Perez, Anna 1951—
Anna Perez 1951—
Press secretary to First Lady Barbara Bush
When congressional press aide Anna Perez was selected as press secretary for First Lady Barbara Bush in 1989, she made history by becoming the first African American to ever hold the position. Mrs. Bush had reportedly been interested in a black or Hispanic for the job and decided upon the highly-qualified Perez, a former congressional press aide who had worked with legislators on Capitol Hill for a number of years. In Essence magazine, Bebe Moore Campbell noted that the qualities possessed by Perez which make her ideally suited for the rigors of press secretary work are “her sense of humor, fearlessness and ability to work very hard”.
Although Perez was well-qualified for the job, “political savvy is what won her this historic post”, commented a contributor to Jet. After Perez heard about the position being available, she contacted former employers, in addition to every prominent Republican and Democrat that she knew in Washington, and asked them to write recommendations to the First Lady. She also did extensive research on Mrs. Bush to make sure that she was sufficiently briefed for her initial interview. The fact that she could make history, however, never occurred to Perez when she applied for the job. As she stated in Jet: “I didn’t realize it until a dear friend who was with the government many years ago under the Truman administration told me ‘you know you’re a first.’”
Perez described to Campbell that her main role as press secretary is “to efficiently and unobtrusively help Mrs. Bush help people.” She arranges all interviews conducted with the First Lady, and coordinates her busy appointment schedule. Perez has also travelled with the First Lady, and she accompanied the President and Mrs. Bush on their official trip to China in 1989. Although the China trip was a thrill for her, Perez remembers an especially proud moment the first time she met President Bush. It was Martin Luther King, Jr., Day in 1989 and the then President-elect Bush and Mrs. Bush were being interviewed from the vice-presidential residence in Washington. Perez recalled in Jet, realizing the significance of being the first black press secretary: “At that time President-elect Bush comes in and he sticks out his hand and says, ‘I’m George Bush and you’re Anna Perez aren’t you? I’ve been reading about you in the papers.’ And it occurred to me what a way to celebrate Martin
Co-owned a community newspaper with her husband in Tacoma, Wash., late 1970s; press aide to Senator Slade Gorton (Republican of Washington); press secretary to Representative John Miller (Republican of Washington); press secretary to First Lady Barbara Bush, 1989—.
Addresses: Home —Takoma Park, MD.
Luther King’s birthday… dare I hope he would be really proud of his country.”
Perez’s road to success and achievement was shaped by a painful childhood memory, which she recalled for Campbell: “I was walking home with a very cute, popular girl from school. All of a sudden I looked up and saw the furniture from our house sitting on the pavement two blocks away and realized that my family had been evicted. The blood started draining from my face…. Somehow I steered my friend away from my house, and then I went to the library and stayed for hours.” Perez’s mother, however, managed to pull her family back together, instilling in Anna a valuable attitude to, as she described it, to “always…. expect the best.”
Essence, August 1989.
Jet, February 6, 1989; May 1, 1989.
Washington Post, January 15, 1989.
—Michael E. Mueller
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