fide. she is in d.c. and taking cycling classes and children, and pulling up vegetables and also, you know, let's move, which is what her campaign is called there is a nonprofit attached to it. let's move has brokered deals with wal-mart, get healthier food in stores and disney, get junk food off of television. these aren't inconsequential
things. she is first lady and wrapped up her doing push-ups with ellen and dancing at the easter egg roll. you can see the way first ladies take on these issues and first lady like michelle obama wants to push the issue in a way that is sustained and that makes a real difference, but that doesn't feel like you are writing a law or just hard policy. push the changes to school lunches and go through congress early on. ms. swain: i want to show another piece of video and this demonstrates this formal development of a cause and this was thrust upon them by life circumstances and bettyford
talking about her breast cancer. >> i completed my treatment and that will be another milestone for my. since that first year, i have not talked about the difference with cancer, but at that time, i have been in a discussion about it. i'm really pleased to see because it prompted a large number of women to get checkups in their local communities. ms. swain: she changed the conversation in this country about cancer. mr. cannon: it was personal and michelle obama said it is
personal. ant ant and i think that's where the commitment starts. we only see the happy side of it. there are a lot of obstacles along the way. and let me add one quick, way back, you do find that some of these women have felt very passionately and there were animal rights advocates and started for the brief time she was there to bring animal cruelty and even proposed that public schools adopt homeless animals and it's a way of teaching little adults, humans, little children about the treating other people with kindness. ms. swain: was it nancy reagan and the just say no campaign?
mr. cannon: it was ridiculed and the kits listened because drug use went down in high schools. i think we formalized it. michelle obama's other issue getting the troops, martha washington did that. she was called lady washington by the troops out of respect. andthere was alan wilson's bill, her renewal. i think that this has always been -- we codified it later but it has always been there. first ladies have an interest. ms. swain: what are some of the early examples? ms. medford: there are not always full-blown causes but
even after martha washington becomes first lady she has reception for veterans and soldiers. mrs. fillmore, responsible for developing the white house library. dolly madison is involved in working with orphans into getting her friends involved. mr. cannon: louisa adams talked about women's rights. her husband was the jimmy carter of that century. he is in the congress leading the argument against slavery while his wife is leading for suffrage. it ms. swain: mr. anthony:we aren't arguing with your premise, susan. it's more formal than it used to
be. an example is michelle obama's initiative. that was a presidential initiative. now you have a first laterdy doing what president used to do. ms. swain: i'm going to go over just a little bit and jump to one last question before we go to the questions from the audience. first ladies in the media, which has also been a part of the role. i want to start with the modern one -- how nancy reagan managed to turn around that negative image. i don't know how many of you were around, but she had a very unhappy reception from the press corps. what you did was went to the press corps and this own them. -- and disown them. mr. cannon: she bought these designer dresses. she was queen nancy, marie antoinette.
i've got carolyn harrison, a photograph. she hired a very well-known photographer, benjamin johnson to photograph her grandchild, who became a global celebrity. she wanted to do it because she wanted to control the public's image. mr. cannon: rather than have been exploited. ms. swain: yeah. and it worked? mr. cannon: not really. [laughter] they still exploited them. the baby was a cartoon character -- he was used like a little mascot for the administration. this little cartoon of this little boy. ms. swain: another person who tried this was edith roosevelt using the same photographer. there is a family photograph. she also wanted to control
access to that family. at the same time, the president loved the coverage. mr. anthony: his daughter was photographed picking up her winnings at the racetrack. [laughter] then he called the press, he called "the new york herald" editor on the phone, insisted he withdraw the story. ms. swain: what was the first first lady to have a full-time press secretary? mr. anthony: in formal terms, jackie kennedy. the others had functionaries in that capacity. they knew they needed help. mrs. hoover had four or five secretaries, one who was very good with interfacing with the reporters. ms. swain: another clip for you. this is too much fun. you know the white house
correspondents. it has become hollywood on the east, quite the event. there have been times when first ladies and their husbands have used that to help enhance their image. let's watch laura bush. >> i said the other day george, if you want to end tyranny in the world you will have to stay up later. [laughter] [applause] i am married to the president of the united states, and here is our typical evening. 9:00 excitement here. he is sound asleep. [laughter] i am watching "desperate
housewives." [laughter] lynne cheney. ladies and gentlemen i am a desperate housewife. [laughter] ms. swain: so, carl, there was a lot of criticism of the policies, especially among the press corps. how did this technique of humor once again work to help her image? mr. cannon: we are at war and this time and it doesn't change the coverage about the big issues of the day. but when people can laugh at themselves nancy reagan, laura bush, it humanizes them in a way that can only help them. his first year as president, he gave a nasty speech -- bob dole,
john kasich -- by the end, he was hiring professional comics. he was making fun of himself being home alone. the first ladies started that relatively recently, making fun of themselves. nancy did it, she had to make fun of her husband -- that is considered ok. hillary clinton if she gives one of these speeches, the whole town would want to know. [laughter] ms. swain: this is going to be the last clip, that it is back to what -- the schools they have, social media, youtube. it is also a very difficult thing to manage. all day long, people are commenting on their policies. one of those given and taken the way things. there's is a nice way to end the
discussion to see how a modern president uses the tools we have of communication to help advance policy present their image of themselves. >> hey everybody, i am so excited to talk to you about the anniversary. the theme this year is celebrate challenge champion. >> cut! what are you doing here? >> we are celebrating a big anniversary. >> oh. are we still running? >> it has been five years since we launched. for starters, i will ask people across the country -- kids and parents and a few celebrities to give me five reasons to be
healthy. they can eat fruits and veggies do push-ups, find a way to do five healthy habits. >> even i have time for that. >> that is the point. everybody, give me five. tweeted, instagram it, facebook it. impact on the challenge. >> are we still filming? >> your tie is on the right. [laughter] ms. swain: before your answer, what do you think about the state of the modern presidency, first ladies today? mr. anthony: it has always been a stage. whether it is andrew jackson with his big cape or harriet lane coming in with her fan making a real dramatic entrance.
whatever the changing technology is, these people are experts they are leaders. they know they are leaders in the intent to lead, and they own it. just like the obamas, the reagans, the kennedys -- they all own it. it is a stage and they know they are on it. ms. medford: the basics were always there whether it is martha washington, or michelle obama, there are certain things we are expecting of them and certain things the president is expecting of the first lady. but it changes according to the circumstances they find themselves in. ms. swain: i invite folks to the microphone. if any of you have questions get to the microphone and we will get your question. for miss thompson, they are
doing this as a way to get around -- [laughter] ms. thompson: that's exactly right. the obamas exist in a world where there is social media. it is the first administration to really utilize twitter facebook, instagram, vin interest -- vine pinterest. so she traveled with a youtube celebrity who asked her questions from twitter. she did not sit down with traditional reporters. the way her staff would explain it is she has a certain amount of time to do communications, and she wants to meet people where they are. and if people are coming to her following her by the millions on twitter, able to see the photos
that they put out on instagram then the power of being able to shape one's own image without the "filter" other traditional media is there in a way that it wasn't a before. i interviewed michelle obama and she is a great interview. frank answers to questions all the things he would imagine. it is not a lack of capability. there is a power in being able to exercise the ability to get on magazine covers, to be on late-night television to have daytime tv conversations that shape the conversation in a way that the white house is fully in control. ms. swain: we have to get to questions.
mr. cannon: it is a good conversation. it is not partisan, it is healthy. policy in syria is a problem but there is nothing wrong with that. not everybody can pull it off as well as they did. ms. swain: first question. >> there are reports or rumors that at least two first ladies ran the country when their husbands were ill. mrs. wilson and nancy reagan. is that true? mr. anthony: i would say, quick response -- when you say presidency, you have to look at the different components. one of it is making the final decision on things, sometimes it is approving things, sometimes it is making a decision to not make a decision, firings hirings. yes, partially.
edith wilson assumed some of that during the days of crisis. her agenda was to protect her husband from getting worse. nancy reagan, i would say -- she worked, in a sense, the filled a function that might be similar to a west wing aide, maybe a senior advisor but not assuming the role of the president. ms. swain: question? >> we realize that the first lady is kind of stuck with the role. what happens to first ladies afterward? how much can they go off script? ms. thompson: i spent a little time with laura bush last year and she was eager to talk about how much she was enjoying life.
it was interesting to watch her because she was very much shaped by -- i wouldn't use the word reluctant, but a quiet behind-the-scenes style. now we see her traveling more than the former president. she is working on launching a global program that will bring first ladies around the world together. she has done that in africa, she has been in washington. she did talks about the freedom of having the platform which first ladies now do, with the modern presidential library, foundations that they can use. they can still talk about causes that are important, but to do it in a way where she can choose to sit down with the press. not dog to buy media and the lack of privacy that comes along with living. ms. swain: that is a whole other subject for exploration.
the platforms against them and the influence. mr. cannon: we talk about jimmy carter being the cliche -- he is a great ex-president, and not everyone agrees. but he has done all these things and she has been there with him. they monitor elections and build homes for habitat for humanity. mr. anthony: not simply a partner to him, but he is a partner to her. she is really a fascinating woman that gets almost no press. she does it not necessarily for press or credit but her work on mental health goes back to the 1970's. she really have an impact in that field. mr. cannon: jimmy wrote a book. he said he was having the best sex of his life -- [laughter] that's tmi, because they were both in their 70's.
post-presidency has been fun for her. [laughter] ms. swain: does she think the same? [laughter] how do you follow that? [laughter] >> hi. i have a question about lady johnson. she was involved in her husband's war on poverty. i just wanted to know if you have any stories or any information on some things she did. mr. cannon: it was resident kennedy's brother-in-law who worked under the peace corps then headed up -- a
public-private partnership. he came up with the idea of head start and he went to her. she backed it 100%, became a spokesperson, and really helped establish it. mr. anthony:mr. cannon: the highway beautification bill was called the labor bill -- that is what johnson called it. that clip you showed us of her speech -- she may not like that because when he signed the bill in october 22, he never mentioned her name. [laughter] ms. swain: here's a question from twitter. which first lady was thought to be influential that was the least successful at it? [laughter] mr. anthony: that's -- i think
you could say hillary clinton? [laughter] just in terms of fairness. she always made the case that when a cames to policy matters she had to make a case for something or against something like any other advisor did. sometimes the president said no. we know that welfare reform -- there was a little bit of contention between them. it's not 100% note on all matters that she didn't win but there were quite a few. mr. cannon: what about lou hoover? there was some talent and she engaged with the press so she never really got her story out. she wouldn't even agree to do interviews with people.
there is that story of the female reporter dressed up as a girl scout, crashed a meeting. she was mad and never talked to anybody again. ms. swain: there was a reason she dressed up as a girl scout -- lou hoover took on the girl scouts as her major effort. she was trying to encourage volunteerism. mr. cannon: she was successful at that. ms. swain: she was doing a radio broadcast about the girls, to get into their communities and help with the trouble going on. question? >> there has been an interesting undercurrent to this whole conversation about the role of women in society and how it has influenced the expectations that women face when they become first lady. it seems like such a paradigm shift, because we are talking about having a first husband. there are first spouses around the world, so i would love to
hear what you will have to say -- if you were advising the clintons, how should they approach that potential new role for americans? ms. swain: could we get the laura bush clip about the future of first ladyhood? mr. anthony: i have done some research on this -- two things. bill clinton has been functioning these last eight years, 12 years, 16 years as a first gentleman. when you look at the status he has had and the role he takes on and the persona it is not too dissimilar from the kinds of roles that first ladies have played. nonpartisan, you usually not political. you have to look at the press in the 1984 presidential election, when the vice presidential candidate was suddenly thrust in
public. there were all kinds of questions raised about what kind of influence as he had, what are his business interests? i have always maintained that while sexism is at the root of a lot of these things, it is more about the unaccountable power of the spouse. outside the realm of american history, you look at other world government and see that issues have come up when there has been a male spouse to a female in power. ms. swain: that unaccountable power is why we are talking about this. ms. medford: i've been taking a look at that. on the state level, we have five women serving as governor now. they are all married. there are first gentleman in new hampshire, oklahoma, new mexico, a couple other states. it is interesting because, while at the state level the official
role that they play in their spouses administration looks very much like what first ladies do. they take on projects with the executive mansion and they are responsible for restoration. they usually have some sort of cause, whether it is big or small. the first gentleman of oklahoma posed for the front of a cookbook. [laughter] the proceeds went to a nonprofit. he had an apron on. it is brilliant. he has a platter of chicken and ribs. it is a macho cookbook, but it is a cookbook. the role of the spouse, like carl was saying, still remains that of a support. if the family has a small children often -- and marriage
has changed generally. you are seeing that the spouse who is not the governor, male or female, is the spouse that then becomes more responsible for caregiving, and takes those things on, because their spouse has the more important job. ms. swain: we had a chance to interview laura bush. now i am wishing we had picked the clip where she has the edge to her voice in saying, i wonder if they will critique the kind of ties they where. -- they wear. [laughter] should we pay our first ladies? they are working first time -- working full-time. here's what she had to say. >> the interesting question is not sure they receive a salary, it should they be able to work for a salary at their job that they might have already had. i think that question will have to come to terms with.
i continue to work, he did, he was a lawyer. the question we should ask is should she have a career during those years. in edition to serving. -- in addition to serving. ms. swain: there are all kinds of questions that come up as this is pressed upon. we have about five minutes left. there was a question we didn't get to bash the game changers. who are the women throughout history that really made a difference? that people should find out more about? ms. medford: eleanor roosevelt. i don't think you could find anybody who fits that type more than eleanor roosevelt. this is a woman who was well
educated, had real, serious concerns about where the country was. was married to the most powerful man in the country. she had her own agenda. she was writing columns, she was doing radio, she was in newsreels. she was defining the d.a.r. resigning her membership,. she was a member of the board doing her own thing. it may be that there has never been a first lady before or since like her, but i think she stands alone with what she was able to accomplish. as her own self, not just as the extension of her husband and her husband's interest, but what she was able to a couple shot her own. ms. swain: paul? mr. cannon: i would say eleanor roosevelt.
a couple other examples -- roosevelt was courting southern democrats for reelection again and again. she is confronting him privately on this. there are riots in the shipyards. fighting world war ii, fighting racism, you can't let these shipyards be segregated. she goes outside of him to other people in the party. she was a social liberal meeting she was a racial liberal. she is not afraid to call people. that newspaper column she writes -- this is a president so strong truman didn't want to do it, it has not gone away. this interview that michelle obama gave the other day, you can hear echoes of eleanor and it. -- in it. the first question is -- what is the best part of the job?
she says, i got to meet the pope, george clooney. [laughter] got to meet the queen. 's bench he talks about policy stuff. for me, eleanor is the prototype. ms. swain: she went through -- yeah. chris? ms. thompson: i would say first that i am eager to see how history remembers michelle obama. two, i am a texan, and lady bird has a special appeal to me. i love that clip you showed earlier. we know what a tough guy lbj was and how she spoke to people, and the way she tainted in that conversation is quite brilliant. also what mr. anthony mentioned, the work she did on beautification, the way in which we can now see, in retrospect, that it laid some groundwork for the environment that did not
exist in the way that it did then. being from texas and growing up seeing "don't mess with texas" everywhere, just what that means, to note that she in her role as first lady influenced all of that in a way that was quite subtle and not necessarily understood at the time, but that we now do understand. ms. swain: i will ask you -- give us some things we haven't heard. mr. anthony: dolly madison. she was one of the first two had a real sense of duty to a constituency. it was unusual for a woman back then to perceive as part of her proper role a sense of duty and connection to the general public. jacqueline kennedy, very strongly because of