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Take Five: Rep. Mark DeSaulnier

(Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

It’s time again for Take Five, when HOH  talks with a member of Congress about topics relatively unrelated to legislative work.  

This week, Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., chatted about running, good advice and the best thing about California, man. Q. You are a runner and you’ve completed 21 marathons. Can you tell me how you got started? Are you still running in D.C.? A. I think I've always run. When I was in high school, I ran. I grew up in Massachusetts, and we were by the woods so I used to like to run. ... I think when you start running, it's usually to get in shape, or somewhat vanity, which is sort of appropriate for politics. And then you start to enjoy it, and now we know you get somewhat addicted to it and the endorphins, so you start about vanity and you do it hopefully because you just enjoy it and it's good for you.  

Actually, my old staff used to be terrified of me running, and I've told [current staffers], "You can have grumpy Mark, or you can have crazy Mark." Grumpy Mark is when he’s not getting exercise and doesn’t have any stupid ideas for you to run around and try to see if they're possible. Crazy Mark is when I'm running and the endorphins are going wild and I have lots of bill ideas.  

Q. What is your favorite place you have ever traveled to? A. I don’t know if this is allowed, but I’d have to say California. When I got out of college as a French Canadian from Lowell, Mass., I fancied myself Jack Kerouac because he was French Canadian from Lowell, and I decided to drive across country. … It's paradise, man. Every time I go home.  

Q. What is the single best thing about living in California? A. I think it’s the spirit of innovation and acceptance and tolerance. I've just never been anywhere that is anything like that in the Bay Area and I think that’s one of the reasons it's such a beautiful place to live. It may be the geography. I think a lot of it’s the history of how hard it was to get there, and how hard it was to succeed, and it attracted people who were leaving other places in search of the California dream.  

Q. What is the best piece of advice you have ever gotten? A. That’s a good question. I think the best piece of advice was not directly from an English teacher in high school, an old Jesuit priest but it was roughly "find yourself and then be yourself," so I think that’s pretty good advice.  

The tough part — they’re actually both tough — but discovering yourself is a lifetime journey and then holding onto it and being authentic, particularly in this business, I think is particularly difficult. In any line of work, people are trying to recreate you but I think in politics and entertainment that is particularly true.  

Q. Is there anything I should have asked you about? A. I think if you're looking for honestly, "What makes up a person?" I think probably the question is, "What do you like to do outside of politics and running?" And I like to read. As to what I read, unfortunately I read too much non-fiction, but I just like to read. I think it's really too bad that people don’t like to read more. And I think ... the consequence of that for America is, of all the great cultures in history, I think we are the least reflective and we struggle with that. And I think reading has a lot to do with that.

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