Linda Chavez

After Linda Chavez served as the highest-ranking woman in Pres­ident Ronald Reagan’s White House working as the Director of Public Liaison, she decided to use her knowledge of policy in writing. Chavez is now a political com­men­tator who writes a weekly syn­di­cated column and often appears on Fox News and radio shows as an analyst. She is also the founder of the Center for Equal Oppor­tunity. Soon, she will finish her first series of fic­tional short stories.

At one point, you con­sidered becoming a college pro­fessor. Why did you stop pur­suing that career?

I started college in 1965, married in 1967, and had my first kid in 1968, so I was a student, a wife, and a mother. I had to work through school and this was also the time when affir­mative action was starting.

I got involved with recruiting stu­dents, specif­i­cally Mexican-Amer­icans. It was clear that these kids did not have the aca­demic back­ground to be pre­pared for college. Even though English was spoken in their homes, they were not pro­fi­cient in standard English, so I decided that I would try to con­vince the English Department to let me teach a course to help incoming stu­dents. They let me do that, which is how I got started teaching.

Unfor­tu­nately, this was the time when affir­mative action, in my mind, went off the rails. Instead of just being about giving kids who did not have oppor­tu­nities the chance to learn skills, it became a program that was basi­cally all about dividing stu­dents into ethnic classes. I really had a clash and then left and went on to graduate school at UCLA.… They were changing the rules so minority stu­dents were not expected to abide by the same rules and was really a low­ering of stan­dards. That’s when I left.

The title of one of your books is “An Unlikely Con­ser­v­ative: The Trans­for­mation of an Ex-Liberal.” What influ­enced that trans­for­mation of your political views? 

My whole back­ground was in lit­er­ature, so I’m sort of self taught. I decided to read “Wealth of Nations” in the late 70s. I was working for a labor union, and some things didn’t make sense to me. I said, ‘This doesn’t seem to be the way the world works,’ and so I decided to read Adam Smith, and it was like on the first page I thought, ‘This is the way the world works. This makes sense.’ So by the time I went into the Reagan White House, I was on my way to being a free market cap­i­talist. And, I was earning more and real­izing the gov­ernment was taking a big chunk of my money and not spending it exactly how I thought it should.

Your husband changed his political views, too. What influ­enced him? 

My husband was a Socialist — in a more European Socialism way. He was anti-Com­munist, but believed the state ought to pay for things.

We were strug­gling stu­dents, and he wanted to buy a color tele­vision set, and he sud­denly noticed that instead of how under Marxist theory a color tele­vision would always be out of the reach of the working class because cap­i­talists would be greedy and keep pushing prices up so every­thing would always be out of reach, he started noticing that prices were getting cheaper every year. It was like this was his wake up call. I always tease him that if we weren’t so inter­ested in sports that he wanted a color tele­vision that he may be a Bernie Sanders guy now.

Despite having three children early on in your career, you accom­plished a lot. What is your advice for young adults who want to pursue having both careers and families? 

In Wash­ington, I found that people spend a lot of time at work that is unnec­essary. They would be hanging out or just trying to get face time with the boss — I saw that a lot at the White House. I got there very early, but I left at 6 or 6:30 every day. A lot of others worked until 8:30 or 9 p.m., but they were mostly sitting around gabbing and talking.

It’s a chal­lenge to balance both, though. I know a lot of people decided to wait to have kids. I’m actually not sure that’s the best advice. I know people who had children early and then went back to the workforce.

I also respect women who go to college and get liberal arts degrees and then spend time raising their children. It’s a very worthy aspi­ration. Edu­cation is never wasted. And you can use it in devel­oping your children.

One reason women, on average, earn less than men with equal edu­ca­tions is that women take time out for children. That will make a dif­ference. To me, it’s not a bad trade off.

I was able to balance both.

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Collegian editor-in-chief, Macaela J. Bennett grew up in the Pumpkin Capital of the World, Morton, Illinois. In May, she will join The Arizona Republic as a 2016 Pulliam Fellow, working at its News Desk reporting on Metro/Breaking News. In the past, she's interned for The East Peoria Times Courier, Campus Reform, The Town Crier, and The Tennessean. Outside of the newsroom, she enjoys playing soccer, hiking, running, and cheering on the Cubs.