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know your power


Nancy Pelosi is the first woman to serve as Speaker of the House in the U.S. Congress. Third in line for the Presidency and setting the agenda for the House of Representatives, she has a lot of power to influence what issues are debated on the floor and how that debate proceeds. Reading her book, Know Your Power: A Message to America’s Daughters (written with Amy Hill Hearth), I was impressed by her commitment to the issues she cares about (health care and children in poverty stand out above the rest) and her attention to detail. This woman talks to world leaders and thinks seriously about the direction and future of the entire country—she also appears to take the time to know her constituents and to count votes on the House floor, sometimes calling 150 members of Congress personally to ensure that she has the votes she needs. Pelosi sets her priorities clearly and keeps them at the forefront of her mind.

Despite a conversational and even, at times, breezy in tone, Pelosi peppers the book with practical suggestions and aphorisms, for working in the political realm. Here are a few that I gleaned:

  • Take care of the relationships with people
  • Do your homework; be prepared
  • Don’t lose track of what’s important to the average person
  • Don’t agonize, organize
  • When faced by opposition, do the following (in order): discredit the opposition; differentiate from the opposition; enact your platform
  • Be passionate about your beliefs and dispassionate about your politics
  • Listen to new ideas
  • No fight is the last fight

Though I’m not sure I can, or even want to, do all these, they are battle-proven ideas, from a life in and/or near the political scene. Like Pelosi herself, ignore her suggestions at your own risk.


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