Listening to Your Inner Voice As a politician, bureaucrat and consultant, Christine Todd Whitman has had many people telling her what to do and what to think. But over the years, the former governor and former EPA chief has come to believe in trusting her own inner voice.
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Listening to Your Inner Voice

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Listening to Your Inner Voice

Listening to Your Inner Voice

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CHERYL CORLEY, host:

Finding and trusting an inner voice can be a challenge, even for powerful and privileged women. That's the theme of today's edition of This I Believe. Our series is based on the Edward R. Murrow Program of the same name from the 1950s.

Today we hear from Christine Todd Whitman. She's the former governor of New Jersey and she led the EPA at the beginning of the current Bush administration. Whitman is now president of the Whitman Strategy Group, specializing in energy and environmental issues. With more, here's This I Believe's series curator, independent producer Jay Allison.

JAY ALLISON: Hi, Cheryl. There's something we ask of all our essayists is that they look inside themselves to find their own internal compass. Christine Whitman did that and in fact discovered that her belief is in the very act of looking inside, and maybe more to the point, the act of listening. So here she is with her essay for This I Believe.

Ms. CHRISTINE TODD WHITMAN (Former Governor of New Jersey; Former EPA Chief): If I have learned nothing else during the course of my life, I've learned to listen to my inner voice. Everyone has one. We call it different things - our moral compass, our gut feeling, following our heart. Whatever we name it, we should always pay attention to it. It makes us who we are.

Nine years ago I was in the second year of my second term as governor of New Jersey. I loved that job and I was working hard to make what would be my last term, due to term limits, as productive as my first.

Toward the end of that term a U.S. Senate seat opened for New Jersey, and I quickly came under intense pressure to throw my hat into the ring. As soon as I said yes, I knew I should have said no. Deep down, I knew I didn't want to run for the Senate. I could do much more as my state's chief executive than I could in Washington, where I would be just one one-hundredth of one-half of one-third of the federal government. And the idea of appealing to special interests for the money I would have to raise didn't sit well with me. My inner voice was telling me loud and clear, don't do it. I didn't listen.

In the end, all it took was one trip to Washington, D.C. as a Senate candidate to know that I just couldn't see this through. So I dropped out of the race, returned the money that we had raised, and went back to being governor. My aborted campaign wasn't one of my finer moments. But it reaffirmed my belief in following my inner voice.

A far more personal moment came when my inner voice told me to do something and I didn't listen. It was the night before my brother's third heart surgery when I visited him in the hospital. After a walk down the hall and a light talk about our children, it was time to leave. As I saw him lying in his hospital bed I had an overwhelming urge to give him a hug and wish him luck. That kind of emotional display was out of character for us and I thought it might tell him I was worried, so I didn't do it. My brother didn't survive the surgery.

As I look back, I know that most of the mistakes I have made have come when I didn't listen to myself, when I didn't trust my instincts. There is so much coming at us every day that life can get very confusing. But as I have always told my children, there is only one person with whom you go to bed every night and get up with every morning, and that is you. Sometimes you stop paying attention to yourself. I believe you need to listen, carefully, to hear your inner voice. And then you have to do what it says.

ALLISON: That's Christine Todd Whitman with her essay for This I Believe. As you can imagine, Cheryl, after a life in politics, she's accustomed to receiving advice from every corridor, but she says she listens to herself much more frequently these days and pays attention to what she hears.

We're hoping that Tell Me More listeners will take a moment to listen to their inner convictions and maybe write them down for our series. So at npr.org/thisibelieve there's lots of information, and you can read and hear all the essays in our series. For This I Believe, I'm Jay Allison. Back to you, Cheryl.

CORLEY: Thanks, Jay. Jay Allison is co-editor with Dan Gediman, John Gregory, and Viki Merrick of the book "This I Believe: The Personal Philosophies of Remarkable Men and Women." Again, to find out about submitting your essay, visit the This I Believe page at npr.org.

That's our program for today. I'm Cheryl Corley and this is Tell Me More from NPR News. Michel Martin returns tomorrow to talk with you more.

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