Governor M. Jodi Rell
Anybody can, and should, be a role model
Kid Reporter Jack Greenberg meets with Connecticut Governor Jodi Rell in her office in February 2007. (Photo: Courtesy Jack Greenberg)
How would you like to come face to face with the governor of your state? Recently, Scholastic News Online met the Governor of Connecticut, M. Jodi Rell, for an exclusive one-on-one interview for Women's History Month. We discovered how she feels about her role as a woman in politics and what kids can do to get involved in their communities.
SN Online: What was your life like before you were governor?
Governor Rell: While raising my children I volunteered in school, reading in the classroom. I went on to join the Connecticut State Representatives, then Lt. Governor, before becoming Governor. My life has been interesting and fun.
SN Online: You recently held the state’s budget address. When you created the education portion of the state’s budget, how did your dream of a career in teaching affect your decisions?
Governor Rell: My commitment to education comes more from my experience as a mom volunteering in the classroom. If you can read, you can accomplish most anything. There is nothing greater than getting so carried away in a book you can’t put it down. Teachers tell me how concerned they are that children are not coming to school prepared. With our budget we hope to accomplish more pre-school readiness so children do come to school prepared.
SN Online: What advice do you have for a kid who wants to become governor in the future?
Governor Rell: First, get your education and get involved. Some school boards have student representatives. Kids can get involved that way. If you can’t join the school board, attend meetings, listen to what’s being talked about. Know what‘s going on in your town. Children can get involved with volunteer groups and be part of a community. Children can even get involved with the building of schools by telling their ideas about how the schools could be utilized.
SN Online: What can kids do to help their community?
Governor Rell: Kids can do little things like being involved in Scouts or other organizations. People can do something on their own. When I walk I notice trash on the road. My daughter and I bring garbage bags and pick up trash along the way. My neighbor first was amused to see the Governor picking up trash, but now he picks it up, too. By getting involved you help your community and inspire others to pitch in.
SN Online: How did you get your start in politics?
Governor Rell: I started in politics when a friend of mine decided not to run again as state representative. I joked that if he didn’t run, I would have to, because I couldn’t imagine anyone else but him running. My friend encouraged me to run. I had two small children, had just resumed my education, and didn’t think it was possible. My husband was an airline pilot at the time and arranged his schedule around the legislative sessions to be with our children. With my family’s support, I ran, I won, and have been here ever since.
SN Online: Politics is a male-dominated field. Did you ever feel discriminated against as a woman in office or while running for office?
Governor Rell: I’ve never felt discriminated against in office and I’ve had the good fortune of working with people who realize women are capable of being in top-level positions. But I have experienced rude and condescending remarks by people who treat women differently. For example, when poll numbers show people don’t like my taxes, you might hear a response such as, “This is about being Governor, not being prom queen.” This is not something that would be said if the Governor was a male. They wouldn’t refer to him as ‘prom king.’” They would say, “This is about being Governor, not a popularity contest.”
SN Online: March is Women’s History Month. How would you consider yourself a role model for women?
Governor Rell: When people used to ask me about being a role model, that sounded pretty scary to me. Then one day I decided everybody is a role model, you just don’t know it. If you do what’s right and you do it for the right reasons then people will look to you and say, “Wow, that’s what I should do.”
Celebrate Women’s History Month with Scholastic News Online! Learn more about some amazing women who changed history.
Jack Greenberg is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps.