JOHANNA MASKA, THE GENIUS WOMAN BEHIND THE IMPECCABLE OBAMAS
Haz click en la flecha azul de la derecha para ver toda la galería: JOHANNA MASKA, la directora de PRESS ADVANCE en la Casa Blanca bajo el mandato de OBAMA, nos recibe en su casa de L.A. junto a su esposo HENRY C.J. JACKSON, escritor y editor de la prestigiosa revista POLITICO.
JOHANNA MASKA, THE GENIUS WOMAN BEHIND THE IMPECCABLE OBAMAS
"A las mujeres independientes se les teme. Eso es muy peligroso. Las mujeres somos creadoras de vida, somos madres, hijas, nietas, abuelas… Y el futuro de nuestros hijos depende de si nosotras tenemos o no una voz. Tenemos que apoyar a las mujeres. Tenemos que apoyarnos unas a otras". No te pierdas la entrevista completa en nuestro BLOG DE LOS ANGELES.
JOHANNA MASKA, THE GENIUS WOMAN BEHIND THE IMPECCABLE OBAMAS
Las mamás trabajadoras hacen malabares para cumplir un sinfín de obligaciones: "Hace unos días fui a una reunión. Al sacar mi portfolio del bolso, salió acompañado de unos calzoncillos de mi hijo de Captain Underpants. Tener un balance en mi vida, ese es el dilema. Tenemos que lograr crear un sistema que funcione para apoyar a las familias".
Johanna Maska is an extraordinary woman. You might have never heard of her but… What about the Obamas? This bouncy and restless green-eyed-blonde was one who introduced the world to Barack Obama. Judging from the impeccable image of our former president, she managed to create a tremendously favorable public opinion that reached far and wide around the world. Once this incredible feat was complete, this fabulous publicist and marketing specialist relocated to Los Angeles to be a consultant for entrepreneurs and businesses with The Global Situation Room.
A dear Spanish friend of mine and a consultant herself, the gorgeous Silvia Camacho, invited me to dine at Johanna´s home during her last visit to L.A. and that is how this feature was born. Bienvenida a California, señorita Maska! It is a true honor and privilege to meet phenomenal women like you.
– Most of the world loves the Obamas. You might be responsible for it. What are your thoughts about it?
Ha! I don’t think any single person can take credit for the Obamas, except maybe the Obamas themselves. That said there was a day when Barack Obama couldn’t get into the Democratic National Convention. The thing is there are too many talented people out there that don’t get opportunity. Thankfully Barack Obama kept trying. When I first saw him he was on the main stage at the DNC in 2004. He talked about my hometown Galesburg, IL and the changes in the economy, his belief that people have similar wants and needs and that we should find common ground to create the America of the future. I decided right then and there I would do anything to work for him.
When I got my opportunity it’s because I wouldn’t take no for an answer. I had a background in communications and managed to get on the campaign very early in a role doing press advance which is setting the stage for history, opening up access to those who record it, and having a front row seat to every major event that would change history. I joined the campaign when people said I was crazy – that we would never win. I was determined to prove them wrong like many of my incredible colleagues and we did. We’re now all back in our communities still fired up and ready to go to bring about the change we want to see in the world.
– You met Obama before he was president and left everything to follow him and help him win. Why?
Because he wanted to make America truly great. Inclusive. Optimistic. Innovative. It’s the American dream I believe in. Still believe in. But change doesn’t happen overnight and I think we were all a little too optimistic that we wouldn’t have more set backs. We still have a long way to go.
– What was the main focus of the campaign?
It was grassroots. Our goal was to connect with Americans. To respect, empower, include. Talk about the future we wanted for our children. And that was what won. We believed in people.
– Was there an “aha” moment when you knew he would win before the election?
I never believed we would win. I think that when you believe you’ll win, you don’t work as hard as you should. There were many powerful moments and I felt momentum change in Iowa when he started telling the Fired up, Ready to go story.
– What is the most important advice Obama ever gave you?
There was an incredible conference call early on in the campaign when he said – I’m never going to be a perfect candidate but I’m going to try harder everyday and that’s what I want you to do. That’s what we all did. Of course we made mistakes, but we took ownership of our mistakes, learned from them, and grew together as a team.
– What would you say are the main three characteristics that make him such a winner?
He lost before he won. I think everyone is too skeptical of those who want to bring about the change we believe in. I find this within my own circles. But the only way we change the course of history and we find those good leaders is believing in a dream and getting on board when no one else is willing and fighting hard for that dream to be achieved.
He gets back up when times are tough.
He doesn’t let criticism dissuade him from trying to find common ground over and over and over.
– You visited so many countries and met many world leaders while you worked eight years at the White House… What was your happiest day and why?
I started counting countries, got to 40 and I know there were more. I just couldn’t count anymore. It was an opportunity of a lifetime. But my happiest day was welcoming my son into the world. I got to do some of the most amazing things – fly over Petra in helicopters, visit Nelson Mandela’s prison cell with President Obama, see history unfold. It was all incredible. But welcoming life into this world – there’s truly nothing better. I had my son while I was running G8 and NATO press logistics with incredible teams. I was so grateful for their support and for the support of my colleagues to help me try to do it all.
– What would it be the toughest moment you went through?
The toughest moment is a hard one. I realized when my son was 3 that I couldn’t do the travel as much – I needed a break. And that was tough. Because I loved my job. I loved serving the American people. And working with the press. I had to figure out what was really important to me. And at that moment it had to be my family. I think a lot of people think it’s an excuse that you want to leave to be with your family. I don’t. I needed that time to refocus and re-energize and I have a lot of change I still want to see in the world. But I needed to strengthen my core – my family – to be whole for the change I wanted to see.
– Did you ever thought to leave it all behind? What moment would that be and why?
I knew the time had come when a colleague told me I’d go to the Taj Mahal and I didn’t want to go. Traveling the world was something I had only dreamed of when I grew up in a small town in the midwest – Galesburg IL – but I needed to be there for my son. He was saying, Mommy I don’t want you to go. And I didn’t want to go.
– I feel Michelle Obama is an amazing woman. Did she have to play small to not overshadow her husband somehow?
I love Michelle Obama. She’s amazing and had her own imprint on America. But I think we in America are too quick to demonize women. We put them in boxes and we want them to support men. When I came out as a Democrat to my Republican family they said (during the Clinton administration) but you don’t like Hillary, do you? she was first lady – she wasn’t the President – and they hated her. We weaponize women’s independence. And that’s dangerous. Because women create life. Because we’re the moms, the daughters, the granddaughters, the grandmothers. And our children’s future is just as dependent on us having a voice. We need to support women. We need to support each other. When I finally met Hillary Clinton she was nothing like my family would believe. She was caring, passionate, dedicated, smart, strong, courageous.
– How did you meet your husband?
He was my editor my senior year in college.
– What made you fall in love with him?
He was good with words. He was wickedly smart. And from the moment I’ve met him he’s been my partner.
– Did you have to kiss many frogs to find your prince?
Ha! I’m just lucky social media wasn’t around when I was in high school and college. Thankfully I’m not one to dwell in the past so I don’t really know.
– When did you know he was “the one”?
I think we set people up for failure with a notion of the one. But one night he wouldn’t edit my words and I was ticked. I stormed off to another class and he clearly was upset. When I got back he asked me if I wanted to go to dinner. And we did. We went to Wheatfields in Lawrence, Kansas. And we talked for hours. Me learning about him. He’d lost his mom young. She died of brain cancer. And the conversation we had was so deep, profound, lovely. I wanted this person as my partner. I love him and he loves me. We set about a life together. And I’m really lucky we did.
– What are your thoughts about the married life?
Marriage is really tough. And for anyone to think it’s not would be disillusioned. I’m really lucky to have a partner I can trust in the ups and the downs of our life. I am lucky I found him at a young age and partnered up. I’ll say there are some in feminist circles who told me I was crazy to get married at a young age. That I’d end up supporting his dreams. But I’ve found more often than not it’s been the other way around. I think we need to all just follow our gut. And when it’s right, you know.
– Being a mom… What is the most important thing you have learned out of the experience?
I went to a meeting yesterday and realized I had an extra pair of my son’s Captain Underpants underwear in my purse. It came out when I was getting my portfolio out. Balancing it all is quite the task. We need to set up a system that works to support families. We’ve lost that system as we’ve moved around and lose our support structure. But I rely so much on my friends, and the community we’ve built. I’m so lucky to have other moms in LA who are dear friends and we shuffle kids and families between us to make it all work.
– Can a woman being a good mother, be fully present in her kid´s lives and have a professional career in the meantime?
I just had this conversation with David Axelrod in Iowa. Early in my travel when I missed my son so much I was so lucky to have a journalist – Christi Parsons who is an amazing writer – tell me that while it’s hard, she was farther along and she knew that her kids had a better relationship with their father because of her travel. Those words stuck in my mind. And I do think that’s true. When I get home sometimes the house isn’t as clean as I want it. Everything isn’t precisely how I would do it. But my son and my husband have their boys nights and they’re special. I think grandparents are also important here. My father in law was with us over the holidays and we got home one night and he and our son had a boys night. He said it was the best night in a long time.
My mom always taught me – Our kids are going to grow up and go out on their own. We need to have our own life to be proud of. And in the process you can build some pretty strong kids by letting them have a little independence of their own.
– How do you find a balance between work and family?
I wish we lived in a commune sometimes. I just need more hands. But I love my family. And I’m better at work for having a strong family.
– You are an expert in selling characters to the press. What do we, your audience, want to hear about politicians?
I think we need to be real. No one is perfect. And we shouldn’t pretend that they are. Everyone has flaws but it’s intentions that matter. What do we want to create and how are we going to get there. Have convictions, but listen to the voters. I actually think after the last election we’d be better off learning that we need to do more listening.
– What do you think is the most important quality in a leader?
Their fortitude. Anyone who puts themselves out there is going to get criticism. But we need resilient leaders who stand for something to keep getting back up. We need the world to have strong leaders who collaborate and cooperate and bring about that inclusive optimistic entrepreneurial world that allows safety and security for all. That’s my dream.
– I cannot stand the fact that if your turn CNN or FOX, it seems they live in different worlds. Can we find media that is completely honest and no bias? How can we find raw honest truth? Can we?
The funny thing is they both think they’re telling the truth. I love NPR. I think journalism and standards matter. I think we need to do more in journalism education. I think we need to support investigative journalism. There’s raw truth – like the number of gun fatalities in America – and then there are different theories on how we’re going to decrease those fatalities. And I think we need to do a better job of giving fair analysis on theories. Less talking heads and more investigation, data, true journalism.
The problem is the business model has changed and we’ve reverted to something like yellow journalism. We need to figure out building back up the business model that allows for the journalists to tell the good as well as the bad and for there to be a business model that works.
– How do you like living in LA?
I love it. This is the city of dreams, rich diversity, the world’s city. We need more affordable housing, transportation and help our children grow to be the most productive citizens they can. But living in this city is a dream come true for me. I’m grateful everyday.
– What are your goals in this new life with your new company?
I am working to find those businesses that truly want to make the world a better place and help them do it. Help them navigate risk and have the impact they want. The root of business is that they’re supposed to solve a problem. And when they do you want that solution in the market. We’re marketing and engagement experts. We have an event series – Entrepreneurship Export Exchange– and we consult. I find like-minded people and work with them. And that’s been fun.
– How would your explain in a few lines the mission of the Global Situation Room?
To help companies and individuals navigate global risk, have real impact in global good and expand global trade to bring economic security to more places around the globe.
– Why would a potential client of yours need to hire you?
Because they need someone who made decisions in the White House Situation Room helping them through a risky time in the globe. Because they have an issue they can’t solve and they need our core team that includes former US Ambassadors. Because they want to make the world a better place and they want Diplomats to help them do that. That’s our team.
For more info: The Global Situation Room Website
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