Christine Quinn is the current Speaker of the New York City Council, one of the most powerful positions in city government after the Mayor. Quinn is the first female and first openly gay person to serve as speaker, which is a position that was created in 1990 as result of a revision in the city charter. Quinn was elected to the city council in 1999. After serving on the city council for almost seven years, she was elected city council speaker in January 2006. Quinn entered politics to manage the city council campaign of Thomas Duane in 1991, after which she served as Duane's Chief of Staff for five years. Quinn later became the Executive Director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project and was appointed a member of the NYC Police/Community Relations Task Force by then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Question: How can traditionally marginalized groups better position themselves as credible leaders?
Christine Quinn: You know, I think if you are somebody who is in the community who hasn’t held large leadership positions before, whether they are elected or corporate or anything, you have to do a good job. You know what I mean? You have to do a good job, just like anybody else. And you have to make sure, just like anybody else, your work, your style, your focus, your agenda, is diverse and inclusive of lots of different people. That’s true for everyone. And I think what can trip up people sometimes is when we think too much about the fact we’re from a community that hasn’t had X, Y, or Z position before. And you focus on that as the problem as opposed to using it as an asset, or using it as something that propels you to work harder or be more focused, you know?
A member of my staff once summed it up as, you know, “This issue really isn’t how big the hurdle is, it’s just one angle you have to get at to jump over the hurdle.” And I think that’s what you have to do.
Recorded on October 28, 2010
Interviewed by Andrew Dermont
Directed & Produced by Jonathan Fowler