The first woman in history to be elected a Governor and a United States Senator, Jeanne Shaheen has been involved in all levels of New Hampshire life. She taught in a New Hampshire high school, chaired the Town of Madbury's zoning board and served three terms in the State Senate. Shaheen became the first woman elected Governor of New Hampshire, serving three terms from 1997-2003. In 2008 Shaheen became the first woman elected to the United States Senate from New Hampshire.
A champion of middle class families, as Governor, Shaheen worked to make college more affordable, made public kindergarten a reality for over 25,000 additional children, and extended affordable health coverage to tens of thousands of New Hampshire children. Her focus on the economy led to the creation of nearly 67,000 new jobs during her six years as Governor and the third-highest high tech employment in the nation. Shaheen also signed historic civil rights laws, including legislation making New Hampshire only the 10th state to add sexual orientation to its anti-discrimination laws.
In 2005 she took on the challenge of forging a new generation of public leaders when she became the Director of Harvard University's Institute of Politics at the Kennedy School of Government, but resigned to run for the United States Senate in the 2008 elections, which she ended up winning.
Question: What inspires you?
Jeanne Shaheen: You know I think seeing the difference that I can make. So whether . . . As governor it was being able to go to a new kindergarten that was being built because of work that I had helped lead, and seeing the excitement on the faces of those five year olds as they went into that public kindergarten. It's working with the students here at the Kennedy School and at Harvard and seeing how idealistic, and energetic, and optimistic they are about their futures; and thinking the world is in good hands because we've got those future leaders who are committed to making a difference.
Question: To whom do you look for inspiration?
Jeanne Shaheen: Well I think there are a lot of them. One person that I always talk things through with is my husband. If I could go to somebody to talk to them about a difficult problem, I think my first choice would be Abraham Lincoln. I think for Lincoln to have been able to believe strongly enough in keeping the union whole; to be able to see so many of his constituents die in that process must have been so hard, that I think his knowledge and his values would be something I would really love to hear him talk about. It’s been wonderful to read some of Doris Kearns-Goodwin . . . her recent book “A Team of Rivals” which talked about Lincoln and how he dealt with people, and how he was able to keep things together through what was just an awful time for this country.
Recorded on: 6/13/07