What I Learned from Dana Perino

By Judith Ayers

“Miss him yet?” That’s how former White House Press Secretary, Dana Perino, began her talk at York College of Pennsylvania on April 11, 2012. She was referring to her former boss, President George W. Bush.

Since leaving her job at the White House, Perino has served as a media strategist, political commentator, and Fox News Contributor. Her impressive career served as a background for the personal advice that she gave students.

“Don’t be afraid to move. To be ungracious is to be unwise. Find your strong voice. Read. Stay fit.” Those were just some of the tips she gave.

As a York College student, I was especially able to identify with Perino because of her educational background and work. While I have certainly not accomplished the amount of work she has or held the same positions, it is an area that I greatly enjoy.

At times, Perino aimed her advice at the young women in the audience. As White House Press Secretary, Perino was only the second woman and first Republican woman to hold the position. Prior to holding that position she also served as the principal deputy press secretary.

The public speech she delivered in the College’s large auditorium was packed with over 700 students, faculty and community members.  “It was a great experience to be in attendance,” said York College junior, Kristen Evans. “As a Public Relations major, I feel that I can use the insight Ms. Perino provided to help in my career.”

York College junior Brooke Cortese said, “She made it known that sometimes it’s not what you know but who you know,” referencing the stories of how she met her husband – sitting next to him on a plane, and how she received one of her first political jobs – meeting someone at a hockey game.

Forgiveness, humor, hard work, and graciousness were the themes of Perino’s talk. She detailed some of her toughest moments, including when her former boss, Scott McClellan, released his very critical book on President Bush.

The crowd, as well as the students, was very energetic and responsive as she encouraged young men and women to travel, citing her experience volunteering at a women’s HIV clinic in Africa. Perino told a story of becoming a manicurist for women in a hospice. “Women are the same all over,” she said.

As the economy has limped along – and it’s harder for graduates to find jobs – Perino’s advice was timely. Be adventurous; take your career into your own hands; reach out to those around you; and do not pass up opportunity – these are important skills to take into the professional world, Perino mentioned.

Perino’s talk – “Tales from the Trenches” – was hosted by the Center for Professional Excellence (CPE). Working in direct partnership with College faculty and leaders, the CPE assists students in building the attitudes and skills that will enable them to be effective professionals in whatever career path they choose.

Perhaps Perino’s best advice was that personal character is the foundation to professional success. “Be gracious. Be humble. Be forgiving, but be strong.”

Judith Ayers is a senior at York College pursing a dual major in mass communication and political science.