TPUSA News Interview with Jennifer Anju Grossman
JT: Well Good morning Miss Grossman, It’s such a pleasure to have you here.
JAG: Thank you, I’m so excited to be here.
JT: So right off the bat, what advice do you have to the thousands of young ladies in Turning Point about how they can make their mark on American politics over the next few years?
JAG: Well this weekend they’ve already heard a lot of great advice about politics, but what they haven’t heard of is this: The importance of getting grounded in philosophy. To paraphrase Ayn Rand: Everybody has a philosophy, everybody needs a philosophy, their choice is whether or not they’re going to choose their philosophy consciously or whether they’re going to accumulate a kind of grab-bag of slogans, contradictions, fears, and what other people are telling them.
So that’s what I want young women to focus on – philosophy – because that’s what’s going to make them unstoppable. It’s good and well to gather facts, learn about history, and make good contacts, but you really need to get it in here [holding up a copy of Atlas Shrugged]. That is what is going to make you unshakable and unstoppable when you are on campus arguing for your beliefs and people are yelling at you or even threatening you. You’re really going to need to be able to know how to stand up for yourself and how to stand up for your ideals -- how to defend them without a flinch, without a blink, and that is what imbibing philosophy is going to give you.
JT: So one of the reasons why we love you so much at Turning Point, is you are not just a brilliant speaker and a great communicator who talks about philosophy, ideas, and empowering women, you’ve actually done it. And you are if I may say one of the most accomplished - not women, but people, Americans - that I know. For our audience, would you be willing to expound a little bit on what you’ve done in your professional career?
JAG: Sure, I was born in India, my parents were in the Peace Corps, so I think even though that they were politically liberal they gave me a sense that we have an opportunity to make the world a better place. I studied government at Harvard. I somehow managed to get a sense that everything that was being taught to me might not be true. I had grown up with the idea that all conservatives were either stupid or mean and when I ran into a few that belied those myths, I started doing a little bit of digging and that's when the whole edifice of what I thought I knew came down and I really became more of a solid libertarian and conservative.
I still wanted to pursue change though so I went into government, I came down to Washington D.C. I started in television, that’s when I became friends with Laura Ingraham and Kellyanne [Conway], two of the other women that spoke here at this conference. Then I went to work at the White House. I started out as a researcher. I learned that while there are so many things over which we don’t have control – but we can control how hard we work. And if you work the hardest, and if you have some talent, maybe that’s not going to be the field you’re going to go into or maybe it is. For me, I worked as hard as I could as a researcher, and started writing more and more, and I eventually had the gumption to ask for my speechwriting commission, which I received.
Maybe that isn’t such a good story, because after I became a speechwriter the president [Bush 41] lost. Then I went to work for Arianna Huffington….and after that she became a liberal, so maybe that’s not such a great story either! Eventually. I went into business working for Ted Forstmann (Forstmann Little). He was one of the pioneers of the leveraged buyout. I started to make some contacts in business and Wall Street. He was passionate about education reform so we put together a children’s scholarship fund with John Walton, of Walmart, and we gave away $100 million in scholarship funds to show what an enormous pent-up demand there was for more choice in education. And that led to my going to the Cato Institute as their Director of Education Policy, and that led to a whole second career in public speaking and in television.
Eventually I went back into the private sector and I stayed there for about 15 years. I worked for David Murdock, owner of Dole Food Company, and started a nutrition institute for him. I did that for about 15 years until the company was sold and that’s when I got a call from David Kelly of The Atlas Society.
He wanted to know whether I’d come over and take on running this think tank. Are you kidding me? I was thrilled. I said, “This is me. This has been my license plate for the past 25 years [Points to Ayn Rand’s name on book]. You’ve come to the right place.”
JT: That’s wonderful, so before we go onto the next question, I’d like for you to share with our audience a little bit more about the Atlas Society.
JAG: Well the Atlas Society is a philosophy think tank. It’s devoted to reason, to logical and rational self-interest, to benevolence, to individualism, to liberty, to promoting and defending the moral foundations of freedom and capitalism. And we believe that no one has done that better than Ayn Rand who really is in many ways, the founding mother of the modern liberty movement. Which is why I think it’s such a good fit to make sure that the women here are aware of her and can have the opportunity to explore her literature so we do that in a variety of ways.
We tend to do it in a little bit more creative and visually engaging ways so we do everything from Draw My Life videos to a graphic novel, Josh, of your favorite Ayn Rand book, Anthem.
We of course have our summit that we’ve been doing for 27 years. We have reading groups every weekend -- We the Living and The Fountainhead are two that are going on now. Also on the improvisational side is our “Living History” project -- we did one with Jeffrey Tucker at Turning Point’s Midwest Regional Conference where I dress up as Ayn Rand and students get to ask their questions.
We make it fun – but in the end, it’s about giving the younger generation the tools, the defense, the artillery that they need to be able to go out there. We don’t want to say “Hey get fired up! Go out there! Go challenge your teachers!” without really giving them what they need in order to understand what we’re fighting for and why.
I didn’t really know until I came to my first advisory board meeting here at Turning Point and talking to some of the fellow advisory board members, how Ayn Rand provided the personal ideological turning point for so many of your key supporters. Two had their turning points by watching The Fountainhead. Another one, same thing: Ginni Thomas, her husband is [Supreme Court Justice] Clarence Thomas, he had all of his clerks watch The Fountainhead. And of course our president, his favorite author is Ayn Rand and his favorite novel of hers is The Fountainhead. I have a new appreciation of how important her work has been to shaping this generation of leaders and investors in liberty -- and how important it is that we provide that same opportunity for the next generation of leaders and investors.
JT: Thank you -- we’re so glad to have you on our advisory board. We’ve enjoyed the last few days. So a lot of these young ladies in the room you’re about to speak with, they are in a culture where their professors, their fellow students, their favorite singers, and a lot of their authority figures are trying to paint them as victims saying: “You are women in a man’s world, you can’t make it because of your background or your race or your gender.” What do you have to say to these young ladies who are here who want to stand against culture?
JAG: Let me say this to those young women – and young men: “bad things are going to happen to you.” They will happen to you. That is just the nature of life. I had my house burn down, I’ve had other bad things happen to me. But when those bad things happened, I didn’t want to think of myself as a victim. What can you do as a victim? “Help me I’m a victim, give me something?”
It’s so completely disempowering. I’m sorry, I don’t trust those people. I do not trust them when they say they’re going to help me. I trust me. When we talk about Ayn Rand and “the virtue of selfishness,” that’s what we’re talking about. I’d rather rely on myself and those people whom I chose to be my friends and allies because they deserve to be my friends and allies.
Ask yourself: Why do these politicians or professors want you to see yourself as a victim? Why? What’s in it for them? In this case they are really trying to preserve a power base that is completely undeserved and they’re doing that by multiplying victims.
This just must be rejected because it’s tied together, this whole thing about the gender politics and you are a victim, all of that. It is tied together with the whole entire system of redistribution and somebody at the center being able to say “I’m going to take from this one, and I’m going to give it to that one.” That’s a lot of power right?
You must reject this on a moral level, because victimhood and envy are connected at the hip. Maybe some people want to be a victim – but nobody wants to admit to being envious. Yet they are two sides of the same coin. And that’s why the philosophy of liberal left is appealing to your worst not your best. It’s not appealing to you as a woman, as a human being, who has agency over your whole life.
It is appealing to you as someone who is disempowered, it is appealing to your envy, and is one of the absolute lowest parts of human nature. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I want to be around winners. Ayn Rand, when she was asked why she wrote these books, she said she wanted more winners: “I can’t find winners that I want to be with. I can’t find people I want to be friends with.”
She was in Russia when people were expropriating everybody and their property. So she was like “I’m going to create a world of winners - that’s what we want.” We don’t want a world of victims – which isn’t to say we don’t help people when they need help when we decide they are deserving of help, but people's need is not a claim on our ability. We have to make that choice for ourselves.
JT: Well I can’t expect there’s any better answer than that. Thank you so much for your time. You are a voice to so many young women who look at your life and your career and a lot of them probably say they could never do that, going to the private sector and D.C. and back. And all the work you’re doing now at The Atlas Society, you are an example of how no matter what happens to you, you are the one who dictates your future. You are the one who chooses how to respond. You are the one who is ultimately determined if you are going to be a winner. So thank you for your insight there, and the ladies are excited to hear from you in a few minutes.
JAG: Can’t wait, and thank you Josh, you do such a great job.