To most journalists, especially women journalist, Helen Thomas was an inspiration. She certainly was an example for me as I entered the world of journalism. Her passing on Saturday, July 20 at the age of 92, not only reminded me of her impressive career, but also of the usedview.com interview I was fortunate to have with her in 2009 upon the publication of Listen Up, Mr. President. She had at least six books published. Among them was Front Row at the White House.
Here is the interview with the woman who always asked the hard questions and was never afraid to speak her mind. From usedview.com on Oct. 29, 2009.
Helen Thomas talks about new book: Listen Up, Mr. President
In less than 200 pages, Helen Thomas along with co-author Craig Crawford have nailed it. The book is part history lesson, part sound advice and all a pleasure to read. In fact, readers will be surprised what they don’t know. It addresses politicians and voters, giving them plenty to consider when it comes to the presidency and the U.S. constitution. A brief interview with Helen Thomas gives some insight.
1. Would you describe this as a bipartisan book of advice?
I’d describe it as a reporter’s view of the White House. It isn’t politicized. It applies to everybody. They all act the same in the end. They fall in the same pattern.
2. Has President Obama received a copy?
We’re going to give him one. We’re looking for the opportune moment.
3. Of your six books (including Listen Up, Mr. President, and your children’s book), which are you most proud?
One that is most definitive in terms of my bio is Front Row in the White House. It has more latitude and is more personalized. (Examiner’s note: Front Row in the White House is now available in paperback.)
4. Is this your first book collaboration and how was the process?
Yes, it’s my first book collaboration. There was give and take on everything in the writing of this book.
5. How long did it take to research and write? It took about one year between the organization and the writing.
6. While you address “Mr. President” in this, it also is a head’s up to voters on what they need to know and look for in a president. Did you want to balance advice to voters along with advice to presidents?
I think the voters are becoming more powerful and beginning to understand their role. I loved the involvement (of the people/voters) in Vietnam– for their expression.
7. Does one piece of advice come across as the most important in Listen Up, Mr. President?
They (presidents) always must maintain their credibility. If they lose credibility they can’t persuade or influence government or govern. The First Amendment is wonderful to preserve not just for press, but also for all the freedoms for individual rights. People think we (journalists) only care about ourselves, but that’s not true. You can’t have freedom without knowledge.
8. In the book you write about Bush’s flawed election in 2000 and how it demonstrates a dramatic example of why voting matters and how “it shined a bright spotlight on the flaws in our balloting system.” The book further points out a line in the Supreme Court opinion that stopped the counting of Florida’s ballots. “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States” in Bush v. Gore. The book states “citizens presume to have the power to pick their president only because every state legislature has chosen to give it to them. But it can be taken away at any time—and this should be changed.” Do you think voters– will they listen up?
I think they may at least get ideas of what reporters are trying to do and what makes us different from anybody else with a laptop. We have a sense of responsibility and ethics. We know the importance of being accurate. As far as the Electoral College, I think it’s out of date. Smaller states aren’t about to give it up. We have a way to go to make it a more perfect union.
9. The book seems to say: Mr. President, treat us like adults. You and Crawford point out advice that includes open up, tell the truth, have courage, and more. Is this what voters want?
There have been so many times people have forgiven a president because they leveled with them. (The book includes many examples from John F. Kennedy to Ronald Reagan.)
10. Looks like a series here. Do you plan a follow up book?
That’s a good idea.
11. Is there one question about this book that you hope will cause readers to ask questions?
I would hope people would ask more about what’s wrong with our country. There is so much hate in the air. Wake up to your rights and speak up and care about humanity. You are your brother’s keeper.