March 16, 2017 • GOOD WORKS, PEOPLE
Women Who Inspire: Dana Perino, Political Commentator and Author
Women’s History Month—coupled with the launch of our #PrettyMighty Birchbox honoring the beauty and strength in all women—makes March the perfect moment to launch a new ongoing series on the Love, Reese blog. These posts will feature women who inspire us with their ambition, accomplishments, resilience, and generosity of spirit.
We couldn’t think of a better person to kick things off with than Dana Perino.
Dana is a Fox News contributor and co-host of one of the most popular shows on cable television, The Five.
A former White House Press Secretary (she served for seven years in the White House), she’s the bestselling author of two books: Published in 2015, And The Good News Is is the story of her journey from the Wyoming ranch where she was born to the White House. Released this past fall, Let Me Tell You About Jasper is a tale of how her beloved Vizsla showed her that dogs can bring people together and transcend political partisanship. (Dogs also make pretty great fashion models, as you’ll see in the pics of Jasper with Dana throughout this post.)
Dana is also the founder of Minute Mentoring, a women’s leadership program that features fast-paced mentoring sessions (“like speed-dating,” she says) for accomplished female professionals and young women rising stars. She’s also very active with Mercy Ships, a non-governmental hospital ship that travels the coast of West Africa providing safe surgical care and training to local medical professionals.
Dana and her husband, Peter, officially live in New York City, but she says she feels most at home at their house in Palmetto Bluff in South Carolina—an area they fell in love with after attending a wedding there in 2001. “The live oaks, Spanish moss, blue water, and marsh grasses all come together there in this little bit of perfection,” she muses. Dana and Peter ride their bikes everywhere; they’ve taken up tennis; and they can often be found siting on the front porch, iced tea in hand.
Scroll down for more words of wisdom from Dana…
Who was your first mentor?
Holly Propst. She was the chief of staff to Congressman Dan Schaefer [former Republican Congressman from Colorado] when I started work on Capitol Hill in 1995. She used to let me listen in on her calls to reporters so I could hear how she answered questions. I admire her to this day and remain so grateful for her leadership.
What did you love to do as a child that could have helped predict where you are today?
I was born in Wyoming, but I grew up in Colorado near Denver. When I was in third grade, my dad started a tradition with me where I had to read the Rocky Mountain News and the Denver Post before he got home from work. I had to choose two articles to discuss with him before dinner. He would ask me to explain the article and share what I agreed with and why. It taught me to think critically and to be prepared to defend my positions.
Fast forward: On Marine One in 2006, the President asked me my opinion about a controversial topic. My view wasn’t popular, but I didn’t hesitate to explain what I thought. After a few moments, the President turned to the other staff on the chopper and said, “She’s exactly right.” And right then I could feel myself back at the kitchen table, being praised by my dad for having thought an issue through properly and having the courage to express an unpopular view.
What is something you never fail to do every single day?
I pray in the mornings before Peter and Jasper get up. I wake with the sun and use that time to set my intention for the day and express my gratitude. I learned from President George W. Bush not to pray for specific outcomes; rather, to pray for things that will help me, like patience, good judgment, and serenity.
What advice would you give a young person whose dream is to follow in your footsteps?
Read everything that you can, especially the classics. Find several columnists with various viewpoints and read everything they write. If you love fiction, force yourself to read some biographies. If you gravitate to magazine writing, pick up a popular novel. Keep reading no matter what.
Take the jobs no one else wants and do them well and with joy.
Please don’t worry your young life away. I did a lot of worrying. I missed a lot because of that. It is the one thing I truly ask of younger people who want my advice.
Which moments are you proudest of in the last 12 months?
Sticking to my principles during the 2016 election.
Also, just returned from Mercy Ships. Peter and I first visited the surgical hospital ship serving the forgotten poor in West Africa in 2013, and it took our breath away. The need, the generosity, the way that the volunteers don’t waste a single dollar. We decided to book the trip for early in 2017 after the election coverage took over our lives. Peter and I have deepened our bond during our volunteer efforts in Africa. Maybe one day we will have a chance to spend a significant amount of time there.
How do you define “giving back”?
Doing something for someone else and not asking for anything in return. That’s how I feel about mentoring. I appreciate thank-you notes, of course, but I mainly ask that when young folks I’ve helped succeed, that they pass it on to the next generation.
What do you wish you had more time to do?
I’ve long wanted to take a road trip around the country with my British-born husband and our dog, Jasper. I want to take lots of time and see the little and the big things America has to offer.
What’s your personal fashion “uniform”—the styles or silhouettes you are most frequently drawn to?
I like to feel put-together, but with nothing tight. I want to be able to breathe. I am drawn to black in New York, but feel it is too severe when I’m in South Carolina. When I’m there, I love white jeans paired with a colorful tunic and chunky heels.
What about the South influences you?
Manners. I am big on them. I admire emotional control, grace, dignity, kindness. I feel like those attributes keep humanity from being flung into outer space. Hold on to them for dear life.
Porching. It is the antidote to the busy schedule of the city (which I also love—with limits!). I love iced tea (sometimes I allow myself to have “half-sweet.” It feels so indulgent).