Nancy Pelosi Airs Some Clean Laundry in 'Power'

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her mom hoped she would become a nun.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi says her mom hoped she would become a nun. (By Deborah Feingold)
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By Libby Copeland
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 29, 2008

In her new book "Know Your Power," Nancy Pelosi explores the route to becoming the first female speaker of the House, including growing up in Baltimore (where her father and brother both served as mayor), her years organizing in Democratic politics in California and her decision to run for Congress at 47.

You write about your friend, the late Sala Burton, congresswoman from California, who encouraged you to run for her seat in 1987 when she was on her deathbed. . . . The way you write it very much makes it sound like this was something that hadn't crossed your mind before.

Never crossed my mind. . . . I loved public policy and politics, enjoyed it very much. But I enjoyed the part that I played, which was as a volunteer, as the chair of the California Democratic Party. I had five children; they were then all going off to college. I had one daughter at home.

You mentioned what your daughter said.

I was going to be away from home. . . . Monday through Thursday was usually the routine then. I'm a mom, so this would be a departure for me to leave home. So when I presented it to her I said, "Really, either way would be fine with me. You know, I have a wonderful life, and this would be a great opportunity, but again, I'm happy with either decision."

And she said, "Mother, get a life!" [Laughs.] What teenager wouldn't like her mom to be out of town for a few days?

Your mom wanted you to become a nun.

Oh, definitely.

When did she stop pressing that?

She always pressed that. From being a little girl, she would always be talking about how she wanted me to be a nun. . . . It was always something that she thought would be a beautiful life, free from the hardships of life -- and prayerful and making a contribution to society.

My mother was a very devout Catholic. One of my brothers went into the seminary, and oh my, she was as happy as she could be. He didn't stay.

You say she was born 50 years too soon. What do you think she would've been if she'd been born later?

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