Conversation with Helen Thomas
Helen Thomas is often referred to as “The First Lady of the Press,” former White House Bureau Chief Helen Thomas is a trailblazer, breaking through barriers for women reporters while covering every President since John F. Kennedy. Thomas was the only woman print journalist to travel with President Nixon to China during his breakthrough trip in January, 1972. A past president of the Women’s National Press Club, Thomas was the first woman officer of the National Press Club (1959-60), the first woman officer and president of the White House Correspondents Association (1975-76), and the first woman member and president of the Gridiron Club. The World Almanac cited her as one of the 25 Most Influential Women in America.
Helen Thomas served as White House correspondent for United Press International for 57 years and a syndicated columnist for Hearst Newspapers. She is the author of several books, including Thanks for the Memories Mr. President, Front Row at the White House, Watchdogs of Democracy? and Listen Up, Mr. President: Everything You Always Wanted Your President to Know and Do.
INTERVIEW WITH MARIANNE SCHNALL (6/16/09)
Marianne Schnall: You are participating in Omega Institute’s conference, Connecting Across the Generations. Why do you think dialogue among women of different generations is important?
Helen Thomas: Dialogue among women of different generations is important because it is a learning game for both. Each generation gets something from the other.
MS: As a journalist in The White House over the years you have often had to work with people with whom you don’t necessarily agree – what is your advice on interacting with and finding common ground with people of different perspectives?
HT: Be tolerant. Listen to opposition views -- and maybe you'll learn something.
MS: What type of wisdom do you think older women have to offer younger generations?
HT: Older women offer younger women the wisdom of a lifetime -- experiences they haven't had before, and maybe some guidance.
MS:What can older women learn from younger women?
HT: Older women can learn what's going on in the new, modern world from younger women: language nuances, fashion, etc. -- changes that have passed them by.
MS: What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about older women these days?
HT: That they're old! That they are not attuned to any new ideas, and that they think only about the past, rather than the future.
MS: What words of wisdom would you want to offer younger women?
HT: Go for it! Follow your dreams, and raise the bar for all people.
MS: You have witnessed significant advancements for women in your lifetime. What is your insight and feelings about the change you have seen and experienced?
HT: Women are much better off today than in earlier times. We have almost achieved equality -- but not quite -- a big goal has been equal pay for equal work. Women have become real leaders in the country.
MS: You are often seen as a trailblazer, breaking through all sorts of barriers for women reporters, such as being the only woman print journalist to travel with President Nixon to China in 1972, the first woman officer of the National Press Club, the first woman officer and president of the White House Correspondents Association, and the first woman member and president of the Gridiron Club. What advice would you give to women on breaking through barriers they may face?
HT: Never give up, and always struggle against false obstacles.
MS: As one of the few women’s voices in the media for many years, do you feel you brought a unique perspective that was essential? What do you think women’s voices bring to the media and why is that important?
HT: Women are more compassionate. They have a better understanding of people, and are more for peace in the world.
MS: As a prolific writer who is a syndicated columnist and the author of many books, including a new book coming out, Listen Up Mr. President– where does your incredible energy and inspiration come from?
HT: Outrage and injustice -- and a strong belief in better people and a better world.
MS: What is your wish for the children of the future?
HT: I hope they will carry the flag for democracy and world peace.
MS: Anything else that you want to add?
HT: People should find a path to happiness in life, and share it with others.
For more on Helen Thomas, visit her web site at www.helenthomas.org
Note: Portions of this interview appeared in the article Women Connecting Across the Generational Divide: From Gloria Steinem to Courtney Martin which appeared at Huffington Post.
Related link: Honoring Helen Thomas (Women's Media Center)
by Jenny Warburg and Linda Belans (6/18/10)
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Marianne Schnall is a widely published writer and interviewer. She is also the founder and Executive Director of Feminist.com and cofounder of EcoMall.com, a website promoting environmentally-friendly living. Marianne has worked for many media outlets and publications. Her interviews with well-known individuals appear at Feminist.com as well as in publications such as O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, In Style, The Huffington Post, the Women's Media Center, and many others.
Marianne's new book based on her
interviews, Daring to Be Ourselves: Influential Women
Share Insights on Courage, Happiness and Finding Your Own Voice came out in November 2010. Through her writings, interviews, and websites, Marianne strives to raise awareness and inspire activism around important issues and causes. For more information, visit www.marianneschnall.com and www.daringtobeourselves.com.