Time's Jay Newton Small interviewed Alaska Governor Sarah Palin by phone on Aug. 14, less than two weeks before her surprise selection as John McCain's running mate.
TIME: What got you involved in politics.
Palin: I studied journalism in college and always had an interest in the newsroom, which was of course so often focused on politics and government. I studied sports reporting, and that's how I started off in journalism. But even earlier than that, my dad was an elementary school teacher, so often our dinner-table conversations were about current events and about those things that an elementary school teacher teaches students much about government and much about our nation, and so I had ingrained in me an interest in our government, how things worked. And then from there I just became more interested in more practical steps that I could take... [I] started off running for city council when I was very young in the town [Wasilla] where I had grown up and was elected to two terms on the city council. And then I realized to be really able to make a difference not just being one of six of a body but to make a difference I would have to run for the top dog position, and so I ran for mayor and was elected mayor for two terms.
Then from there I was appointed an oil and gas commissioner in the state of Alaska, on the Alaska oil and gas conservation commission, had decided that there were changes, positive changes, that had to be ushered into our state government, decided to run for governor and did so, was successful, and here we are.
How old were you when you ran for city council??
I think was 27 or 28, and then was elected mayor when I was 32.
Did being younger and being a woman gives you a better perspective on politics and government than a more traditional politician?
What's more of a challenge for me over the years being in elected office has been more the age issue rather than a gender issue. I've totally ignored the issues that have potentially been affecting me when it comes to gender because I was raised in a family where, you know, gender wasn't going to be an issue. The girls did what the boys did. Apparently in Alaska that's quite commonplace. You're out there hunting and fishing. My parents were coaches, so I was involved in sports all my life. So I knew that as woman I could do whatever the men were doing. Also that's just part of Alaskan life.
But the age issue I think was more significant in my career than the gender issue. Your resume not being as fat as your opponent's in a race, perhaps [but] being able to capitalize on that... being able to to use that in campaigns I don't have 30 years of political experience under my belt ... that's a good thing, that's a healthy thing. That means my perspective is fresher, more in touch with the people I will be serving. I would use that as an advantage. I've certainly never been part of a good old boy club. That I would use in a campaign. And that's been good.
The Republican party nationwide has a lot challenges. What ideas do you have to bring the party back, to gain back majorities in Congress, to change the platform to appeal to more people?
The planks in our party's platform they're sound, they are solid. They are the right agenda for America. I know the Republican platform is right for my state in Alaska because the planks we can stand solidly on are respect for equality and respect for life and an acknowledgment that it is individual Americans and American families who can make better decisions for ourselves than government can ever make for us. So individual freedom and independence is extremely important to me and that's why I'm a Republican, and there are planks in our platform that reflect that.