5 Minutes with the President

Actress would ask Obama what he reads

Courtesy of Allie Grant

Dixie darlin’ Allie Grant currently co-stars in ABC’s smash sitcom “Suburgatory.” Grant, a native of Tupelo, Miss., began her acting career at the age of 10 when she was cast in the role of Isabelle Hodes on Showtime’s “Weeds.” She shares Screen Actors Guild nominations for her role over five seasons. Grant’s film roles include 2012’s “Struck by Lightning,” which premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival.

Robin Bronk: If you had five minutes in the Oval Office with President Obama, what issue would you talk to him about? 

Allie Grant: There would be two issues: one would be education, and the other would be the current standing of agriculture in America. I think one informs the other. At the end of the day, you can lose everything, and we’ve all seen trials and tribulations of that. There are two things that can never be taken away from you, and that is your land and education. That’s what our country was based on when we were founded as a nation. You had the European countries, and they had the history, culture and artists. But we had the land, and that was what made our nation great. That’s what our very promises were built upon. Without an education, we’re unable to pursue the promises of greatness. Seeing those two things pursued in the most aggressive and nurturing way possible is something I’d like to discuss with the president. 

RB: Do you have family in agriculture? 

AG: Yes! We have a long history in agriculture. My mother is from Vardaman, Miss., which is the sweet potato capital of the world. I have lots of farmers in my family, lots of sweet potatoes, soybeans, some corn and some cattle. But it’s mostly sweet potatoes!

RB: If you had one question for the president, what would you ask him? 

AG: I’d like to know what he reads; I’d like to know what he keeps on his nightstand at night. It hurts to think that he would read a piece of legislation or a newspaper.  I’d like to know what he reads to relax.

RB: What book would you recommend to the president? 

AG: There was a book that came out a couple of years ago, Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk by Ben Fountain. It’s about this young soldier returning to the states with his group of comrades. It tells the story of them being honored and rewarded with a glorious day at Cowboys Stadium. It’s an observational work of what it truly means to be an American, to be born an American and to fight for America. The story is just so compelling and the struggle portrayed is so palpable. It’s so honest, true and rich. I would love President Obama to read this book. 

RB: If you were going to give the president one piece of advice, what would it be? 

AG: The best piece of advice I’ve ever gotten is that you can never underestimate your instincts, regardless of who is surrounding you or what you’re being fed. It’s like that Native American parable about the grandfather that takes his grandson out hunting and says, “We’re out looking for a wolf. There’s a battle going on inside you, too. There are two wolves living inside of you.” The grandson says, “What are they like?” The grandfather says, “One is greed, evil, vanity, jealousy, and everything hurtful and spiteful. The other one is kindness, benevolence, generosity, selflessness, and mercy.” The grandson says, “Well, which one wins?” The grandfather says, “Whichever wolf you feed.” That’s what we’re doing every day; we’re constantly feeding something inside of ourselves. You have to be careful what you’re nourishing.

RB: If you were going to take the president anywhere in the United States for a day, where would you take him? 

AG: I would love for President Obama to visit Mississippi. In fact, my very dear friend Bill Luckett and the wonderful actor Morgan Freeman own a blues club in Clarksdale, Miss., called Ground Zero that’s remarkable. As far as I’m concerned, blues is as much a part of American history as the Civil War or the civil rights movement. It’s such an integral part of who we are as a nation; it’s our culture. I would love to see him there. I think it would be really remarkable.

RB: What song would you recommend to the president for his listening pleasure? 

AG: The song would be “Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down” by Kris Kristofferson. I think it’s important to be still sometimes. We have to be reminded that great things can happen in silence too.

RB: What is your mantra in life?

AG: My mantra in life, and my mother always says, “Someone could say anything about you. They could say anything good or bad. The one thing you should always cherish the most is if someone believes you’re honest; it’s all you have.” Actions do often speak louder than words. At the end of the day, people do what they want to do. We don’t do the things that we do because we feel like we have to or because we need to. It’s never about obligation for people; we do the things we want to do. In order to do that, you have to make the time to understand what it is you’re after.

RB: Would you ever consider a career in politics?

AG: Yes, absolutely! With great pleasure! Why not? Somebody should.

Bronk is CEO of The Creative Coalition — the leading national, nonprofit, nonpartisan public advocacy organization of the entertainment industry. Bronk is a frequent speaker on the role of the entertainment industry in public advocacy campaigns and represents The Creative Coalition and its legislative agenda before members of Congress and the White House. 

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