The Great Moderator: Gwen Ifill on Witnessing History
O: Do you think of yourself as a breakthrough figure?
Ifill: Well, you want to be the first, but not the last—I'm sure Condoleezza Rice has the same problem. I just keep my head down and try to accomplish what my parents set out for me: that there wasn't anything I couldn't do. But I also look up periodically and think, "Who else can I pull along?" Because it's a failure if I'm up here by myself.
O: What do you do to unwind?
Ifill: If I can just sit quietly in a corner with a good reading light and a novel that takes me on a journey, I can sink into that place for hours.
O: What have you read recently?
Ifill: Jhumpa Lahiri's collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, was perfect: I could read one story, feel like I'd traveled to another place, and then go back to work. I listened to Stephen L. Carter's novel Palace Council while driving to work: half an hour in, half an hour back, which was great. I've also been reading memoirs: Helene Cooper's The House at Sugar Beach and Sheryll Cashin's The Agitator's Daughter.
O: What do you know for sure?
Ifill: That I am a blessed woman. Even when I am the most stressed, the most frazzled, God always rescues me, pulls me along, calms me down. I might fret over little things, but if it's something big—like losing a parent—I can handle that with grace and calm and certainty. It's still grief, but it's not as if I've been abandoned. What I know for sure is that I'll never be abandoned.