Michelle Obama, Former First Lady of the United States
Michelle Obama talks about growing up on Chicago's South Side, graduating cum laude from Princeton University, quitting her job at a law firm, and becoming the first African American First Lady of the United States.
Amy McGrath, Former U.S. Marine, Congressional Candidate in Kentucky
Katherine Johnson, NASA Mathematician
America Ferrera, Actress and Activist
Slay your Student Loan Debt | MAKERS Money
CONNIE CHUNG: The business that I've been in requires sticking your neck out. You can't sit back and wait for the story to come to you. You have to go pursue it. Dig, push, and be bold.
My parents and my four older sisters were all born in China. They arrived in Washington, DC. Less than a year later, I was born. In China, all you want are boys. So when they had yet another girl, it was like, eh, all right. I always wanted to be the son that my father never had. So I was going to make Chung memorable. With five girls, I could never get a word in. So I was the quiet little sister.
I'm Connie Chung.
They couldn't believe it when I got into television news and I had to speak to the world. And my father was such a news buff. We would watch Uncle Walter every night, Walter Cronkite. He was the man. So early on, when you could only see my hand holding a microphone-- that's Connie's hand. He was just eating it all up.
It was a little local station, and the only job they had open was for a secretary. And I thought, oh god, typical. I did that for several months, but they had an opening for a writer. It was the late '60s. The Civil Rights Act had passed in '64. There was a heavy push to hire women and minorities. So I became the writer in charge of the assignment desk.
There was this one reporter who was really lazy. So I'd say, why don't you watch the desk, and I'll do the story? I know you don't want to do it. So then I'd do stories. They finally let me go on the air, and then a short time later, CBS News, the network, was getting such pressure to hire women.
So in 1971, I was hired along with Michele Clark, black, Leslie Stahl, a nice Jewish girl with blond hair, and Sylvia Chase, a shiksa with blonde hair. Everybody was a male. I mean, everybody, the staff, the producers, the executive producers, the Bureau Chief, the people we covered on Capitol Hill, the White House, the State Department, men.
We all went through a very rigorous hazing period. There were camera people who, they didn't want to take orders from us. Or else I'd be covering some senator on Capitol Hill, and he'd say, "Well, sweet little lady, what sweet little question do you have for me?" And I just stuck it to him. They pitted the women against each other. Who would get the woman job? Leslie Stahl and I would frequently be told to go cover the First Lady doing something that we knew would never get on the air.
Ed Bradley would go up to the assignment editor and say no. But I really had a hard time saying no. There is this mentality on my part-- the good little girl, fear of being fired, fear of being uncooperative, fear of being the five-letter B word. Every step of the way, there were issues being a woman. The only way we could move forward was to do our job and do it better than anyone else.
- Here's to Connie Chung.
- (SINGING) Here's to LA. News to LA. And from our newsroom comes the history of the day.
- This is the CBS Evening News with Dan Rather and Connie Chung.
DAN RATHER: Good evening, and welcome, Connie.
CONNIE CHUNG: Thank you, Dan. When I was first told that I would be co-anchoring with Dan Rather on the CBS Evening News, I couldn't believe it. Walter Cronkite was my idol, and I always wanted to be Walter Cronkite. I didn't think that that would ever happen. There are always these self-doubts, but I felt like I did know how to do the job. But it was very clear from the beginning that Dan Rather didn't want me there. He would not have wanted anyone there. He was very gracious upfront.
DAN RATHER: See you tomorrow.
CONNIE CHUNG: But you ask someone who's been in the job forever to move over and make room for somebody else, it's a recipe for disaster. It was a constant battle. I would have appreciated it if the boss had said, you know, it's over. I want to tell you face-to-face. But that didn't happen. They told my agent, and then he told me.
DAN RATHER: I'd like to take this moment to wish my longtime friend and colleague, Connie Chung, good luck and godspeed.
CONNIE CHUNG: I lost my dream job. It was completely devastating. Remarkably, though, my husband and I had been working on adoption for a couple years. The firing occurred on a Friday. The next day, we get a call that our son was going to be ours. It was, oh my god. My life just went flip. Lose the job, get our son. Woo! I had a baby when I was almost 50. It worked well for me. Everything that happened in my career was meant to be.
One thing that women really need to remember is sing your praises the way the men do. Sing your own praises. I was indispensable. You're welcome.
- I realized that as First Lady you can bring so much attention and marshal so many resources to really help on whatever issue that you're focused on so I have always taken that responsibility very seriously. I'm a Chicago native, I grew up on the South Side in a really small apartment with my parents and my older brother Craig. My dad worked as a pump operator at the city water plant. My mom stayed at home and so we didn't have a lot of money but my brother and I were blessed with something far more valuable because our parents truly gave us unconditional love and encouragement to go places they never imagined for themselves. Neither of them had a college degree but they made it very clear that they expected me and my brother to get the best education possible so school was always, always the center of our lives. So I made it my point to give it 120%. The early part of my life was focused on sort of reaching those traditional markers of success. I focused on getting the right degrees, going to the right schools. So by the time I was in my mid 20s and working at a firm I had everything that I was told I should want but I could still feel that there was something missing. I started to ask myself some more important questions like what do I really care about and how do I give something back? I wanted to be in a position to help folks from neighborhoods like mine, especially young people, have the opportunities that I had. So I quit my job at the law firm and found myself working in careers where I could spend my time lifting up the kinds of communities that I grew up in. The inauguration was one of the coldest Januaries that I've spent here in Washington D.C. It was freezing. I really remember what it felt like to walk out the steps of the Capitol and stand there with Barack as he took the oath of office and look out at what felt like endless amounts of people standing as far as the eye could see from every race, age, background you could imagine would come from every corner of the country just to witness this historic moment. It was probably one of the most profoundly moving experiences that I've ever had. And to have our girls there with us, those two little bitty girls standing on that stage is a moment I'll never forget. This role, it's a real gift because it brings with it this big bright spotlight and that's why I've worked hard to choose work on issues that I care deeply about, that I feel really defines me or that I'm connected with, that will really make a difference in peoples' lives. We've really worked to raise the profile of this issue. I've had the opportunity to travel the world and everywhere I go I meet these amazing young women and they impress me with how bright and how hungry they are no matter what their circumstances are, they'd risk their lives for an education. And they have so much promise that we can't afford to waste. I see myself in these girls so I want Let Girls Learn to be part of my life's work for decades to come because for me this issue is personal. I hoped that I've used my big spotlight to move the needle on a whole range of issues but I feel honored and blessed to have served this role for my country.
AMERICA FERRERA: We want to feel like we're in community and we're surrounded by people. It's what makes our lives worth living. My friends, my mentors, they have helped me through every single moment and they make everything that much better when there's something to celebrate or, you know, something that's hard and I need to get through.
When I have doubts, when I get tired, when I feel like I just can't do it today, I look up and there's my friend using her voice. There is my friend breaking boundaries. There is my friend doing something that terrifies her. And it helps me keep going.
AMY MCGRATH: A lot of times you're going as a fighter pilot, you go up in the air and you're waiting for something to happen. The other times, it can be quite scary. Flying a fighter jet is the most intense job you can do on the planet.
I grew up in Kentucky. Youngest of three children. My mother was a medical doctor, and that was very rare. This was the 1980s. And I was always very proud of her. So when she wasn't there at night because she was on call, I would just say, well, mom's saving lives.
I was very much a tomboy who just wanted to play sports. I have an older brother who would be one of the captains, and he would always pick me first. And all of his friends would say, why are you picking a girl? And he would say, well, she's the best player. I knew that if I was beating all the boys in football or basketball, that there was nothing I couldn't do.
He wrote me back a very nice letter that was fairly condescending, which basically said, you're a girl, and Congress doesn't believe that women should be doing these things. And I said, well, so what? You know, they just haven't met me yet. I can do this.
So I wasn't deterred. Pat Schroeder was a Congresswoman at the time. She was considered so radical. And what she said was, the military of our nation exists to fight and win the nation's wars. And we should have the best people in those positions. Stick to your dreams. I'm working on it.
The executive officer comes in and looks at me and looks around the room and says, we've got to put you in a jet. And I had just barely gotten my qualification. So we suited up, pulled out into the runway with six air-to-air missiles loaded up to possibly launch and shoot down an airliner. Thank god we didn't have to shoot anyone down.
I think that 9/11 changed the mindset of all of us. It was on. This is what we had trained for. We were going to go into combat. Our job was necessary, and I was prepared.
The Marine Corps was the toughest thing a woman could do in the military. And that is exactly what I wanted. I remember going into Afghanistan and looking out at the men who were working and having them look at me-- and the wonder in their eyes. And they had never seen a woman who was treated with the same type of respect as all the other Marines, a woman as an equal. When you go to these other countries, especially as a woman, and you're just doing your job, that's showing people American values. That's changing minds.
My commanding officer pulled me in and told me, and my heart just stopped. I thought to myself, all right. I worked my whole life to do this. Flying, itself, is dangerous. You have to make sometimes life and death decisions when it comes to ordnance. When you can come through with putting the bombs on target on time, that's when you know your training and your work mattered.
Now we have all of these former military women running for Congress. Well, it's about time. We see what's happening in our government. We basically say, I fought for my country, and I am a woman, and I'm not going to stand for that. Is it going to be easy? No, it's going to be a challenge. And I love that. I mean, that's me. That's what Marines do. I don't want to be there just to fill a seat. I want to make a difference.
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KATHERINE JOHNSON: Math. It's just there. It has always been a part of whatever I was doing.
- All engines running.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: You're either right or you're wrong. That I liked about it.
They tell me I counted everything. Everybody studied at a big table, and after I finished mine, I helped them get theirs. And I was the youngest. I wound up ahead of my brother, maybe two grades. I don't remember how many. I entered college. I was 15. I was gonna be a math teacher because that was it. You could be a nurse or a teacher.
He said, you'd make a good research mathematician. I said, oh? What do they do? He said, you'll find out. So he had me take all the courses in the catalog. Sometimes I was the only person in the course. I said, where will I find a job? He said, you'll look till you find it. Took me seven years, but I found it.
He said, you're very lucky. Langley has a post for black mathematicians, just opened it up to women. They had a pool of women mathematicians. They just wanted somebody to do all the little stuff, while they did the thinking. We were called computers, women computers. I had been there less than a week, when this engineer came in and wanted two women computers, and Mrs. Vaughn sent me over to the flight branch. And we never went back.
- Today, a new moon is in the sky, placed in orbit by a Russian rocket.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: Oh, they felt terrible that, here we sat, and the Russians had a vehicle riding around, looking down on you. So we set out to send somebody up there and look down to. They'd called up a group of engineers and have a briefing as to what they were gonna have to do. And I asked, could I go? They said, women don't ever go to those. I said, is there a law against it? They said, no, well, let her go ahead. I wanted to know what it was they were looking for. So I wound up doing what it was they were trying to find out.
- Commander Alan B. Shepard was to become the first man sent into sub-orbital flight. The Mercury capsule is right on course.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: Our office computed every mission that went out at that time-- the height, the speed, and so on. It became a geometry problem.
- Ignition sequence start.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: I felt most proud of the success of the Apollo mission.
- Zero. All engines running--
KATHERINE JOHNSON: They were going to the moon.
- We have a lift off.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: I computed the path that would get you there. You determined where you were on Earth when you started out, and where the moon would be at a given time. We told them how fast they would be going, and the moon will be there by the time you got there.
- Beautiful, just beautiful.
KATHERINE JOHNSON: We were really concerned when they were leaving the moon, going back. He had two adjusters, we said. If he'd missed it by a degree, he doesn't get into orbit. I was looking at the television. I said, boy, I hope he's got that right.
And I was sitting there hoping I'm right, too.
John Glenn said, tell her. He knew that I was the only woman that worked on it. He said, if she comes up with the same answer that they have, then the computer's right. It took me a day and a half to compute what the computer had given them. Turned out to be the exact numbers that they had.
It was my job. And I did my job correctly and well.
AMERICA FERRERA: I was born and raised in Los Angeles. My parents are immigrants from Honduras and they split up when I was quite young. My mother raised six children on her own. Watching her do whatever it took to provide the life that she came here to give us was a real testament of what we're capable of.
I grew up feeling, first and foremost, American. Very aware of the fact that I didn't speak perfect Spanish. The girls who did speak Spanish made fun of me for not speaking Spanish. The very first audition I ever went to wasn't specified Latina. The casting director asked me if I could do it again, but please try to sound more Latina this time. And I was really confused.
I thought, do you want me to speak in Spanish? No, I want you to speak in English. I just want you to try and sound more Latina. And what she was asking me to do was to speak broken English. It became very clear, very quickly that the industry looked at me and saw a brown person, and that there was a specific box for that.
I was playing a young girl whose parents didn't understand her dreams for herself. The fact that it was this 17-year-old chubby Mexican-American girl, who no one would ever imagine would get to be the star of her own movie, I think that really opened up people's ideas of what was possible in terms of storytelling and who got to be the center of their own life.
I went to a professor of mine and started crying and saying, you know, what do I do? It was what I felt completely passionate and drawn to, and then there was go to school, get a really important job, and try and change the world. He said to me that he'd been mentoring a young girl. She was a young Latina girl. He'd been mentoring her for years and he couldn't really break her shell. She came to him and said, "Come watch this movie with me, it's called "Real Women Have Curves."
And so he took some of her friends to see the movie and she was actually going through a very similar thing with her own parents. And so it gave her the opportunity to start that conversation. And they did ultimately support her in her dream to go to college. I had no idea that he knew I was an actress. And he said to me, "She would have never been able to do that if she hadn't seen a reflection of herself." What I realized was that being an actress, it had already become something bigger than me.
Donald Trump announced his candidacy by calling Mexicans rapists and murderers, and talked about attacking women. So as a woman, as a Latina, as the daughter of immigrants, as an American, it did feel like a death of an idea that I had built my American identity around. And that made me realize that there was just work to do.
So what I chose to focus on was empowering communities to use their voices. So often the narratives about social issues leave out the very people who are most impacted by them. There were people on the front lines living these issues and fighting for their communities. And they know much better than those of us who just got woke yesterday.
I gain strength and encouragement from those around me who are being courageous, and brave, and stepping out. I need them to keep doing that, because it's what keeps me going.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Money is power. And ladies, it's time to level the playing field.
Hi, everyone. Welcome to Makers Money. I'm Sallie Krawcheck, CEO of Ellevest, the top-rated investing platform for women. Today we're back at happy hour in New York City, and we're talking about student loan debt.
OK, I know, I know. You are not allowed to turn off this video. Because I know it's not a topic that thrills, but it's so important. In case you missed it, graduates in the United States oh an effing fortune in student loan debt, more than $1.3 trillion. And we women, we women hold nearly 2/3 of it, averaging more than $20,000 each for a bachelor's degree. And that's $30,000 if you're a woman of color. Ugh.
And here's a double ugh, yuck. The research tells us that paying back student loan debt is slower going for us women than it is for the guys, due in large part to that frustrating gender pay gap. And so you know I'm bringing some tips. And I've got four tips to help you pay down your student loans faster and without pain.
Number one, put your student loan payments on Auto Pay. Now this will typically save you 0.25% in interest expenses, and it's going to ensure you're never going to pay a late fee, not to mention taking one more thing off your to do list.
Number two, not all student loan debt is created equal. If you've got multiple loans, they're likely to have different interest rates. So you want to pay off the loans with the highest interest rate first. If you can pay more than the minimum, which is terrific, always make sure you specify which loans you want the additional payment to go towards.
We're on to number three, and number three is, pick up the phone. Have you been paying on time? If so, then make a call to your lender, and ask for a lower interest rate. This is where a boring task and the speaker phone are your friends. It doesn't always work, but no one's going to penalize you for calling every quarter and asking, so ask.
And finally, number four, don't let student loan debt make you put everything else on hold. I've heard from some of you that it can be tempting to pour all of your extra money into chipping away at the debt. And if it's keeping you up at night, I totally get it. But your student loans should not keep you from contributing to your 401(k), or starting an emergency fund, or living your life.
For more on this, I'm delighted to be joined by Tiffany Aliche, the Budgetnista. I love that name.
TIFFANY ALICHE: Thank you.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Tiffany has been called America's favorite financial educator, and her Budgetnista blog is one of the top personal finance blogs in the nation. Welcome, Tiffany, and cheers.
TIFFANY ALICHE: Thank you, Sallie.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: So happy to have you here.
TIFFANY ALICHE: Thank you.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: So Tiffany, a lot of women tell me they want to make progress on their student loan debt, but they just don't know how to go to it. What are you advising them?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Well, I say don't avoid it. Call your loan provider. There are two specific programs you're going to ask about. There's a Forgiveness program. And there's something called the IBR program, and that is the Income Based Repayment program. And so, if you don't make much, you might qualify for the IBR program. And what that means is that, based upon what you do make, that's what your payment's going to be.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Forgiveness and IBR programs, important to remember. But what do you think about college these days. I mean, it's awfully expensive. Is it right for everyone?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Well, I say this: knowledge for all, college for some. So college should be an investment, so you want to have a return on your investment. And so you might find that you want to be a plumber, or you want to be an actor.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: My son, my son, an actor. Should he go to college?
TIFFANY ALICHE: So you want to invest in training and trade school versus college, because it might not be a fit.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Right, too late. Now, this situation comes up again and again. You are so in love, and you are ready to be married. And he or she is swimming in student loan debt. What do you do?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Well here's the thing, I'd be more concerned if they had a really bad money mindset. Because debt is something that you can work toward. You can call that loan provider. You can even really adjust where you work and say, you know what, I'm actually going to work for the state or for the federal government so I can get that loan forgiven. But if this is someone who's consistently making bad and poor financial choices, that's what you want to be worried about.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: And so what do you do, sit down with them and have the money talk?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Yes, certainly. I mean, I asked my husband date three, what's your credit score.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: And you got to date four?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Yes.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Yeah, but it's all about being mindful, right?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Yes.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: OK. All right. We love to ask this question of everybody who joins us. What's the stupidest thing you've ever done with your money?
TIFFANY ALICHE: I can top anybody's stupidest thing with, I invested with an-- air quotes-- friend of mine. And I said that I wanted to learn how to invest, so he said to open up two credit cards. And I did.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: What, I'm sorry. You took money out on your credit cards to invest?
TIFFANY ALICHE: Yes.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: OK, we are headed towards the stupidest move ever, right now. And it turned out super well, right?
TIFFANY ALICHE: No. It ended up, I took out $20,000, and, based upon what he said I'd be making, I spent another $15,000. Ended up with $35,000 in credit card debt, and he was gone.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: OK. I also love to ask, what's the smartest thing you've done with your money?
TIFFANY ALICHE: So, smartest thing for sure, I learned the lesson. And I said I'm going to invest in education. So, just taking courses and lessons and reading books. And just investing in knowing better so I could do better.
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: Well, you rock. Thank you so much for being here with us today.
TIFFANY ALICHE: Thank you for having me. [GLASSES CLINKING]
SALLIE KRAWCHECK: And now it's time for my favorite part of the show, which is questions from all of you. And we received a lot of great questions from you on student loans. So clearly this is a challenge that hits home for many of you. So let's go ahead and tackle them question.
Question number one, I have to choose between paying down my student loan debt and starting to save for my own kids to go to college. What should I prioritize? This one hurts me a little bit, because as a parent, we all want to give our kids everything. And we want to do as much for them as we can. But in most cases, you should pay off your own debt first. Because if you prioritize your child's finances at the expenses of your own, what you're really doing is creating a position in which they may need to take care of you financially down the road. As a rule of thumb, as they say on airplanes, put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others. It'll be better for both of you in the long run.
The next one, question number two, asked, I'm making big monthly payments on my student loans, but it doesn't feel like I'm making a dent in my balances. Should I refinance? If it's going to take down your interest rate, you certainly should. Now to do so, you're generally going to need a credit score of 700 or higher. And from there, it's best to take that and take the application and shop a few different vendors, whether it's your traditional bank or one of the online student loan lenders like CommonBond or Earnest. Scope out several, and compare the options.
Question number three, I'm a senior in college and plan to attend graduate school this fall. I'm worried because I already have student loans from college and likely will take on more during grad school. Any advice? Depending on your intended grad program, you might consider working for a year or two before going back to school. Here's why. It's going to give you some time to get some financial stability, and you'll also get valuable work experience that may make what you learned during your studies even more valuable. I know it did for me when I went back to grad school. Another thought, if you find a job you love, someone employers will provide assistance by paying for part-time graduate school programs as long as they're related to your work.
OK, look. I know it may sometimes feel like your student loan debt is going to leave future you eating the same Ramen noodles you did in college. But I'm telling you now, if you take it one step at a time and you are dogged in your pursuit, you can be on your way to slaying that debt once and for all.
Ladies, we want to hear from you. So tweet at @MAKERSWOMEN and use #MAKERSMONEY. Or send in your questions to me at makers.com. Thanks to Tiffany Aliche for joining us. And until next time, remember, more money, more power.