Here in Semicolonland, we’re quite comfortable talking with fictional characters. One daughter, who wouldn’t want me to even identify her by nickname, used to walk around the house talking to her fictional friends all the time. So, when author Mitali Perkins asked if I’d like to participate in her blog tour and interview fictional First Daughter Sameera Righton, I said, “Sure!”
I started when I lived in Brussels, setting up a small myplace.com blog and inviting 29 friends to tune in. During Dadâ€™s campaign, I widened the circle and went public so I could stay in charge of my public image. But itâ€™s more than that, Mrs. E. Iâ€™ve always loved to write and get other people commenting and chatting with each other. And as a kid growing up with two mongo-powerful parents, I figured out early that a pen (or a laptop) has way more power to change the world than a sword. Thatâ€™s why I want to be a journalist or a screenwriter. Or both. And thatâ€™s why I blog.
I know you have your own blog now where you write whatever you want, but what if you decided to write about something controversial such as abortion rights or illegal immigration or the war in Iraq? Wouldn’t your Dad’s handlers want to have prior approval on topics like that?
Tough bunnies. I draw the lines when it comes to content, not them. Iâ€™m not scared to bring up the issues I care about, but I like to ask questions instead of giving answers. Donâ€™t worry, Mrs. E., I get that how you ask a question about an issue can show people exactly where you stand. Usually, I know Dadâ€™s position, so if we agree, I blog away. If I donâ€™t know what he thinks, I find out. When we disagree, I hash it out with him in private (usually over dessert on Sunday evening), and after weâ€™ve had a good intense discussion, I ask if itâ€™s okay to share a sound byte or two from our conversation out in cyber-space. Dadâ€™s such a champion of freedom of speech that heâ€™d never stop me; heâ€™s learned that letting me have my say on Sparrowblog shows off his passion for liberty. Bottom line: he trusts me, and Iâ€™d never trash him or shame him publicly, even when he drives me nuts. But hey, it is a good idea to put a disclaimer on the blog so that people know itâ€™s my stuff and not Dadâ€™s official position. Thanks for the idea.
Even now, when Iâ€™m writing about the real First Kid wannabes, Sparrowblogâ€™s not an op-ed column; itâ€™s about safety, respect, trust, and fun, and good old-fashioned courtesy, something my Gran and Poppa hammer into every member of the Campbell clan. I want red people and blue people and purple people to feel welcome on Sparrowblog.
How many famous people have you met, and who were the most interesting celebs? Whom would you like to meet?
Most of the movie stars Iâ€™d want to meet are dead â€” thatâ€™s the down side of being into classic films. I have to say it was freaky meeting Governor Schwarzenegger in California, because I couldnâ€™t stop imagining him terminating me. I guess I like the old meaning of â€œstarsâ€ better — people who shine in the universe because of how they serve the planet, not because of how beautiful or powerful they are. When it comes to that kind of celeb, Iâ€™d love to meet Aung San Syuu Ji of Burma, whoâ€™s spent the last decade under house arrest taking a stand for democracy. My Mom met her years ago, and said sheâ€™s as lovely and graceful in real life as she seems in the media. Or >Given Kachepa and Grace Akallo, two former child slaves who have become on-fire abolitionists. Now those are shiny people. Iâ€™d also like to host a retreat for all the real First Kid wannabes where we could chat about how to take charge of your own image, handle the press, how to date in the public eye, and what to do when your parents are driving you crazy but you have to campaign with them anyway.
Do you feel a lot of pressure to always look and sound your best? How do you get opportunities to relax and be casual?
You bet I feel pressure, but thatâ€™s part of the game. The weird thing was figuring out that I look and sound my best when Iâ€™m not worrying about how I look or sound. The blog definitely helps me stay real. But I also head to my grandparentsâ€™ farm as often as I can (milking definitely gets your mind off yourself), and on Sundays, we go to church in the morning and chill at home without screens and plugs for the rest of the day. Despite my addiction to techno-toys, I have to admit that I wouldnâ€™t survive without our Sundays. I also go dancing with my buddies, love, love, love movies, and of course, thereâ€™s nothing more peaceful than noshing on oatmeal scotchies and watching a House and Garden channel show with my cousin Ran.
If your dad weren’t running for president, whom would you like to see in the 2008 race? Which Democrat candidate? Which Republican?
Iâ€™m all for making this as interesting an election as possible to bring out a gazillion voters. Every four years, we get the chance to show the rest of the planet how awesome it is to be free. Take the extra-tight race a few years ago where Mr. Gore eventually lost to Mr. Bush and nobody tried to off anybody or start a civil war. How great is that? The more people who vote this time, the better the ad for democracy. Thatâ€™s why Iâ€™d like to see an Obama-Clinton combo versus a Romney-Rice Republican ticket in November â€˜08. A Christian convert Democrat taking on a Mormon Republican, and Dr. Rice debating Mrs. Clinton â€” now that would get people into the election, wouldnâ€™t it?
When does your book come out? What do you like about the book Ms. Perkins wrote about you and the campaign? What would you change if you could?
First Daughter: Extreme American Makeover releases in June 2007, and the sequel, First Daughter: White House Rules, releases in January 2008. Hereâ€™s my beef — if sheâ€™d have put a bit more action into it, like have me or Ran get kidnapped or something (rescued eventually, of course), or maybe have me try and elope with Bobby, the Walden Media people or Disney just might have optioned the books for a movie. Now that would be sweet. One of the girls who played Parvati or Padma Patil in the Harry Potter movies could play me. Oh wait, theyâ€™re Brits. Iâ€™m sure there are great South Asian teen actors in the States, but theyâ€™re all unknown, so (sigh) Vanessa Hudgens would probably end up hitting the tanning salons and getting the job.
Thanks for a fun interview, Mrs. E. Iâ€™m so glad you and Brown Bear liked the book.
And thank you, Sameera and Mitali for an enjoyable read and something to look forward to in presidential election year 2008.