Karen Hughes Discuss Clarity, Conviction, and Compassion


On the strategic today as our co host we have Hannah Abney the vice president of External Affairs joining us again Hannah thank you for doing this Sandra and our guest is the Great Karen Hughes who the New York Times famously said the rule of thumb in any White House is that nobody is indispensable except the president but Karen Hughes comes close to that description as any recent presidential aide Karen what do you think of that well it's a it's interest I think that that was said the day or two after I announced that I was leaving the White House so I remember thinking how ironic it took me announcing I'm leaving for the New York Times to finally say something Nice about me but you know part of it was I agree that no one is indispensable and it just was so different from the way that we operated in President Bush's White House and has when he was governor of Texas because it was so much a team environment it was really not about any individual it was about a team of the people who were there to serve the president and that's how I felt when I left and I told reporters in the press room they were like well you know but but you're leaving and I said well they're great people here continue to do the work I'm Dan Bartlett Mary Madeline and took rescue and we had a great team in place and they said but you're the leader the team and I said no the president's the leader of the team and he staying so doing anyway he's not going anywhere well thank you for being here welcome back to the Bush Center and Joaquin awesome you always great to be here always great to see the great things happening at my Alma Mater yes it is it really is Karen you have had a remarkable career you've senator analyst you've been addressed today and the executive director of the Texas Republican Party you've been President Bush's Communications Guru as you talked about in the White House but also when he was the governor of Texas you're under Secretary of State for public diplomacy the Global Vice Chair of Burson Marsteller is your current Gig and of course most important he probably is your mom and an career mother and a wife and really fortunately for us at the Bush Center an incredibly trusted adviser membership of our sorry member of our Advisory Committee continuous advocate for women around the world so how have you had the time to do it all well you know it's interesting I when people ask me now about Alan I'm not sure there such a thing as balance what I what I say to to women and men today is that that you can have both a career and a family you'll have to make choices along the way but you don't have to choose one or the other and at different times in your life one may have to be more important than the other and so I made the decision that I had to leave the White House I realized that I was no longer relevant to my family and I was missing a very important time I thought in in my son's life but you know I also was able to have wonderful experiences and when he went to college I went back to the State Department and had a great experience there in a very challenging and interesting role representing our country with in public S- across the world so I feel looking back I was able to bring my son with me on the on the presidential campaign I will never forget asking President Bush about that how was he then he was thirteen and it was born out of his interest during Christmas break during one of the days off school he came with me to New Hampshire and he loved it and he was fast naty by it and so that that sort of started the seat of an idea and then he came to New Hampshire during the actual election and spend a couple of days there and one day in the spring I went to President Bush and said you know what would you think about me taking Robert Out of school this fall and having him travel with us and you know most I think most leaders one of their key people said came to them and said amidst this really intense presidential campaign how I bring my kid along I mean most of them would have said no way to President Bush credit he looked at me and said that's a great idea and my son told me he's now thirty two lawyer in Houston and he told me not too long ago that rarely a day goes by that he doesn't think of something he learned during that great experience traveling on the presidential campaign and you know he did everything from participate in debate preparation to to traveling on the road with bus tours and watched the President I'm so grateful that he was able to see President Bush's leadership firsthand I feel that's been a big part of developing ham and so we have been able to have both wonderful your experiences and wonderful family experiences and so I would encourage everyone. UK Undo it it'll be hard sometime and but and you'll have to make choices time there were times when I had to step back on one or the other but you don't have to choose one or the other yeah you had a great line in your book about how how you felt when your son it's just make some brownies with you and you tired to make brownies and I was like what does that say about my life something must change here so I think it's also fascinating that it doesn't have to be finite I think talk about work life balance I think particularly with women because I don't think we have this conversation as often with men but when we talk about work life balance which I agree with you I'm not sure that there is a balance we talk about it like you can either be a mom or you can have a career and I think you've done a really interesting Job of having both and also even when you left the White House he worked totally gone I mean you were still helping you're still informing even when you are in Texas while promise President Bush would I left that I would stay in that was the first thing he said to me when I when I told him that you know I I remember saying you know Mr President I think the world of you but I have to move my family home to Texas and and you can imagine again he's the hardest job in the world the highest pressure imaginable one of his key people is is telling him I'm leaving and he turned to me looked and he said well you stay involved and it was the nicest thing he could have said and I said of course I'll stay involved and I told him that I would not only stay involved but that would come back and travel with him during his two thousand four reelection campaign because that's a model we hit established when he first ran for governor I I went to work for him and two things the first day I worked for him I've been the executive director of the Republican Party and so I was in the headquarters and I was getting all these calls about George Bush his positions and I realized I didn't know him well enough to speak for him so I told the campaign manager I need to go on the road with with then towards Bush because he hadn't been elected anything yet and to get oh and better and so I went on the road with them and we had a wonderful time and and I realized how much I believed in him and got to know him and we we called it the campaign of joy because we it was crazy by pager was always going off it was always bad news but we were running for all the right reasons and against all the odds that we forged a great great friendships there and that that's how I sort of got to know him was over the course of that campaign but I and that's how I realized that I could learn to speak for him was by being with him but the second part of that is I also learned that you really drive what I call the offense of the campaign from the road when you're at the headquarters are sort of naturally on defense you're responding to whatever the incoming nations are you may not want to answer but on the on the road you're with the candidate you can take advantage of opportunities you can see a moment when the candidate could speak out and make news and so I promised him when I left that I would come back in two thousand four and travel with them on the reelection campaign did which was a wonderful experience to it's been awhile since you've been on the road with him and in your book ten minutes from normal you've talked about some of those experiences on the road are there any memories now looking back that really stand out I remember visiting eighth based programs across the country where people were just I mean this one woman who washed the feet of the homeless I think it was in Minneapolis and just seeing you know what Americans doing to love their neighbors in need and President Bush always talked about the armies of compassion that the government could hand out money but it couldn't put hope in your heart or a sense of purpose in your lives and and during the campaign I remember witnessing that firsthand and then later the State Department I saw around the world where Americans were giving of themselves to help other people we'll have a better life and it was very inspiring to that point I mean you helped President Bush obviously coined the phrase compassionate conservatism which is I think perfect articulation of the kind of leader he is and the kind of president he was actually grew out of an interview if you want to hear the view there was an international reporter Cath dick I think he was from Europe who was in President Bush's office and he was pressing him about his political philosophy and and President Bush said well I'm a conservative and the reporter I said well but when you talk about single moms making ends meet and when you talk about you know parents wanting to bring their children to a better life about children you know that reading being the right for children and you don't sound like a conservative and President Bush looked at him and said well then call me a conservative with a heart and so we turn that into compassionate conservative and I think it really it does describe his his philosophy his optimism and his his concern for people and he always felt that government should be limited but the government also had a role because it could do certain things that would help but others such as those armies of compassion had an important role as well well it's something we think is so important here at the center we try to spend a lot of time talking about it I think some people feel like maybe we've lost a little bit of that compassion as a country thought about politics is not about policy but that perhaps in an age of where we're able to sort of hide behind a computer a lot of times that maybe we've lost a little bit of that compassion what do you think about that why I say we we drive into our automatic door garages and we shut the door and we don't get to see our neighbors as much and we sent emails rather than talking face to face and so I do think that's I think that's something we need to think about I mean technology has improved our lives in so many ways I'll never forget the first time I was able to edit a presidential speech on my device from the dressing room happen so technology has been very liberating but I also think we need to make sure that we don't use it to replace our human connections that we don't spend hours on you know social media on our phones as opposed to talking with our next door neighbor or you know face to face spending time with our

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