15 for 15: Peggy Noonan

Share this post:

15 for 15 is shorthand for '15 people that I'd like to interview for 15 minutes each'.

Will I ever get to interview Peggy Noonan, columnist for the Wall Street Journal, and former speechwriter for Ronald Reagan?

The odds are higher than they were, now that I've said out loud and in a public forum what I want, but still very low.


Nor is an interview necessary for ‘daring to dream'.

When you and I admire someone, it's almost always because we see a piece of ourselves mirrored in that person.  If we will articulate what it is we admire, what we'd like to learn from them, we are in effect saying, ‘This is a piece of my ‘self' I want to develop, that I have it in me to develop.  And my gut tells me that you, person-that-I-admire, hold some clues.'

For my first '15 for 15′, or perhaps better said, ‘1 for 15', my interview takes shape via a letter I sent to Ms. Noonan several years ago.

Dear Ms.  Noonan,

I am a 42 year-old Wall Streeter, mother of two, in search of role models.

In early February, I sat in a training meeting for senior level professionals at my bulge bracket firm.  Out of 30 attendees, only two of us were women.

Several days later, in browsing through an airport bookstore, I thought — maybe there are some interesting autobiographies.  Katharine Graham's book was there, which I had already read, and found riveting, but not much else.

Having read “What I Saw at the Revolution,” “The Case Against Hillary Clinton,” “When Character Was King“, “On Speaking Well“, I wondered — has Peggy Noonan written her autobiography?

My interest was further piqued as I spoke to a friend who once interviewed you.  Her comments, “SOOO smart, and absolutely delightful.”

Here's why I'd like to hear your story.

I want to find my voice. Happily, I'm beginning to find it, but would like to have done so sooner. My friends and I often discuss “finding our voices”.  We can learn from hearing how you found yours.

I want to be successful professionally.  Not by mimicking men.  Or by relying solely on feminine wiles. But rather because I've brought all of me, the essence of me, to my work. It seems you have figured out how to do this.

I want to grow old gracefully. I'm guessing you are about 10 years old than me; I like watching you age.  You seem to be becoming seasoned and wise.  I want to know about your journey.

If you decide not to write your autobiography, know that you have already been a role model. But, on the hope that I have indeed helped persuade you to put pen to paper, please ask your staff to let me know when you publish.

With warmest regards,

Whitney L. Johnson

I didn't ever hear back from Ms. Noonan's office.  Maybe the e-mail never made it past the spam filter.  I don't know.  For my ‘daring to dream' it wasn't necessary.  Because in writing the letter, in articulating what I wanted to know from her, I learned the following about myself:

1)  Finding my voice matters to me; interestingly, since writing this letter, I started my blog.
2)  I want to be successful professionally; since writing this letter, I left Merrill Lynch, and have embarked on a distinctly feminine entrepreneurial journey.
3)  Growing old gracefully is a priority, and problem to puzzle through; no answers yet, but I know that when I am 60, I don't want to behave like I'm 40, etc.

Who would be on your list of 15 for 15?  What would you ask them (e.g. what piece of your self are they showing to you?)

Share this post:

Contact Us

Fill out this form and we will follow up to create a customized plan to help you build a smart growth organization.

Media & Press Inquiries

including requesting Whitney as a guest on your podcast

Media & Press Inquiries arrow_forward

Gain insight into growth, adaptability and agility

Download our free resources outlining the Accelerants of Growth—including books, podcasts and TEDtalks to help you move up your S Curve of Learning.