Gibbs at the LBJ Presidential Library, September 20, 2012
|Born||Nancy Reid Gibbs
January 25, 1960 (age 56)
New York City, New York, United States
|Occupation||Essayist, writer, editor|
Right now, doctors can test for about 2,500 medical conditions, but they only can treat about 500 of those. So what do you do with the knowledge about the others?
Most professional women I know – myself included – long since gave up looking for a rulebook or a roadmap; we make it up as we go along. Every day presents a new choice, a new challenge, which makes long-term career planning seem like an especially abstract exercise.
There may be no less original idea than the notion that our hearts hold dominion over our heads.
When I was coming out of college, storytelling was very much something you did with pencil and paper, so the technological platform versatility, I think, is really valuable.
Years later, nothing makes me more grateful as a parent than my daughters' encounters with classroom wizards.
There are many things that matter much more than an editor's gender in shaping the direction of the leadership.
It's always been a luxury to be able to hop a plane to Paris, to Venice, to the Grand Canyon.
While many alien species are harmless, others pose expensive threats to seas and fields and forests.
A good president needs a big comfort zone. He should be able to treat enemies as opportunities, appear authentic in joy and grief, stay cool under the hot lights.
There was a time when researchers imagined that Plan B, or the morning-after pill, might become not an emergency form of contraception but a routine one; women would take it once a month to induce a period and never even know whether they had gotten pregnant.
Pain is the most private experience, but its causes, whether natural or man-made, demand public accounting.
As long as people have been making little people, they've wanted to know how not to.
The Reverend Jeremiah Wright would baptize Obama, perform his marriage to Michelle LaVaughn Robinson, baptize their daughters, and draw him into the raucous, restless family of faith that Obama had never known before.
The 1950s felt so safe and smug, the '60s so raw and raucous, the revolutions stacked one on top of another, in race relations, gender roles, generational conflict, the clash of church and state – so many values and vanities tossed on the bonfire, and no one had a concordance to explain why it was all happening at once.
In the weeks after 9/11, out of the pain and the fear there arose also grace and gratitude, eruptions of intense kindness that occurred everywhere, a sharp resolve to just be better, bigger, to shed the nonsense, rise to the occasion.
The days of the Pentagon Papers debates seem long past, when a sudden transparency yielded insight into fights over war and peace and freedom and security; the transparency afforded by Twitter and Facebook yields insights that extend no further than a lawmaker's boundless narcissism and a culture's pitiless prurience.
Most of us were probably less than immaculately honest as teenagers; it's practically encoded into adolescence that you savor your secrets, dress in disguise, carve out some space for experiments and accidents and all the combustible lab work of becoming who you are.
New Orleans lives by the water and fights it, a sand castle set on a sponge nine feet below sea level, where people made music from heartache, named their drinks for hurricanes and joked that one day you'd be able to tour the city by gondola.
Maybe we adults idealize our own red-rover days, the hot afternoons spent playing games that required no coaches, eating foods that involved no nutrition, getting dirty in whole new ways and rarely glancing in the direction of a screen of any kind.
Progress is seldom simple; it comes with costs and casualties, even challenges about whether a change represents an advance or a retreat.
You can't predict when a crisis might hit your family, whether it's with an elderly parent or with your children.
Photographer James Nachtwey has spent his professional life in the places people most want to avoid: war zones and refugee camps, the city flattened by an earthquake, the village swallowed by a flood, the farm hollowed out by famine.
Accidents at power plants are bad enough. But a leak from a bioreactor could be worse, since bacteria can learn new tricks when you're not looking.
Girls grow up scarred by caution and enter adulthood eager to shake free of their parents' worst nightmares. They still know to be wary of strangers. What they don't know is whether they have more to fear from their friends.
Back in the really olden days, dinner was seldom a ceremonial event for U.S. families. Only the very wealthy had a separate dining room. For most, meals were informal, a kind of rolling refueling; often only the men sat down.
In many parts of the world, more people have access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water.
Calling Rand Paul 'the most interesting man in politics' is an invitation to an argument – but one we suspect he'd love to have.
Even if it wasn't always morning in America during the years of his presidency, Reagan's eagerness to insist that it was tapped into a longing among voters. They didn't want to picture themselves turning down their thermostats and buttoning up their cardigans. They wanted to strut again. Reagan opened his arms and said, 'Walk this way.'
Sure, we want to know what a president believes in… but that doesn't always mean he should tell us.
We are bombarded with reasons to stay inside: we're afraid of mosquitoes because of West Nile and grass because of pesticides and sun because of cancer and sunscreen because of vitamin-D deficiency.
George W. Bush, though a president's son, is cast as Reagan's heir even more than his father's.
Our children will outwit us if they want; for when it comes to technology, they hold the higher ground. Unlike other tools passed carefully and ceremonially from one generation to the next – the sharp scissors, the car keys – this is one they understand better than we do.
In the case of the classic Western helicopter parent, it starts with Baby Einstein and reward charts for toilet training, and it never really ends, which is why colleges have to devote so many resources to teaching parents how to leave their kids alone.
Decision making in a democracy depends above all on knowledge and not just the intel available to presidents and policymakers.
There's a smartphone gait: the slow sidewalk weave that comes from being lost in conversation rather than looking where you're going.
Once there was a boy so meek and modest, he was awarded a Most Humble badge. The next day, it was taken away because he wore it. Here endeth the lesson.
In design as in life, smart can also mean wise, kind, inspiring – and cost-effective. And that has a charm all its own.
Rarely has a new player on the world stage captured so much attention so quickly – young and old, faithful and cynical – as has Pope Francis.
Inflicting emotional distress has typically been treated as a civil action. How 'substantial' does the distress have to be for it to turn criminal?
It's the experts in adolescent development who wax most emphatic about the value of family meals, for it's in the teenage years that this daily investment pays some of its biggest dividends.
Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip.
The millennials were raised in a cocoon, their anxious parents afraid to let them go out in the park to play. So should we be surprised that they learned to leverage technology to build community, tweeting and texting and friending while their elders were still dialing long-distance?
Anyone with the right mix of parental paranoia and entrepreneurial moxie can make a fortune by selling parents the equipment we think will keep us one step ahead of our kids.
Few Westerners know Iran as well as Robin Wright: her first trip there as a journalist was in 1973, and she has covered every important milestone since, from the Islamic revolution and the hostage crisis to the more recent staring contest with the West over Tehran's nuclear program.
I'm wondering how many elected figures any of us could find who do not, in the front or back of their minds, remember who does them favors, who doesn't.
My husband and I don't have sons, so we never had to ask ourselves how we'd have felt about them playing football.
I come from a family of teachers, and I believe ideas matter; the good ones deserve reverence, and the bad ones, defiance.
I live in a dumb house. Which is not to say that I don't love its quirky charm, its drafty windows and leaky fireplaces and an electrical system that protests when too many people are trying to vacuum and microwave at the same time. But charm is not always user-friendly.
As a candidate, Obama disdained the game of politics, a self-conscious contrast to all the tireless political athletes named Clinton.
Today's kids aren't taking up arms against their parents; they're too busy texting them.
I feel like my competition is everything else that's competing for people's attention, not just other print magazines, newspapers and cable. It's your kid's report card and the games you want to play, all the things that compete for people's time.
It is actually the neuroscientists and evolutionists who do the best job of explaining the reasons behind the most unreasonable behavior.
We know what the birth of a revolution looks like: A student stands before a tank. A fruit seller sets himself on fire. A line of monks link arms in a human chain. Crowds surge, soldiers fire, gusts of rage pull down the monuments of tyrants, and maybe, sometimes, justice rises from the flames.
When National Guardsmen shot four unarmed students at Kent State, virtually the entire system of higher education shuddered and stopped.
Democracy presumes that we're all created equal; competition proves we are not, or else every race would end in a tie.
Rooting from the sidelines is the most democratic of sporting rites: no skyboxes, no tickets required, just an unabashed will to holler and wave.
Power is a tool, influence is a skill; one is a fist, the other a fingertip.
On the court, Jason Collins is not a huge basketball star, but he has already claimed his place in civil rights history as the first openly gay athlete to play in one of the four major U.S. sports leagues.
I've always found that once you're in the door of a place and you have the chance to show how you operate and how talented you are, then anything can happen.
On a normal day, we value heroism because it is uncommon. On Sept. 11, we valued heroism because it was everywhere.
The leading cause of death for girls 15 to 19 worldwide is not accident or violence or disease; it is complications from pregnancy. Girls under 15 are up to five times as likely to die while having children than are women in their 20s, and their babies are more likely to die as well.
The path of progress cuts through the four-way intersection of the moral, medical, religious and political – and whichever way you turn, you are likely to run over someone's deeply held beliefs.
I've been grateful that 'Time's' reach and mandate is so broad; anything you're interested in, you can usually write about.
Family dinner in the Norman Rockwell mode had taken hold by the 1950s: Mom cooked, Dad carved, son cleared, daughter did the dishes.
It's hard to think of any tool, any instrument, any object in history with which so many developed so close a relationship so quickly as we have with our phones.
America's presidents tend to die young. Maybe it is in the nature of the men who reach such heights, or of the job once they attain it.
Obama was elected on a slogan of hope and change because both were in short supply: the military exhausted by two wars, the banks failing their public trust, the U.S. Congress a comedy of dysfunction, and a federal government that seemed designed to idle on the sidelines.
High achievers, we imagine, were wired for greatness from birth. But then you have to wonder why, over time, natural talent seems to ignite in some people and dim in others.
There's something very Nixonian about the idea of keeping an enemy's list.
All our efforts to guard and guide our children may just get in the way of the one thing they need most from us: to be deeply loved yet left alone so they can try a new skill, new slang, new style, new flip-flops. So they can trip a few times, make mistakes, cross them out, try again, with no one keeping score.
A lot of camps and summer programs for kids seem to have discovered that among the most valuable things they offer is what they don't offer. No Wi-Fi. No grades. No hovering parents or risk managers or parents who parent like risk managers.
The real luxury travel of the modern age is not through space; it's through time.
Pour a liquid out of its container, and it changes shape, fills the space you give it. If you give children a lot of space, it may surprise you where they'll go and the shape they'll take.
In sub-Saharan Africa, fewer than 1 in 5 girls make it to secondary school.
After the 1960s and '70s, there were real doubts about whether a mortal man could handle the country's highest office. It had destroyed Johnson, corrupted Nixon, and overwhelmed Ford and Carter.
In 2001, President George W. Bush was condemned for politicizing science with his decision to limit federal funding for stem-cell research; in 2009 President Obama was praised for reversing it, even though his decision was arguably just as political.
As you probably know, I've written a lot about the presidency, so it's obviously exciting when you get to interview a president and write about it.
Rand Paul does not like being compared to his father Ron any more than sons named Bush like to dance in their father's shadow, but the crucial difference is that while the Bushes all hail from the relative mainstream of the GOP, the Pauls have an ideological tributary virtually to themselves.
All great rebellions are born of private acts of civil disobedience that inspire rebel bands to plot together.
Teaching sometimes seems like not one profession, but every profession. We ask them to be doctor and diplomat, calf-herder, map-maker, wizard and watchman, electricians of the mind.
Across much of the developing world, by the time she is 12, a girl is tending house, cooking, cleaning. She eats what's left after the men and boys have eaten; she is less likely to be vaccinated, to see a doctor, to attend school.
War is being waged all across the country against the invasive plant and animal species – some 50,000 of them – now spreading across the U.S.
Whatever people thought the first time they held a portable phone the size of a shoe in their hands, it was nothing like where we are now, accustomed to having all knowledge at our fingertips.
In modern warfare, journalists are among the first responders, seeking out truth in the turmoil and wreckage, wherever it takes them.
It's no secret that the media has fragmented in recent years, that audiences have been cut into slivers, and that more and more people get their news from ever narrower outlets.
I'm sentimental about many things: the lumpy feel of a baby's unused feet, the metallic smell of the air before the first snow, the last scene in 'It's a Wonderful Life.' But Valentine's Day leaves me cold.
The Catholic Church is one of the oldest, largest and richest institutions on earth, with a following 1.2 billion strong, and change does not come naturally.
Members of royal families are born into a world of indulgence and entitlement, and the princelings who grow up that way may never have to develop any discipline.
What cultural DNA remains from those first Puritan forays onto American soil may be our love of a fresh start.
High school is a haunted house in April, when seniors act up because the end is near. Even those who hate school sometimes cling to the devil they know. And for the kids who love it, the goodbyes are hard to think about.
Virtues, like viruses, have their seasons of contagion. When catastrophe strikes, generosity spikes like a fever. Courage spreads in the face of tyranny.
It's funny how things change slowly, until the day we realize they've changed completely.
It is faith that drives us to build, a belief that we cannot be limited by lack of nerve or airspace.
Emotional life grows out of an area of the brain called the limbic system, specifically the amygdala, whence come delight and disgust and fear and anger.
Once a conflict has dragged on for a decade, most people are tired of war – and the troubles that flow from it.
A typical smart phone has more computing power than Apollo 11 when it landed a man on the moon.
Americans sometimes ask what the government does and where their tax money goes. Among other things, it pays for all kinds of invisible but essential safety nets and life belts and guardrails that are useless right up until the day they are priceless.
Americans are grateful for the connection and convenience their phones provide, helping them search for a lower price, navigate a strange city, expand a customer base or track their health and finances, their family and friends.
When U.S.-based editors and columnists parachute into a news storm, it is often the stringers who keep us out of trouble, helping us glimpse the complexity behind the headlines.
When you are a media celebrity, every word you speak is dissected, as are those you choose not to speak.
Terror works like a musical composition, so many instruments, all in tune, playing perfectly together to create their desired effect. Sorrow and horror and fear.
Runners exalt the marathon as a public test of private will, when months or years of solitary training, early mornings, lost weekends, rain and pain mature into triumph or surrender. That's one reason the race-day crowds matter, the friends who come to cheer and stomp and flap their signs and push the runners on.
The understanding of Syria's devastating civil war has been distorted by the immense danger and difficulty of covering it.
Adolescence, that swampy zone between safety and power, is best patrolled by adults armed with sense and mercy, not guns and a badge.
We've seen what happens when it serves a president's interest to flaunt his faith – which is almost inevitably does, since every poll affirms that Americans want their leader to submit to some higher power.
Be bored and see where it takes you, because the imagination's dusty wilderness is worth crossing if you want to sculpt your soul.
Modesty means admitting the possibility of error, subsuming the self for the good of the whole, remaining open to surprise and the gifts that only failure can bring. There are many ways to practice it. Try taking up golf. Or making your own bagels. Or raising a teenager.
If you want to humble an empire, it makes sense to maim its cathedrals. They are symbols of its faith, and when they crumple and burn, it tells us we are not so powerful and we can't be safe.
At times, it seems as if the only women effortlessly balancing their jobs, kids, husbands and homes are the ones on TV.
The typical white American woman in 1800 gave birth seven times; by 1900, the average was down to 3.5.
Obama promised a return to competence and confidence and asked the nation to believe again that the government could do big things well. In the end, he got his big thing, a once-in-a-generation revision to the basic social compact, a commitment of health coverage to nearly all Americans. He has yet to prove he can do it well.
Presidents make their hard decisions and then abide forever with their mistakes and regrets.
After 9/11, whatever the evidence of intelligence failures, many people still saw that attack as almost unimaginable, so brutal and brazen an assault.
Summer is not obligatory. We can start an infernally hard jigsaw puzzle in June with the knowledge that, if there are enough rainy days, we may just finish it by Labor Day, but if not, there's no harm, no penalty. We may have better things to do.
Enter politics, and you enter the glass house; there are no secrets and no places to hide.
Death will never be pretty – its sights and smells too close and crude. And it will never come under our control: it gallops where we tiptoe, rips up our routines, burns our very breath with its heat and sting.
The one problem with the Internet for journalists who like doing long form is that any story that's going to involve 16 screens on the web page… that's asking a lot of people.
I have two daughters: One an open book, one a locked box. So the question of privacy is a challenging one. How much do kids need? How much should we give? How do we prepare them to live in a world where the very notion of privacy opens a generational chasm?
Twenty-first century war adds new risks: more and more often there are no front lines, no central command, no rules of engagement – only a chaotic collision of politics, power, faith and bloodlust. Victims are as likely to be civilians as soldiers.
If anything, the power of the cover of 'Time' has increased as the media landscape has atomized.
Just because we eat together does not mean we eat right: Domino's alone delivers a million pizzas on an average day.
'Sesame Street's' genius lies in finding gentle ways to talk about hard things – death, divorce, danger – in terms that children understand and accept.
I would like to see every newspaper and every magazine have a network of bureaus all over the world, gathering news.
Time dissolves in summer anyway: days are long, weekends longer. Hours get all thin and watery when you are lost in the book you'd never otherwise have time to read. Senses are sharper – something about the moist air and bright light and fruit in season – and so memories stir and startle.
What is it about summer that makes children grow? We feed and water them more. They do get more sun, but that probably doesn't matter as much as the book they read or the rule they broke that taught them something they couldn't have learned any other way.
Harriet Tubman and Sojourner Truth were slaves by birth, freedom fighters by temperament.
We will never know if any other president approached Nixon in paranoia, profanity or potential criminality, since only his conversations were captured, subpoenaed and ultimately released on the front pages of newspapers.
I don't think it's necessary to shout if you have a good story. But I also don't think you should shy away from being bold in the statement that you're making.
Charlie Rangel was writing laws on our taxes as chair of the Ways and Means Committee while somehow neglecting to pay his own.
The battles after the wars are over can be the toughest; there's no longer the public interest that accompanies, for good and for ill, the start of combat.