In February 2019, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) announced her presidential bid in the middle of an unexpected blizzard in Minneapolis. While Klobuchar said the media covered the event “like a trainwreck ready to happen,” she admitted it was actually “a pretty magical way to begin a campaign.”
Klobuchar’s optimism persists to this day, as evidenced by her new memoir, The Joy of Politics: Surviving Cancer, a Campaign, a Pandemic, an Insurrection, and Life's Other Unexpected Curveballs, which was released in May.
On September 6, Klobuchar joined Betsy Fischer Martin, SPA/BA ’92, SOC/MA ’96, executive director of SPA’s Women and Politics Institute, to discuss the new book, her sixth; staying positive during periods of adversity; bipartisanship; and the importance of “knowing your stuff.” The event was part of the institute’s long-running Women on Wednesdays series.
Klobuchar—who’s represented the Land of 10,000 Lakes in Washington since 2007—described herself as an optimist like Hubert Humphrey, the former Minnesota senator and vice president under Lyndon B. Johnson, who was known as the “happy warrior.”
“As a leader, no matter what field you're in, no matter where you are in your life, it’s important to keep your eye on—without being pollyannaish—the positive and the accomplishments,” she said.
Klobuchar said the book was prompted in part by an interaction with fellow 2020 presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), during a shared moment of political frustration on the Hill. “Bernie kept coming up to me on the floor and saying, ‘Where’s the joy? Where’s the joy?’” said Klobuchar, laughing at her impersonation of Sanders’ exasperation, before continuing in earnest. “Part of what I’m doing with this book is answering that question.”
During the hourlong event, Klobuchar recounted another story—about the 2017 presidential inauguration—that included Sanders. “On inauguration, you try to come together,” she said. “[But] the darkening clouds were such a metaphor for [former president Donald Trump’s] speech. It just got darker and darker.” She recalled helping Senator John McCain (R-AZ) put on his raincoat while Trump attacked him in his speech. “Then when it ended, the three of us [McCain, Sanders, and Klobuchar] walked out together . . . just kind of speechless.” She said the trio hardly said “anything at all” to a reporter who approached them afterwards.
But true to the title of her book, Klobuchar concluded with a moment of joy.
She shared a story from her book about hiking in the Tetons several months after dropping out of the 2020 presidential election, after her husband had almost died from COVID, and after the murder of George Floyd shook Minnesota. Toward the end of her hike, Klobuchar—who was still recovering from hip surgery—was forced to rest on a rock at the base of a hill that led to a supposedly grand view. As she rested, a young boy came down the hill and praised Klobuchar for enjoying the nature at the base instead of at the summit.
“That’s really cool,” he said. “It’s overrated up there.”
Klobuchar smiled as she shared the lesson of her story and one of the greater lessons of her memoir: “It’s not always that you get to the top—not everybody does. It’s what you learn on the path.”