One of the really amazing things about being at the Democratic convention this week was all the women (and young women) who were there — delegates, attendees, elected officials and others. It was very cool to see so many young women getting so excited and involved about politics. So when I got a chance on the very last day to interview Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm (thanks in no small part to my new friend Erin Hofteig at Media Matters, who arranged for me to use their conference room and this balcony), I knew I had to ask her about her experiences getting politically engaged and her advice for those of you who are contemplating it yourselves.MEGAN: What got you interested in politics as a young woman? GOVERNOR GRANHOLM: Actually my folks — who were immigrants, and I'm an immigrant to this country, too, having been born in Canada, though we moved here when I was 3 years old — they were always very focused on service. And they taught me that we were put on this planet to do something more than serve ourselves and that we have an obligation to make it better, in whatever way people can do that. My parents are avid Republicans so, in high school, I worked for Gerald Ford, going door-to-door when he was seeking to be re-elected, or, elected for the first time since he ascended after Nixon. But, when I got to college, post-high school, I moved further to the center and then further to the left. I ended up working for John B. Anderson, who was an independent Presidential candidate. Then I continued to move further left on the spectrum and became an avid Democrat, largely because I come from such middle class roots and knowing that, in my experience, the Democratic party has been the party that speaks to pocketbook issues for real people and speaks to equality and tries to make the playing field level for all citizens. So that's how I got interested in politics. MEGAN: And what made you decide are all the kinds of service, of all the ways you could have served your community, to go into politics? GOVERNOR GRANHOLM: I went to law school — I was the first person in my family to go to college at all and ended up going to Harvard Law School, which was a really big deal for my family — and at law school I wanted to be a civil rights lawyer. There just some truly great professors, especially women professors, who really motivated me to make sure that the law was used as both a sword and a shield for making sure that people had equal access to jobs or to whatever democracy has to offer. So when I got out, I thought I was going to be a public sector lawyer — I was going to be a civil rights lawyer, I ended up a prosecutor. I had a very good track record as a federal prosecutor. So, in fact, I wasn't thinking about political office for myself. I worked for campaigns and I supported political candidates, but I never thought of myself as someone who would run. But when the attorney general of the state of Michigan retired, a number of people came to me and said, "You know, you should run for attorney general." And I thought, "Get out of here! Why would I do that?" My mother always told me three things you should do or not do:
- Don't ask strangers for money.
- Don't talk about yourself because no one wants to hear it, and
- Don't wear your good clothes every day.