Posted tagged ‘The Art of Tough’

“The Art of Tough” by Barbara Boxer

March 3, 2018

From community organizing for better conditions, to her first campaign as Marin County Board of Supervisors, then to the California State House of Representatives and US Senator from California, Barbara Boxer’s career is extraordinary.

“The Art of Tough: Fearlessly Facing Politics and Life” (2016) gives us an insider look into “the everyday, behind-the-scene struggles that move our nation toward ‘a more perfect union.’” It is “a no-punches-pulled personal memoir about the personalities and shenanigans of my colleagues on both sides of the aisle.”

Boxer shares anecdotes from her childhood and reveals “the core values I’ve carried with me throughout all of my political career.” The first value she talks about: Never compromise about doing the right thing. And the guideline that matters most: Be authentic and stay authentic. Her love of singing, and the poetry and lyrics that she wrote, show us her more personal, everyday side.

Idealistic, passionate, and energetic, she writes candidly of personal victories and failures, as well as political allies and opponents. One of her biggest legislative accomplishments is federal funding for after-school programs. I admire her courage in taking a stand on unpopular issues and her conviction – even if I don’t always agree with her policies or her clear partisanship. Boxer rarely acknowledges the good choices or good intentions of Republicans, while highlighting Democrat achievements and downplaying their mistakes.

Throughout the book, Boxer offers practical advice for novice political candidates, as well as business and community leaders:

1) Don’t take defeat personally – run for election again.
2) Personal relationships matter in getting support for bills.
3) Keep your word, but listen very carefully to what others say – or don’t say. Listen for “yes.”
4) Be patient – it can take years for a bill to become a law.
5) Thank colleagues, share credit, and be gracious in victory.
6) Keep your sense of humor, especially when dealing with apparently intractable problems.
7) Don’t respond to your opponent’s garbage by slinging it back even harder.
8) Be forgiving and be willing to take risks working with colleagues.
9) When you hold a minority position on an issue of conscience, it’s your duty to speak out, even when you’re taunted, even when it looks hopeless.
10) Even after an emotional disagreement, we must come together for the good of the country.

In some ways, “The Art of Tough” is Boxer’s legacy autobiography; she includes her top 50 legislative accomplishments. She vows to continue to be active in public service, outlining a long list of “legacy issues” that she is committed to since her retirement from the US Senate in 2017.

For more information about “The Art of Tough,” visit the website at