Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 03/03/21
Five Questions for Dana Perino. One of the perks of this job is the opportunity to speak with people whose work I genuinely enjoy. Such is the case with Dana Perino who I catch almost every work day on The Five (weekdays, 5:00 PM ET on Fox News Channel) as I wind down from a day of writing. Especially during these days of pandemic, it’s like getting together with a group of friends to playfully shoot the breeze about the day’s events. Apparently, I’m not the only one who enjoys the show as it currently ranks among the top five programs on all of cable television.
Anyway, my opportunity to chat with the former press secretary for President George W. Bush, who, along with Bill Hemmer, also currently co-anchors America’s Newsroom (weekdays, 9:00 AM ET on Fox), comes as she promotes her new book Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman). I think it’s appropriate that, after expressing my admiration for what she and her co-workers accomplish daily on The Five, I asked her five questions.
JWK: Let me begin by saying I’m a big fan of The Five. I catch it and unwind with it nearly every day after work. I think you folks have really caught lightning in a bottle with the current team. It’s a very entertaining show.
Dana Perino: That’s great. We have long days – especially now that I do the morning show – (and) at The Five I always end up laughing. I don’t know if you saw it today (Monday), Greg (Gutfeld) had one of my points and then Katie (Pavlich) had one of my points. We just laugh about it. And I appreciate what you just said, that you “unwind” with The Five. We’re about to have our 10th anniversary in July and I feel like that is a really good description – that people can unwind their day with all of us. By then, they typically know what happened in the day from the news and they kind of want to hear what we have to say about it. I’m thrilled your a fan! That’s great!
JWK: I’ve watched the show for years, actually, but I think the current crew is clicking particularly well.
DP: Obviously, you see us on TV (but) I would also say that we have an incredible team of producers. They are close knit. They are very hardworking but light in heart. They’re really fun young people. It’s been wonderful to see some of them grow and get promoted to other great new things but it’s always hard for them to leave The Five because it’s so fun.
JWK: I can imagine.
JWK: I’ll get to your book in a minute but, as long you mentioned your daily schedule, you come in early each morning to prepare for America’s Newsroom which goes on the air at 9:00 AM (ET). So, you start off the day with a pretty straightforward new program and you end it with The Five. What’s it like striking that balance between a straight news show and something like The Five?
DP: I was (previously) doing the two o’clock show and Bill Hemmer was doing the three o’clock show. Of course, (prior to that) for years (Bill Hemmer) was the co-anchor of America’s Newsroom. I was totally taken by surprise – and pleasantly so when, at the end of December, they suggested this change and, John, I am loving the morning. I’m a morning person naturally and I love the news. I love getting my day started with somebody who also is joyous in his work. He is very generous as a colleague. I feel like we are bringing out the best in each other and we really are having a great time.
You know, I’ve been doing this (news and opinion) balance for several years now. I have to say that I’m just being myself and I think it’s working because I think people trust me as a news reporter and interviewer. We have a really good range of guests that come on America’s Newsroom and, before, on The Daily Briefing.
And then on The Five, I’ve never been a very partisan person – I guess, obviously, there are some people who might disagree with that – but I’ve always loved politics and analyzing it and I think because I’ve had all of that experience – all those years in Washington, as I date myself a little bit – that helps me be able to say “Well, actually, on the one hand” (but) “on the other hand” and “Let’s watch for this” and see if I can get any of my predictions right. I can get a lot of them right. Not always, but pretty close.
JWK: So, tell me how did your new book Everything Will Be Okay: Life Lessons for Young Women (from a Former Young Woman) come about and what is your goal with it?
DP: I’ve done a lot of mentoring of young women – and young men – but I get a lot of requests from young women for mentoring, for professional and even personal advice. I’m grateful that they think I have something to offer. I certainly have had a lot of great opportunities.
In my first book, And the Good News Is…, I included a chapter with all of my mentoring advice in one place. So, when young women would ask me for advice, I’d say check out this chapter and then let’s talk further. Over the years, I would say that this is the chapter that really stuck for most people. It’s still a graduation gift for young women or is something that somebody would give someone if they thought they were going through a hard time and they were looking for just a little bit of a lifeline, a little bit of a nudge in the right direction.
So, over the years, I was asked by my publisher “Do you want to do another one?” It’s a lot of work. I have a busy life but I felt like I finally had something I wanted to say. I wanted to put all of my (thoughts on) day-to-day work life – like how to make your daily work life better – (on paper) but then also take it to the next level which is how do you then emerge into more senior management or leadership roles? And how can you do all of this while maintaining some sort of work/life balance? I wrote an entire chapter on how you can find serenity in the life that we’re all leading now. We’re in a competitive world and we’re in a world that has been shaken by a pandemic. It hasn’t been easy for people. There are some people who have thrived in a pandemic but they are few and far between. A lot of people have struggled. I’m grateful that the title of the book Everything Will Be Okay seems to be what a lot of people feel like they need to hear right now. I feel like it’s coming out at a good time.
JWK: You dedicate your book to your mother, Janice Perino, who you say was the first to tell you that everything will be okay. Can you elaborate on that?
DP: When I think back to my childhood, what did I always need to be told? Everything will be okay. My husband knows that about me too. I have a tendency to worry. I write a lot about that in the book, about how to get a handle on worry and turn that energy into fuel that you can use in productive means. When I was writing the book, I would just listen to people in the grocery store or church. What do you hear moms telling babies (and) little kids to soothe them? “It will be okay.” We can all kind of say that to each other, as well. It doesn’t have to just be for kids.
JWK: You also say in your book “Reach back to what your parents taught you about religion and faith–it will help you over and over throughout your life.” Can you point to a moment when that particular advice helped you?
DP: Sure. In fact, I was just thinking about this the other day. When I was working on Capitol Hill as a young staffer – this was my first stint on Capitol Hill, so that was in the late nineties – I was going through what I call a quarter life crisis. I was 25. I thought that I would have met somebody by then. I thought that my career would be in a little bit of a higher gear than it was. I wasn’t really sure if I wanted to be in politics at all. I was kind of struggling.
I was part of a singles group at my church. It was Lutheran Church of the Reformation which is on East Capitol Street, just behind the Supreme Court and we met every Wednesday night. There was a woman there named Cynthia who was slightly older than the rest of us. She wasn’t quite single. Her husband had clinical depression. So, she joined our group for camaraderie and get-togethers and to join in our volunteer work.
So, one evening, I shared with them my anxieties about all of those things I just described and, afterwards, as we were walking out she took me aside and she said “Remember what God said over and over throughout The Bible. He said ‘Fear not.'” And she said “You can trust Him. You’re in the Palm of His Hand.” And (there was) something about that, John. That night I remember praying a little bit about that (and) thinking about that. And, when I woke up the next day, I really felt better and I kind of let things go. And, back in the day when you didn’t have “cell” phones and you took notes on a piece of paper and doodled, I would write “Fear not, Fear not, Fear not” over and over and, after a while, I just sort of reminded myself that I could let it go.
I do find that many young women today are worrying themselves into a frenzy and I want to assure them that they can “Fear not” and that they can turn that worry into something that will help them in their professional and their personal life.
JWK: As you say on The Five, “One more thing.” My one pet peeve about the show is I wonder why that final segment isn’t Five More Things since there are five of you. I don’t mean to divide the nation over yet another issue but can you explain that?
DP: Okay, I’ll tell you why. One More Thing originally started way back when – when Bob Beckel was on the show. There were times when he would say things and I was like “That’s not true.” I wanted a little bit of time at the end of the show correct the record (or) set the record straight. So, it kind of started that way but it quickly morphed into something where everybody could just bring something to the table – something that they wanted to say or promote or something that they thought or thought was fun or funny.
One More Thing I think kind of drives our producers crazy because sometimes we can be procrastinators when it comes to choosing our one more thing. Other days, it’s quite easy. It’s like “I’m doing that.”
I think Greg’s One More Things are just wonderfully creative. We all try to copy him and follow his lead. Jesse Waters has some fantastic One More Things. Whenever there’s a guest host or a fill-in, I always tell them – if they ask me for advice – you have to have a fantastic One More Thing because nailing that end of the show, sticking the landing, is the very most important thing you can do to be remembered.
One More Thing: While I agree that Dana’s book offers terrific advice for young women, it offers pretty good tips for the rest of us too. Take it from this old guy, letting go of worry and trusting God is a good starting point for positive change in one’s life.
Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11