September 09, 2011

Whitman to talk politics, encourage women

by Pete Rosenbery

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- As the governor of New Jersey and later as director of the Environmental Protection Agency, Christine Todd Whitman earned praise in her efforts to improve the environment, all while becoming one of the leading role models for women interested in political careers.

Whitman will touch on a variety of issues when she visits Southern Illinois University Carbondale next week to launch the 2011 fall schedule for the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.            Whitman will present, “Can Washington Be Fixed -- Or Isn’t it Broken?” at 7 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13.  The event will be in the Student Center ballrooms.  Admission is free, and the public is welcome. The discussion will also be available via live stream for free on the Institute’s website,

Media Availability

Reporters, photographers and camera crews are welcome to attend a media availability for Christine Todd Whitman at 1:30 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute.  For more information, contact Matt Baughman, associate director at 618/453-4009 or 618/201-0082.

The lecture is part of the Morton-Kenney Public Affairs Lecture Series, sponsored by the Institute and Department of Political Science.

The region is fortunate to have several opportunities to hear Whitman discuss her political career and the environmental issues the nation is facing, said David Yepsen, Institute director.

“It’s not every day the University community at SIUC has access to someone with her credentials so I hope people take advantage of her willingness to be here,” he said.

Whitman was the first female governor in New Jersey history, serving from 1994 to 2001.  She was a member of President George W. Bush’s cabinet, serving as administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency from January 2001 to June 2003.  Whitman, a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow, is president of The Whitman Strategy Group, an energy and environmental-based consulting firm, which helps leading companies, find innovative solutions to environmental challenges.

Whitman is author of the 2005 New York Times’ best-seller, “It’s My Party Too,” which looked at the future of the Republican Party, and is co-chair of the Republican Leadership Council with former U.S. Sen. Jack Danforth, R-Missouri.  The leadership council seeks to support fiscally conservative, socially tolerant candidates.

“In addition to kicking off our ‘Women in Politics’ series and discussing environmental issues, Gov. Whitman is a moderate Republican in a party that is moving in a more conservative direction,” Yepsen said.  “We’re into the start of the 2012 presidential campaign and the GOP is debating its choices for president and how to approach issues.  I think political junkies will enjoy discussing questions about the future for centrists in the GOP and how we might change the tenor of the political dialogue in the U.S.”

Whitman’s three-day visit will also include events with students and faculty, sitting in on geography and ecofeminism classes, and meeting with students working on a project that involves the Mississippi Levee and environmental policy.  Whitman will also participate in a “Pizza and Politics” session at the Institute, where leading political figures, educators, journalists and government officials discuss their careers with students and the community.  She will also talk with students about her career during a presentation at John A. Logan College.

“There are far too few women serving in public office today,” Yepsen said.  “Our problems are so great that we can’t afford to exclude or discourage anyone in any group from seeking elective office and putting their shoulder to the wheel.  Gov. Whitman kicks off a series of programs designed to help women in both parties learn how to run for office.  She can talk about some of the special challenges women political leaders face and what to do about them.”

Whitman narrowly lost a U.S. Senate race on 1990, then returned to oust an incumbent governor and win re-election four years later, Yepsen said.

“I think she knows something about the game of politics and can help all students, but particularly women, learn about the do’s and don’ts of seeking office,” he said.

As EPA administrator, Whitman’s record included regulations for reducing sulfur emissions for non-road diesel engines, improving watershed-based water protection policies, and the first federal program promoting the redevelopment and reuse of previously contaminated industrial sites.

Whitman knows environmental policies and the politics surrounding environmental issues, Yepsen said.  She left the Bush administration over a “principled disagreement over the conduct of administration environmental policies.”

For more information on this program, contact the Institute at 618/453-4009, or visit