Interview by Christian Feuerstein
Karine Jean-Pierre is the chief public affairs officer for MoveOn.org, a political analyst at NBC News and MSNBC, and a faculty member of the School of International and Public Affairs at Columbia University.
Her new book, “Moving Forward: A Story of Hope, Hard Work, and the Promise of America,” is a political memoir that chronicles her experiences growing up in the Haitian community in New York, working in the Obama White House and more.
Jean-Pierre will discuss her book on Monday, November 11, at 7 p.m. in Gamble Auditorium at Mount Holyoke College. This event is free and open to the public. Copies of “Moving Forward” will be available for purchase by the Odyssey Bookshop. The following interview has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
You stress that political involvement should be accessible to absolutely everyone. What would you suggest to Mount Holyoke students who want to get involved but don’t know what their first step should be?
Don’t let fear of the unknown be your barrier. So much is at stake right now. Get involved. Volunteer in your community. Volunteer at the College. Volunteer for a campaign. Run for office at the College. Do whatever you feel most comfortable with, but get in the game. Now, more than ever, we need more younger people engaged.
In the book, you talk about taking half a decade to find your purpose after not getting into medical school. You write about how people should try to find their passion organically. Can you talk a little bit more about that?
The old saying is true. Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans. My advice to everyone is, keep your eyes open. Follow both your head and your heart. Don’t be afraid to take risks. And know that it is OK to jump without a net every once in awhile. There are very few straight lines in life. It is what we make of the twists and the turns that often defines us.
You went to graduate school originally for environmental policy. If you hadn’t turned to politics, what do you think would have been your top agenda item for environmental policy?
Climate change. It is real. It is happening. And not nearly enough is being done to curb it. I have a five-year-old daughter and the decisions that are being made today will mean the world she inherits as an adult will be very different than the world is today. It breaks my heart.
In a time of great divide and disorder, how can people hold on to passion to make a difference? How do you not give in to despair?
We can’t ever give up hope. No matter how dark the times are. Hope is what sustains us. Hope is what motivates us. Hope is what brings about change. Hope is the ignition in all of us. Yes, times are tough. But in those darkest of times is when we need hope the most. Here is the truth: We are better than the times we live in. We are better than the leadership in Washington. And there are way more good people in this world than bad people. We can never lose hope or perspective.