- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Lynne V. Cheney, wife of Vice President Richard B. Cheney, an author and former chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, turns 60 today. Her family and friends threw a large surprise party for her a few weeks ago. She intends to spend today with friends in Cody, Wyo. In an interview with culture page editor Julia Duin, she describes what achievements have meant most to her over six decades.

Question: What is your greatest life accomplishment to this point?
Answer: My children, number one, and my grandchildren, number two. This is a purely emotional answer to the question. That's just how I feel about it. If I look back and think about what I am proudest to have done, it is raising these fine young women and then to have the great pleasure to have these grandchildren, all granddaughters.
Q: What is your number two accomplishment?
A: I suppose having stuck it out and made a career. When I was first starting out, it was not so easy for women to have a professional life. I started out in an absolutely dreadful field (teaching college-level English) in terms of getting a job. I did not have much encouragement from the various professions I tried to knock on the door of.
Q: What would be your advice to women who wish to marry, raise a family and have a career?
A: I think part of it [is] staying self-confident and understanding there are all sorts of ways to do it. I think that, for young women today, it's awfully easy to listen to one piece of advice: "Oh my gosh, you'd better stay home with your kids while they're little or they'll be ruined." Or another piece of advice: "If you get off the career ladder, you'll never succeed." It's really important to figure out the best way for you. And it depends on many things: What are your children like? How supportive is your husband? What kind of career do you have and what sort of flexibility is there in it? There's no right answer, and I think it's really important for young women to realize that.
Q: Did you have to put your two daughters in day care?
A: Oh, I had baby sitters. I basically wrote my dissertation while I was pregnant with Mary. Academic life is not bad at that level for someone with children because you don't have to have your body someplace 10 to 12 hours a day. You may need to work 10 to 12 hours a day, but you can do that in your living room. I remember reading many a Dickens novel while Lizzie was a baby and pushing the baby buggie back and forth while I was getting through "Bleak House."
Q: What has been your chief intellectual accomplishment?
A: I suppose it is "Telling the Truth," the last book I wrote. That was in 1995. I have been so immersed in the book I am writing now, it's hard to think beyond that.
Q: "Telling the Truth" was pretty in-your-face, don't you think? Is [her newest book] "Schoolthink" going to do the same thing?
A: I didn't think "Telling the Truth" was in-your-face, to tell the truth. What's Harry Truman's famous quotation? Something about, "Mr. President, why are you always giving people hell?" He said, "I don't give people hell. I just tell them the truth and they think it's hell." "Schoolthink" will be out in the spring, maybe 200 pages. I write long chapters, so it will be five chapters. It's a small book and academic in orientation.
Q: If you could change anything in your life in the past 60 years, what would it be?
A: I would've grown taller. I am 5 feet, maybe.
Q: How tall is Dick?
A: Five foot 10. Maybe not a lot taller, but some.
Q: What part did you play in the nomination of Indiana University professor Bruce Cole as the National Endowment for the Humanities chairman?
A: I think Bruce probably had many people saying he would be a terrific choice, and I just think of myself as part of the chorus. The president made a wonderful choice. I've never seen an appointment go quite so smoothly. It is a tribute, I think, to the depth of his academic achievement and his personality, which is very even. We just have a lot of confidence in his ability. He's an accomplished scholar.
Q: Have you had any input on the new National Endowment for the Arts head?
A: Whenever I hear somebody else has a good idea, I am happy to forward it along. But I don't think of myself as having a role in the personnel of this new administration. If there is somebody out there in the art world at the same level of accomplishment as Bruce, I think the president will have pulled off a real coup and made these agencies into the vehicles of excellence they should be.
Q: You spoke a year about traveling on behalf of education. Have you been able to do so?
A: I've done a little, but I've been in my office at the American Enterprise Institute writing. I've visited schools, but I've done it without press. I visited two schools in the District with Louisa Motes, who is an accomplished reading expert, and these are schools [Garrison and Seaton elementary schools in the Northwest] she works in. Basically her job in these schools was to train teachers. When I go, I go to learn something.
Q: What church did you decide on, now that you've moved into the District?
A: Well, we really haven't. We go to church — St. John's Episcopal Church in McLean — with my daughter sometimes. We really haven't picked another church. We are both ecumenical. We're both Methodists, but when we are in Wyoming, we both go to the Episcopal church. We know some people there. One thing about the Episcopalians: I wish they'd sing the great old hymns, like "Rock of Ages." Often they are singing hymns I haven't heard before. There's something comforting about familiarity. Those old hymns have a resonance. They go back so far and the words are so wonderful.
Q: Are you taking part in your husband's fitness regimen?
A: I exercise a lot and he exercises a lot, but it's not something we do together. I do at least 35 minutes on the treadmill or 35 minutes on the elliptical trainer, then do some weight resistance, too. He prefers stationary bike and then he usually does weight resistance. We have great machines and a TV set, which makes it all less painful than it might be otherwise. I like using the machines because it is controlled. You know when you've gone two miles and you know when you've done a 5 percent incline. You know how many calories you've burned. I can do a couple miles an hour at a 5 percent incline.
Q: It's been said that, right after the inauguration, when the Bush people discovered their new offices had been vandalized, Tipper Gore apologized to you in a phone call.
A: She didn't. It just wasn't true.
Q: There was no communication from the Clinton White House at all to you.
A: No.
Q: Where did the media get that story from?
A: I don't know. I read it too.
Q: Have you ever thought of putting out releases correcting false media reports?
A: This could be a full-time occupation. There aren't enough hours in the day. It's difficult. People write long articles and even when they are excellent, if you are the person they are writing about, you can find five or six mistakes. But life goes on.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide