I love, love, love the story on DC public schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in this weekend’s Washington Post Magazine. The “On Leadership” video interview of her by the Post’s Steve Pearlstein (another favorite person of mine) is great, too. What I love about Michelle is her “extreme candor,” motivated by her belief that it’s straight and tough talk that’s required in order to bring about change for the better. And despite those hints of “witchiness” (or even the b- version of the word) from the infamous Time magazine cover photo (below), I think Michelle’s Asian-American female exterior, and the dedication, determination, and (yet) humanness you can hear in her voice, helps to soften the edges of her candid tough talk just enough to make people listen.
And this passage in the Washington Post Magazine was the clincher for my writing this post (emphasis added):
The Rhees raised their daughter to work hard, trust herself and speak the truth. “I often told Michelle that no matter what she does, you’re not going to be liked by everybody,” says her father, a physician who specialized in managing pain before he and his wife retired to Colorado.
Rhee attributes her directness to her roots. “Korean people are not the most tactful,” she says. “I grew up with Korean ladies who’d say, ‘Gee, you’ve put on some weight.’ It has for as long as I can remember driven me crazy when people beat around the bush instead of saying, ‘Look, I need you to do this.’ “
I’m only half Korean (my other half is Chinese), but I think I definitely got a lot of that “Korean candor” gene in me. (And get a glass or two of wine in me, and you really have to watch out!…) For those relatively-new readers who might be misled by my very last (seemingly-biased) post on the irrationality of Republicans on tax policy, well, you probably haven’t been reading me from the start or have forgotten that I have been much more direct (and maybe even “witchy”) in my candor to my fellow Democrats. And I think you should expect that a new very candid post on the Democrats and tax policy will be coming soon from this (half) Korean woman.
UPDATE Tuesday morning (9/29): Michelle will be live on washingtonpost.com today at 1 pm EST for an online discussion with readers, click here. And here’s another part of her video interview with Steve Pearlstein where sometimes you may think you are listening to someone facing the challenge of advocating for fiscal responsibility.