Pat Schroeder, Amy McGrath & Tim Armstrong | 2018 MAKERS Conference
Amy McGrath, former U.S. Marine and congressional candidate in Kentucky, interviewed by Tim Armstrong, Chief Executive Officer, Oath, on women running for office and the upcoming midterm elections, along with surprise guest, Pat Schroeder, Former Congresswoman.
PRESENTER: Ladies and gentlemen, Amy McGrath and Tim Armstrong.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So every year since Makers started-- my wife, Nancy, has been with Makers since it began, and she interviewed Tamika Catchings and Abby Wambach. And she came after she went out and interviewed Amy, and she said, I found the best person. I said, you say that every year. But she said, no, no, no, you're going to love Amy.
And I talked to Amy. I've been preparing for this. And I told her-- we spent a long time discussing a lot of different topics. And when I got off the phone with her, I was crying. And I'm going to try to get to that-- not me, but you guys-- today. And we're going to have an unusual interview because I'm going to go through as much stuff as fast as I possibly can with her, and we're going to get our whole discussion out in a limited amount of time. So hang with us as we go.
What does it feel like to drop a 40,000-pound $60-million, loaded-with-weapons F-18 jet in the middle of the ocean at night on an aircraft carrier?
AMY MCGRATH: Well, it's-- first of all, it's more like slamming it. That's how you do it. But the first time I did it, and after I qualified for the first time, you really just feel like King Kong, like there is nothing else-- you can do anything. If you can do that, you can do anything. And it's really amazing.
TIM ARMSTRONG: You also-- you flew in combat. And you it's not in the video, but I'm guessing you were many times on a life-death line overall. And I know you said this on the phone-- that you knew people who fell on both sides of that line. Give me one example of something, from a serious standpoint, that happened during combat.
AMY MCGRATH: Well, the times when my life was in danger-- first of all, flying fighter jets is an inherently dangerous job. So whether you're in peacetime or in combat, it's dangerous. I remember one time, we were coming back from a mission in Afghanistan going north into Kyrgyzstan, and there's a mountain range which is very, very tall.
And we got an indication that we'd lost our oxygen onboard generating system, that it wasn't functioning properly. And so we had to descend in the middle of the night to an altitude which was very high over the mountains. But you're still in an altitude where, if the oxygen doesn't work, you could get hypoxia and potentially pass out and die.
And so that was a very scary moment where we were flying, and it's a two-place cockpit, so it was somebody else in the cockpit with me. And we were both very worried. And I think that was probably the most worried because we had time to think about it. Most of the time when you're flying a fighter jet, you're pretty darn intense, and you don't have time to really sit back and think about it.
TIM ARMSTRONG: What does it take to be a great pilot? What are the attributes of someone who has the skill set to be a pilot?
AMY MCGRATH: I would say you have to multitask. You can't do everything, or really anything, perfectly. You have to do it. You have to do it all well, and you have to be able to think very, very quickly. So these are attributes that women have. And the other thing that you have to do, at least as a fighter pilot, is you have to be aggressive, and you have to be OK with being aggressive.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So the saying that the apple doesn't fall far from the tree-- when I saw your bio before we spoke, I thought, what the hell kind of tree did you grow up on. What was the tree like you grew up on, and what was that atmosphere like?
AMY MCGRATH: Well, I grew up in Kentucky, which is my home now. And the atmosphere that I grew up in was one where I had parents who really fostered-- they allowed me to be me. And at a time when I didn't want to wear a skirt, my mom said, it's OK. You don't have to wear a skirt to school.
And that allowed me to be who I was. And who I was was somebody who was aggressive, was an athlete, somebody who had this dream. And because my parents were the way they were, I feel like today, I was able to achieve that. And particularly my mother, who went through medical school in the 1960s and was one of the first women to graduate from the University of Kentucky Medical School-- when I said I had these dreams, what do you think, she was kind of like, you can do that. And that gave me the confidence to say, all right, yeah.
TIM ARMSTRONG: Your mom sounds like an amazing person. And we went more deeply on the phone about her. You also played a lot of athletics growing up. What did athletics do for you that translated to the Marines and to combat and to running for Congress?
AMY MCGRATH: Yeah. Well, for me, it was all about confidence. Look, I was beating the boys at age five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10 at pretty much-- you know what I'm talking about-- at pretty much everything-- basketball, soccer, tennis, swimming. Bring it on. And I just loved it. And I got so much confidence out of that that when I went into the Marine Corps, it was like, bring it on. I can do this. I can compete. And I knew that I could. So there was no doubt.
TIM ARMSTRONG: From the outside, fighter jet pilot, athletics, aggressive, confident, all those things-- what do you think about taking risks? Are you a risk-seeker, out-of-control risk-seeker? We see you here calming onstage, and you're going bear shooting later today or something. How do you think about risk? What's your theory on risk?
AMY MCGRATH: Well, I think to be successful, you have to take risks. But they don't have to be crazy risks. So when you think about flying fighter jets, yes, it's risky. But you have to understand that we train for years, years. And we're trained by the best people. And they wouldn't put us and let us go to the aircraft carrier if we weren't ready. And so you get a lot of confidence because of that.
So yes, it's risky, but it's a controlled risk. With everything, you have a plan, and you execute that plan. And so by the time you get to the point where you might think, well, flying on an aircraft carrier-- I can't imagine doing that. It's just so far above or so hard-- folks, you train for it. And you get to that point. It's just like anything else.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So one element of your life that seems really important is being a Marine. And can you tell us what being a Marine-- why did you become a Marine? What does it mean to you? And how does it fit? If we were at the end of your life looking backwards for all the stuff you've been able to do during your life, what would the Marine piece be versus everything else? So what does it mean?
AMY MCGRATH: Well, number one, it was the challenge of my life to be a United States Marine. That was the hardest thing I could possibly do. But for me, it was about the ethos, the family, the idea that you are serving the country and that you stand for something greater than yourself. That's what the Marine Corps is all about. It's about stepping up. It's about being aggressive and being the one that says, pick me. I'm going to go. That's what I love about being a Marine.
TIM ARMSTRONG: And what-- are there any examples of the level of service, the depth you think about it in? You could be off drinking Mai Tais on the beach or doing anything else. Is there anything in life that you've seen examples of things that really made you think deeply about service and what it means to serve?
AMY MCGRATH: Well, that's one of the reasons I'm running for Congress-- because we need better leaders. And it's hard.
It's difficult. Politics is difficult, and it's tough. But you know what? It needs to be about service. And when I think about that, I think-- for me, I think about that scene in "Saving Private Ryan." That was a movie that came out many years ago where the older man goes to the cemetery at the end of his life, and he remembers back to what Tom Hanks' character told him, as Tom Hanks' character essentially saved his life, and many other soldiers saved this man's life. And he's remembering that at their gravesites in Normandy. And what Tom Hanks' character said to this man in the 1940s during the war, when he saved his life, was earn this. Earn your life.
That's what I think. I have been blessed. All these dreams-- my family, my background-- I grew up in Kentucky, the commonwealth, the home that I love. I feel like I've been blessed, and I have to give back. I have to earn it.
So serving my country in the past, going forward-- this is what we need. We need people that want to be public servants again and do these sort of things. That's why.
TIM ARMSTRONG: I'm going to ask you one fast question, and then we're going to do an interlude, because this story is actually about two Makers, not one. Raise Your Voice, Me Too is happening. You've probably worked, I'm guessing, in this audience, with more men than almost anyone has. How many female bosses have you had versus men?
AMY MCGRATH: I've had one female boss, and she was a member of Congress. She was not in the Marine Corps.
TIM ARMSTRONG: For 100% of the men that you've worked with, the men in the world, what percent of them do you think have the issues we're seeing in the world today and what percent don't?
AMY MCGRATH: I would say 90% don't have the issues-- I really think the vast majority of men, at least the ones that I've worked with in the Marine Corps. I'd say 5% really do. And there's a 5% to 10% in there that are complicit, that will sort of go with the bad actors because they don't really have the moral courage to stand up.
TIM ARMSTRONG: What about women?
AMY MCGRATH: I'd say it's about the same. And so the key is to be someone who isn't afraid to stand up. And I know that's hard. I've been in squadrons where they have all men when I was a young officer. And I did not have the ability. I did not feel like I had the ability to stand up when I should have.
You know what changes that? There's two things that change that in my mind, from what I've seen. One-- leadership. Leaders that set the tone for their units, for their companies, whatever, that matters. And two-- more women in positions of power. The culture does not change until women rise in the ranks, whether it's in the military or whether it's in a company, into positions where they are respected peers or the positions of power.
TIM ARMSTRONG: Now this story is going to turn into two Makers, which is the story we heard earlier today about you writing a letter to the Congresswoman. So when Amy was coming, we were hoping to get Pat Schroeder to come out. And fortunately, we did. Please welcome Pat Schroeder.
PRESENTER: Ladies and gentlemen, Pat Schroeder.
TIM ARMSTRONG: All right.
PAT SCHROEDER: How great.
TIM ARMSTRONG: We are--
PAT SCHROEDER: How fun.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So Pat, let me ask you one question, and then we're going to have a team huddle about winning the race. How did you decide to respond to letters like Amy's? And I'm sure you were getting hit in a million different directions when you were in office. How did you choose what you did as a leader?
PAT SCHROEDER: Well, I felt it was terribly important to do that, especially for young women. Because there really were no role models. I thought about when I grew up, what were my role models? Cinderella? No. I didn't fit that.
And so you really think any of these young women writing in, of course. And of course, I love these young lionesses. I just think it is so important. And I worked so hard to get women into the military and into these different crew things. They've done such a great job.
And as a pilot, I knew the secret that women hold up under G loads better than men, all these wonderful things that nobody wanted to hear. One of my favorite stories that you'll appreciate was trying to get women into the space program. And all these wonderful astronauts came and talked about-- you have to be a jock, and you have to do this, and you have to do that.
And I said, I'm a pilot, and I think it's more like milking a mouse. Grab a hold of one of those things and shake it to pieces. And they were like, oh, damn, somebody told them.
So it was just terribly important because everything was loaded against you, as you know, if you watch the visuals. And visuals are so important
AMY MCGRATH: I was 10, 11 years old in 1990, watching C-SPAN. And I was watching C-SPAN because the chiefs of the services got up in front of you, and the members of Congress, of the Armed Services Committee, and they would-- they were thinking about opening jobs to women, of opening up certain positions to women. And I watched that as a 10-year-old.
And it was very disheartening. Because you have the chiefs get up there and say things like, well, it will destroy morale if women come into this unit. Or women can't be the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. At the time, said he didn't want a woman as his wingman. And it was really tough.
But you were somebody who let them have it. And you said, hey-- you asked them the hard questions. And one of the things that you did, and what people ought to know, is that it's members of Congress. It's people, women in governments, that can make these changes. And this is why we need more women in government.
PAT SCHROEDER: Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes!
And one of the most interesting things that I ever had happen to me was I was on ABC in the morning to do the morning programs. And it was when I was talking about we really need women in combat missions. Come on. They're trained. They're ready. They can go. What is this?
And when I got done, the cameraman came from behind the camera and absolutely started beating on me. I was on the floor. It took five people to pull him off.
So the head of ABC got a hold of me and said, we don't know what made him do that. He's, like, six months away from retirement. Should we fire him? And I said, no, don't fire him. I don't want to be responsible for that.
But what was it that drove him so nuts? It's like we're letting girls into our treehouse. Oh, no. He just couldn't deal with it. And there were a lot of those. I think there's still some around.
AMY MCGRATH: There are, but it's less than you think. And what matters-- how the change happens is when you have women-- and there's a ton of them out there-- who have served our country.
And you know what? They don't-- they just do it, and they do it well. And that's what matters.
PAT SCHROEDER: But think about the wonderful women pilots in World War II, which we finally got paid. But they put them in uniform. They flew all the planes. And when it was over, they said, have a nice day, ladies and they didn't meet any of their commitments.
So women have been abused through all of that for a long time. You're right. It is now a different day. And what I was so happy to hear your talk about is sports, because I think that's made a huge difference. I think the sports has made a terrific difference.
AMY MCGRATH: I agree.
PAT SCHROEDER: I grew up in women's basketball-- two dribbles, and you had stop because they thought we'd faint.
TIM ARMSTRONG: If we-- we've heard about athletics, Marines, the work you've done, Pat, in Congress, which was incredible. If we were strategizing right now with Amy after she gets elected, and you said, look, here are two or three things to really focus in on, what makes a great-- someone who's going to serve in Congress, what would you say to Amy?
PAT SCHROEDER: First of all, I'm going to be very brash. OK? And I'm going to say, if you saw me bring an envelope in, it was cash. It was money.
TIM ARMSTRONG: I was going to ask about that.
PAT SCHROEDER: And what we've first got to do--
AMY MCGRATH: I know it.
PAT SCHROEDER: The first thing is to get her there. Because some of the old boys-- she's going to be too nice to say this, but some of the old boys in Washington are afraid of what's happening with this new movement of women getting elected. They don't mind having 10%, but thank you, they don't want anymore.
And they put up the mayor to run against her, which can self-fund. So he's going to spend a ton of money in a primary which she should not have to have, period. And so we've really got to support her. She supported us. We've got to support her. We've got to get her elected.
And I must tell you-- Saturday in my house, three fabulous women docs, two African-American women who were both cardiologists, one named number one in California and the other one a great breast cancer surgeon-- they called me and said, we're coming to Florida to see you. And I said, what? Come on down. I'd love to talk to you.
We spent the whole day talking. Here's what they talked about-- women's health. And they are terribly concerned about what's happening with CDC. They're terribly concerned that research on women's health is just being dropped like a stone.
And they wanted to know all the things that we had done to get NIH going. And they said, it's wonderful that people contribute money, but it's such a total little token compared to what the government research has been. It's, like, maybe a 4% or 5% add-on. And women's health is the first thing that dropped, because Congress tends to fund what they fear, and the majority of them don't fear the things that we fear in this room.
So there's a whole lot of things like that that have been dropped of late that young people are getting very, very frightened about, the younger people. They're obviously in their 40s, god love them. They're babies as far as I'm concerned. When you get to be my age, they're-- OK, but anyway, she's so needed, and she's so needed with her tenaciousness to pick up that. The things we thought we had won often turned out to be little beachheads. And they keep thinking they can take them away.
I could give you one thing after another that they've tried to take. Violence against women has become terrible. It's like, well, we voted for that once. Really? Well, it's still going on. So there's a list, and I know she knows them, and I'm not at all worried about her picking up the cudgel. I just need her to get there to pick it up. OK?
AMY MCGRATH: All right.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So I'll ask you one question, then we'll end with something. If you could change one thing in one sentence in the government, both of you, today-- I'm going to assume you're going to say more women. But what would you want to change other than that? Because you guys have established that. What would you change about the government?
PAT SCHROEDER: I would get rid of this incredible decision by the Supreme Court that has made money so difficult. It's made it so hard. And what's happened is-- not that I have anything against millionaires, but it's become a hobby for millionaires now because they can sell [INAUDIBLE]. And so somebody else has to go out with their tin can.
When I finally stopped running, I remember my brother being so excited he could come to my birthday without paying.
AMY MCGRATH: Well, I would agree. It's definitely money in politics. Post-Citizens United, it is absolutely corrupting our democracy. We have to tackle that. You can literally buy elections if you're on the side that agrees with special interests. And it's really sad.
And so today, we have to have leaders that, one, believe this is a public service again, and two, campaign on the backs of actual people. And that is so important. We have to get the money out of politics. Because right now, it's not allowing us to tackle any of these issues that we so care about and that the folks in Kentucky care about, too. Health care is the number one issue in my district.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So unfortunately, we're out of time. But before we leave, if someone wanted to donate to your campaign-- I don't know this is legal or not.
PRESENTER: And you do. You all do.
TIM ARMSTRONG: What would they do?
AMY MCGRATH: So you'd go to my website, amymcgrathforcongress.com. There are restrictions as to how much you can donate. A person can only donate $2,700 per person. For many people, that's way too much. But those are our laws.
And my campaign is-- I'm very proud of the fact that the vast majority of the folks who are donating to my campaign are small-dollar donors. That's how we make a difference.
PAT SCHROEDER: Gloria Steinem always said if every woman contributed-- what-- contributed to campaigns what she paid for her last outfit, we could change the world. So think about that.
TIM ARMSTRONG: So we'll end on that. But wanted to say a special thanks to two great Americans, two people who served. And I think all of us stand on the shoulders of what you guys have provided, and especially the military service that you have provided. So thank you very much, and thanks for coming to Makers and joining us.
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