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First Person

The Experience Questionnaire: Cecile Richards

Cecile Richards is a pro-choice activist and the former president of Planned Parenthood. Her book Make Trouble: Standing Up, Speaking Out, and Finding the Courage to Lead came out in paperback last month.

Where do you come up with your best ideas? 
Walking my dachshund, Ollie.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve received?
In the midst of a crisis of self-doubt and imposter syndrome, my mother telling me to get over myself and go to the job interview for Planned Parenthood.

What is the best non-material gift you’ve given?
The most important piece of travel advice you’ll ever learn: Invest in a portable steamer.

During a Senate hearing on the Affordable Care Act, a male senator leaned over to his staff to ask why all the funding for cervical cancer was going to women. Where to begin?!

What is the most daunting obstacle you’ve faced?
Testifying in front of a hostile Congressional committee for five hours in 2015 comes to mind.

How do you relax?
Trying to perfect a homemade cacio e pepe, which is harder than it sounds.

If you had to choose a different profession, what would you do?
I still haven’t ruled out opening up a taco truck …

What’s the strangest experience you’ve had?
One of the most surreal was learning that, during a Senate hearing on the Affordable Care Act, a male senator had leaned over to his staff to ask why all the funding for cervical cancer was going to women. Where to begin?!

What is the most useful mistake you’ve made? 
Let’s just say there were some regrettable outfit choices in my childhood. Better to learn early!

What opportunity do you regret passing up?
My mother used to say, “The answer to life is yes.” I try to push myself never to pass up a new opportunity, no matter how daunting.

If you could go anywhere in the world tomorrow, where would you go?
Believe it or not, Antarctica.

What was your most memorable childhood experience?
In seventh grade, getting sent to the principal’s office for wearing a black armband to protest the Vietnam War. I had never even met the principal before that! It sparked a lifelong passion for making trouble. 

What is your proudest moment?
The 12 years I spent as president of Planned Parenthood.

Describe a perfect day.
January 20th, 2021.

When you’re stuck how do you get unstuck?
Getting out of New York or Washington and going to spend time with organizers.

What would you like to experience before you die?
The women’s political revolution that has been brewing since November 2016!

For more, visit our Experience Questionnaire archive page.

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