Dana Perino — former White House Press Secretary under George W. Bush and current co-host on Fox’s “The Five” — is on the phone from a car headed to the Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, California.
She’s on tour to promote her new autobiography, “And the Good News Is …: Lessons and Advice From the Bright Side,” in which she traces the long and winding road that took her from a childhood in Wyoming and Colorado to the podium in the Press Briefing Room, speaking for the POTUS — and now to a seat at the roundtable giving her own opinions on the news of the day.
“Then,” she said, “I’m going to turn around and rush back to New York City to be there in time for ‘The Five.'”
Perhaps even more nerve-wracking than putting her life down on paper was handing those pages to her “Five” co-star Greg Gutfeld, known for his sharp wit and utter lack of a politically correct filter.
“I was sitting on pins and needles,” she said, “because his opinion mattered a lot to me. When he landed [after reading it on a flight], and told me it was very well-written, I could have danced a jig.”
Perino wasn’t aiming to rehash the politics of the Bush era.
“It’s not a partisan book,” she said. “Even though I do give a behind-the-scenes of what it was like to work in the Bush White House, it’s not all about politics. It’s more about a personal life journey. In particular, it’s about advice that I’ve gotten that was worth passing on.”
One of those bits of advice came from a fortysomething woman in Perino’s Lutheran church singles’ group in Washington, D.C., who reminded the anxiety-wracked 25-year-old that God says, “Fear not.” Struck by that idea, Perino wrote it down and carried it with her in her purse.
“That’s a theme throughout the book,” she said. “When I”m struggling throughout my life, one thing I return to is ‘Fear not.’ When I had my quarter-life crisis, when I was making my decision to move to England to be with Peter” — her now-husband, British businessman Peter McMahon — “when I decided to leave San Diego to go back to Washington, D.C, after 9/11, it was ‘Fear not … go.’
“And then President Bush, at the White House, telling me, ‘What’s the worst that can happen? What are you afraid of? If you were to start your own business; if you were to write …’
“So I’ve had people reminding me of that over and over. It’s a foundational grounding of my spiritual upbringing, in our Lutheran church. I’m the kind of person who does worry, who does stress and fret, and to remember not to fear is really important to my well-being.
“What I love, at the end of the book, is the conclusion where I try to describe what I feel like I have achieved right now in my life, and that’s two phrases: productive serenity, and joyously content.”
Part of that contentment comes from her marriage to McMahon, whom she met when seated next to him on a plane. Because he was 18 years older than her, had grown children, had been married twice before, and lived in England, Perino had every reason to turn her back on the romance. But, she didn’t.
“One of my favorite pieces of advice from the book,” she said, “is choosing to be loved is not a career-limiting decision. Young people, they don’t want to get married; they want to focus on their careers. To me, finding Peter, that actually enhanced my career, because both people were willing to go 75 percent of the way.
“I try to encourage people, if you do think you want to have a loved one in your life, and you find somebody, don’t let your career get in the way of love, because love actually enhances your career and leads you to even greater success and enjoyment.”
Another piece is her beloved Vizsla, Jasper, who hugely popular with Fox fans and has earned the nickname of “America’s Dog.”
Said Perino, “He gives me more love and joy than I could ever imagine.”
She also wants ambitious, driven young people to understand that the road to success is seldom straight.
“Even thought I didn’t think my horizons were that grand,” she said, “my dreams were not that big, but every time I made a plan to try to find some sort of control over my future, God intervened and something else happened. It turned out that all of those things became better than what I had planned.
“A lot of young people, they want a road map. They want to follow the GPS for their career. If you tell them, here’s how you get from Point A to Point B, and all of the stops along the way, they will do exactly what you tell them.
“My point is, in this book, is to say, you’ve got to get out there and start living and make friends and keep in touch with them, and eventually, over time, that’s how you achieve career success.”
Click here to go to my Pax Culturati blog at Patheos.com‘s Catholic Channel to read more from Perino, on the topic of forgiveness.
Images: Courtesy Twelve Books; DanaPerino.com