Editor’s Note: Dana Perino, co-host of “America’s Newsroom” and “The Five” recently talked with her college roommate and lifelong friend Andrea Aragon about her new book, “Everything Will Be Okay.” The two women graduated from Colorado State University-Pueblo. Aragon is executive director of the Robert Hoag Rawlings Foundation.
ANDREA ARAGON: You are an incredibly busy woman with two very successful daily national television shows as the co-host of “America’s Newsroom” and “The Five” on Fox News. It must have been a true labor of love for you to write this book. Why was it so important for you to write it and how did you find the time?
DANA PERINO: Mentoring is a passion of mine, and I feel an obligation to give back through helping young people think about their goals, as well as their whole life — not just work.
I wrote the book to put all of my advice in one place, and it’s coming out just as we pass the year mark of the pandemic. Many workplaces have changed dramatically during that time, and the advice in the book addresses ways to keep climbing the career ladder even while working from home (which has turned into living at work!).
I wrote the book on weekends during 2020 — all weekend, every weekend. My husband Peter was very patient and helpful, reading multiple drafts. Jasper (my dog!) sat next to me with his head on my shins for hours. I’ll always cherish that time.
ARAGON: Which chapter was easiest to write, which was the hardest to write, and why?
PERINO: The chapter “How to Improve Your Work Day” just practically wrote itself. I have a lot of advice for young professionals regarding time management, conducting oneself with purpose and grace, finding one’s strong voice, and learning to manage up.
Writing the chapters where I opened up about my own challenges managing worry and anxiety was a bit difficult, but I’ve been in the public eye so long that I feel I am an open book. What don’t people know about me at this point?
I thought a lot about my time in Pueblo when I was trying to figure out my path forward, and how I learned to manage my anxiety through the practice of making a serenity grid. Right there in our old apartment on Greenwood! I walk my readers through how to create their own grids and hope that it will help them realize that everything really will be okay.
ARAGON: In your book, you advise young professionals to find their strong voice and use it. Share a time where you were intimidated or frightened to assert yourself, but you found your strong voice. What was the outcome? How did you overcome that fear? How can those of us who aren’t the talented, brilliant, and beautiful Dana Perino overcome that negative self-talk that often exists in our minds and instead, portray the confidence that you exude?
PERINO: There are still days when I feel nervous about asserting myself, though those are rarer these days than when I started out. I remember being sent to a meeting for my first chief of staff and she said, “And I don’t expect you to be a little mouse in there. Speak up!” So, I had to steel my nerves.
How? I try to always be the most prepared person in the room. When I was the White House Press Secretary, there was no one in the room that had out-read me. Being more prepared gave me power. I still feel that way — it’s a race every morning to read more than everyone else.
I also found that women have to find their strong voice, to speak clearly and without any up-speak (where the end of every sentence is an octave higher than it should be). Without a strong voice, you won’t get promoted or chosen for great opportunities. It will absolutely hold you back. So in the book, I provide some tips on how to find your strong voice and use it wisely.
ARAGON: In your book, you write about the importance of mentors. How does one “find a mentor”?
PERINO: I don’t believe that mentoring relationships have to be formal. I think about all the mentors in my life, including many from CSU – Pueblo. Think of Jennifer Mullen, Sam Ebersole, and Shawnalee Whitney. Amazing people that helped guide me through my early twenties.
We didn’t have specific mentoring discussions — I just learned from them along the way. That’s true even now — I’m still collecting mentors and role models. Sometimes a role model or a mentor will be someone you never meet — and that’s okay! You can emulate their style, read about their work, and try to incorporate those characteristics into your own life.
ARAGON: If you could point to three qualities or attributes that have made you who you are, what are they and why?
PERINO: Integrity, dignity, and discipline.
Integrity — it’s your best and most valuable asset. Never do anything to lose it.
Dignity — keep your head held high and your emotions in check. Try to be what I was recently called –energetically calm. It will draw people to you — they’ll want to listen to you and be your friend.
Discipline — there is freedom in sticking to your principles and your routines. By having a good personal work ethic, you can cut through a lot of the noise and anxiety that comes from feeling pulled in too many directions.
ARAGON: You address it in your book, but you talk about how you can get a fantastic and affordable education at a small, non-Ivy league university and still hit the big-time in your professional career. How do you think your education at CSU-Pueblo benefited you the most?
Like many kids, I wanted to go to a big party school and have some fun! My dad said, “Why don’t we go look at CSU-Pueblo?” I pouted the entire drive. But then I met Gary Miller and I realized, wow, these people really get me! I joined the speech team on a scholarship and loved all of my experiences at the university.
When I went to the White House, I had an educational inferiority complex. Many of my co-workers were from the Ivy Leagues. I was intimidated by them.
Over time, however, I realized that the president turned to me for advice as often as he did anyone else. He didn’t care where I went to college! And I have now seen how people from a smaller school are just the same as someone who goes to a fancy college. Where you go to college isn’t as important as going. And a more affordable education is a very good decision for America’s families.
ARAGON: The alumni, faculty, and supporters of Colorado State University-Pueblo are extremely proud of your tremendous success as a graduate. What was your best academic memory from CSU-Pueblo, and what was your most fun memory about your time at CSU-Pueblo?
PERINO: I loved working at KTSC-Pueblo with Sam Ebersole and my colleagues and fellow students — what a great experience. And it put me ahead of the competition once I started working.
My favorite fun memory was when my boyfriend broke up with me and I was so devastated, but you pulled me out of my funk and we’d go country dancing in Colorado Springs every weekend. Those were the days!
ARAGON: If you could give your 23-year-old self one piece of advice from your almost 49-year-old self, what would it be?
PERINO: Wear more sunscreen. Seriously. And read more of everything — less TV, more reading. I had to do some catching up as an adult, which I was happy to do, but I would have had a better head start if I’d read more (I know that sounds boring but it is true!).
ARAGON: What is the main piece of inspiration that you want your readers to glean from this book, and why?
PERINO: Please don’t worry your young lives away. With good decision-making and taking personal responsibility for your life and well-being, I promise you that everything will be OK.
ARAGON: How can your many fans in Pueblo and Colorado obtain your book?
PERINO: The book will be available wherever books are sold — hopefully there is an independent bookstore that will carry it, but if not, Barnes & Noble and Amazon have it in stock, too. You can also click here to order. I hope to get to visit the school and the state next year, post-pandemic!