WASHINGTON — “Maybe someday we'll have a woman president,” Gov. Mary Fallin told an audience here Tuesday before quickly adding, “Not me, though.”
Fallin, who is in Washington this week for a series of meetings on education and economic issues, gave a luncheon address to the National Press Club, where she explained her initiative to better align education with workforce needs and addressed questions about tornado safe rooms, women in the workforce and states competing against each other for jobs.
“It's all fair,” she said in answering a question about Texas Gov. Rick Perry's visit to Maryland on Tuesday to tour a gun manufacturer he's trying to lure to Texas. Perry has also been running ads in Maryland pitching Texas as a more business-friendly state.
Fallin got a big laugh from the press club crowd when she said she would answer the question as the Oklahoma governor and not as chairman of the National Governors Association, a position she assumed last month.
States that are creating a quality workforce, “keeping their taxes low, making government smaller, smarter and more efficient and addressing concerns of businesses so they can invest and grow jobs are the states that are gong to be the most competitive,” Fallin said.
“I like to go out and tell the Oklahoma story, and Governor Perry likes to go out and tell the Texas story. But I actually have stolen a few jobs from Texas myself.”
Fallin's education initiative will be a major focus of her year leading the governors association, and she announced Tuesday that she will host three summits on the issue, including one in Oklahoma City next spring.
Oklahoma is projected to face a serious gap in the need for educated workers and the number available, she said, stressing that a high school diploma is not going to cut it for most employers. The state is going to have to marry education with business demands or “our jobs will go elsewhere,” she said.
Fallin, who received a degree in family relations and child development from Oklahoma State University, was asked what she would study if she were starting college today.
“Actually, I might major in political science,” she said. “I didn't really focus on that or speech or debate when I was in high school and college so I might go back and take some of those courses now.”
Asked about efforts to build safe rooms in the wake of tornadoes that struck schools in May, Fallin said she was having discussions with state and local leaders. Part of those discussions, she said, was the potential for using federal disaster aid and private contributions that followed the tornadoes for making schools safer.
Fallin's comment about a woman president came after being asked about women's “substantive participation” in politics, education and business in Oklahoma.
Fallin said there were naysayers about her chances ever to hold statewide elected office — she was elected Oklahoma's first female lieutenant governor in 1994.
“But I've been able to hold four different offices in our state,” she said.
“We do need to encourage more women to get involved in politics in our nation. Certainly they can make a difference, whether it's running on a local level, as my mother did as mayor of Tecumseh, or whether it's running for Congress or the U.S. Senate or running for governor.”