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Q&A: Five minutes with John Cena

World Wrestling Entertainment talent John Cena winks at a crowd of servicemembers and families at Joint Base Lewis-McChord on Dec. 11, 2013, as WWE superstars participated in last year's "Tribute to the Troops." This year's event is being held at Fort Benning in Columbus, Georgia.

MARK MIRANDA/U.S. ARMY

By HELENA ANDREWS-DYER | The Washington Post | Published: December 11, 2017

There isn’t much that can turn down the volume on a symphony of excited grade schoolers. On Wednesday, even Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden could only press pause on the giddiness as nearly 400 kids waited - at times patiently, at times not - for a very special story time.

It’s not everyday that John Cena, WWE champion and newly minted movie star, shows up at the Library of Congress to read from an 80-year-old copy of “The Story of Ferdinand,” the source material for Cena’s new movie. (Guess who he plays?)

Dressed in a navy pinstriped suit that was all but bursting at the biceps, Cena’s baritone managed to still the squirming auditorium as he recounted the tale of a big bull who likes flowers more than fighting. We caught up with the wrestling actor (or the acting wrestler?) after a lightning round of questions from the kids, including: “When you were first born what did you want to be?” (“Well, first I opened my eyes...”) and “What do you practice?” (“Tolerance.”)

Q: Your name came up in a congressional hearing last spring, when a congressman asked what took you so long to propose to fellow wrestler Nikki Bella.

A: I guess I wanted to do my due diligence and make sure it was the right choice and I certainly have. That was the most nervous I’ve ever been in my entire life. The uncertainty and the nerves and the excitement and the environment is what made it such a wonderful moment.

Q: Speaking of Congress, your WWE brother Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson has toyed with a bid for president. Good idea? And would you be his running mate?

A: I would not run with him because I’m a lumbering man. I don’t run very well. But anything - anything - he puts his mind to, he does with a level of excellence you rarely ever see. So whether he’s just trying to stir up the political pot or if he is genuinely serious, I know that when and if he does decide, he will make an all-out commitment.

Q: Others have made the leap from the wrestling ring to the political ring. What’s the connection between the two gigs?

A: You get to know people and you get to know the things they care about. It’s a politician’s job to govern for the people. I can understand the gravity of wanting to be in that realm because you’re with people all day. You hear the ups and downs of the people you perform in front of.

Q: You dressed up as former secretary of state Hillary Clinton for the Teen Choice Awards. Politics and entertainment are mingling like never before and so many celebrities are politically outspoken these days. Why is that?

A: Because of the unfortunate divide that the nation seems to be going through. I think the reaction to that is special because a lot of people are using their voice. The way this country is built is very unique, and it’s wonderful because if one feels the pendulum is ever swinging too far to one side, they can stand up. So whether you have a hundred million people following you or whether you stand on a soap box and yell at the top of your lungs, it’s a way to use your voice.

Q: “The Story of Ferdinand” was really politicized in its day. Hitler ordered copies of the book burned. Can the movie’s message still be politicized today?

A: You can politicize anything. They base entire channels on it. But (today) the message is the same and that’s why it’s been so popular. I love the last line of the book. (Ferdinand’s) still sitting there smelling the flowers and the very last line is “and he is happy.” That doesn’t have a time period or a political affiliation.

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