Nightly News   |  January 06, 2011

Boehner talks about tearfulness: 'It's who I am'

In an exclusive interview with NBC's Brian Williams, the new Speaker of the House talks about being a smoker, believing in prayer, and which personal passions tend to trigger his frequent public weeping spells.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> fine, thanks. i've got the same responsibilities today.

>> we're back with more of our exclusive interview with speaker of the house john boehner . the first one he's granted as speaker. he's 61 years old, one of 12 kids. he was a high school football player. a catholic from a blue collar background in ohio. married close to 40 years and now the conversation turns personal, to the topic most americans now associate with john boehner . you're an emotional guy. a lot of us are, and you know this before i even mention it. it's been the main topic of conversation, and that is your emotions. do you understand why it's so much a topic of discussion and do you worry at all about it being a distraction, specifically during times of high moment?

>> no. listen, it's who i am. you know, there are some things i feel very strongly about. and when it comes to kids, when it comes to my own family, soldiers, you know, i get -- i feel very strongly. i want america to be the country that i grew up in.

>> what do you do for strength?

>> i pray. i pray from the moment i wake up, and i may pray all day long, because it's -- you can't do this by yourself. can't do it.

>> personal question, you're a smoker, and not just a smoker, you're a pretty committed smoker. i've got one in my own family, we all know them. do you think it's fair game as a topic given smoking's prominence in the health care debate or do you think it's nobody's personal business and a matter of personal privilege for you?

>> it is what it is. it's a bad habit. i wish i didn't have it, but i have it.

>> have you tried to quit?

>> i've tried to quit from time to time but not for a while.

>> most smokers have tried to quick about 20 times.

>> nowhere close.

>> do you get a lot of heat for it?

>> i have a lot of people offering advice to me, suggestions.

>> but for now it's a part of your life.

>> it's what i do.

>> and you're willing to --

>> i'll take the heat. i am who i am, but i'm never going to be anybody that i'm not.

>> when you go home next, is there a sidewalk, a place, a person, that's kind of a talisman to grab onto, talking about strength in the new job?

>> well, i get strength every day just going to my facebook sites. people having conversations with people. i'm humbled by the confidence they have in me.

>> the kid who's 16 in ohio writes you on facebook. mr. speaker, how do i do what you just did? what's going to give me the shot? who's going to give me the chance? this has been called the first american generation without the hope life is going to be better for them. so answer that.

>> get a decent education. work hard. and most importantly, dream big . you can do whatever you want to do. i played football for jerry faust, moeller high school , cincinnati. went on to coach for notre dame . left my a voice mail yesterday. i told the story for 20 years what he taught us, there's nothing in this world you can't accomplish, nothing you can't succeed at if you're willing to work hard enough and make the sacrifices that are necessary.

>> from that emotion welling up again at the end of our conversation there. and you can see more of our conversation with the speaker on our website, beginning right now. that's nightly.msnbc.com.