October 12th, 2011
09:10 AM ET

Newt Gingrich opens up about his family, passions and regrets

GOP presidential candidate Newt Gingrich revealed to CNN how his family has played a huge role in shaping his life.

His remarks came during a recent Red Chair interview - a CNN series that examines the lives of headliners to see what made them who they are today.

Gingrich, a former speaker of the U.S. House, said he learned his cheerful optimism from his mother who told him "everyday can be filled with interesting things."

"I'm like a 4-year-old who gets up every morning knowing there is a cookie somewhere and I just have to find it," said Gingrich.

The GOP presidential candidate credited his stepfather for teaching him about discipline and determination.

Gingrich's passions include a love for nature, animals and education. He also collects items related to dinosaurs.

"Early on in life I thought I'd be a paleontologist or a zoo director," he said. "I've visited about 100 zoos in my life and enjoy them."

Regarding his career, Gingrich said if he were House speaker again, he'd "do it in a significantly different way."

Learn more about his family life, passions and lessons learned in his CNN Red Chair video interview. Look for conversations with other presidential candidates in upcoming weeks.

Candidates Herman Cain and Jon Huntsman Jr. recently sat down with CNN for their Red Chair interviews.