Today marks the 20th anniversary of HighGround Public Affairs. In honor of this occasion, we have redesigned our website – correct, we didn’t have one in 1996 (we didn’t have emails either) – my daughter was 2 and I still had a full head of hair, Fife Symington was Governor, Mark Killian was Speaker of the House, John Greene (RIP) was our Senate President – and Mary Jo Pitzl was covering the Arizona Legislature (sorry Mary Jo, it is actually an acknowledgement of your hard earned wisdom and my respect).
I have hundreds, if not thousands, of people to thank for the success of our firm and by acknowledging each and every one of you I would inevitably leave someone off the list, so this statement must stand;
I am deeply and profoundly grateful to each and every one of you who have contributed to my spiritual and intellectual growth, our firm’s success and the hundreds of deeply meaningful relationships that have cultivated the bountiful garden that is my life today. Cicero, or Jay Heiler, said that gratefulness is the parent of every virtue.
While there are admittedly many, many personal failures on my part, or learning experiences, I have endeavored to conduct my affairs by the virtues handed down to us through the gifts left to us through the Holy Spirit; faithfulness, gentleness, goodness, humility, joyfulness, kindness, loving, patience, peacefulness, purity, self-control and to remain teachable or open – I have two favorite quotes from two very different people that are constantly running through my head. One, by the author George Saunders:
“Anything is possible, stay open, forever, so open it hurts and then open up some more, until the day you die, world without end. Amen.”
And another by the American-born, British retail giant Harry Gordon Selfridge who said:
“The boss drives his men; the leader coaches them.
The boss depends upon authority, the leader on goodwill.
The boss inspires fear; the leader inspires enthusiasm.
The boss says “I”, the leader, “we”.
The boss fixes the blame for the breakdown, the leader fixes the breakdown.
The boss knows how it is done; the leaders shows how.
The boss says “Go”, the leaders says, “Let’s Go”.
Next year will be an eventful year for our country and my prayer is that we are blessed with a new President that is a leader, not a boss.
There have been several events this year that have inspired me. Two experiences stand out as distinctly important moments; attending the Broadway musical “Hamilton”, a historical hip-hop biography of our nation’s first Secretary of the Treasury, Alexander Hamilton (http://nyti.ms/1GnTy9Z ) and our firm’s participation in Preserving, Celebrating and Inspiring others through the active preservation of the David & Gladys Wright House in Arcadia (www.davidwrighthouse.org).
Hamilton was our first President’s “right hand man” during the Revolutionary War. The show launches itself with Aaron Burr and cast rapping, “How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman, dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished, in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?”
“The ten-dollar founding father without a father got a lot farther by workin’ a lot harder be bein’ a lot smarter by bein’ a self-starter.”
That is a distinctly American tale! It is the very essence of the American experiment in making a new country not by inheritance but by merit.
There are far too many songs and scenes to mention here but a few stood out to me as we celebrate our 20th anniversary here at HighGround. In the song, “My Shot”, Lin-Manuel Miranda, the play’s writer who portrays Hamilton raps, “I am not throwing away my shot! I am not throwing away my shot! Hey yo, I’m just like my country, I’m young, scrappy, and hungry, and I’m not throwing away my shot!”
At 53, I still feel like our State, the 48th State to enter the Union, – “Young, scrappy and hungry”.
Of course the King of England, King George, appears in the play, and he reminds me of so many of today’s candidates and elected officials who put their own personal political ambition above that of their country or their state. The King sings, “Oceans rise, empires fall. We have seen each other through it all and when push comes to shove, I will send a fully armed battalion (of dark money) to remind you of my love.” Italics are my own addition!
By November 8 of this year, it is my prediction that many Arizonans will be singing the Hamilton song, “Yorktown (The World Turned Upside Down)”.
“How does a ragtag volunteer army in need of a shower somehow defeat a global superpower? … Turns out we have a secret weapon! An immigrant you know and love who’s unafraid to step in? He’s constantly confusin’, confoundin’ the British henchmen. Ev’ryone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman! Lafayette!”
In Arizona, we have our own Marquis de Lafayette in former Phoenix Mayor and our own fighting Phoenician, Paul Johnson. We have been diligently working with Mr. Johnson for the past year to give Arizonans an opportunity to turn our election and campaign finance laws “upside down” in 2016. It is our intent, this merry band of HighGrounders, to make an even playing field for every candidate and voter in Arizona, to ensure that all voters are treated equally and to finally constitutionally guarantee that Arizonans have a right to know who is attempting to influence our elections when they spend over $10,000 to influence a candidate race in our State.
Many will ask, “Why is a political consulting firm who could benefit from this windfall of funds being driven into our elections doing this?” To you we would ask, “Are you happy with the current system of elective politics today?”
Record low electoral turnouts, millions of dollars in undisclosed money used to smear candidates and a system where the most populous group of Arizona voters are treated as second class citizens because they refuse to identify with a political party? Many of us don’t identify with a political party anymore.
I still believe that my country is the greatest country on the face of the earth and we don’t need to be made great again. America is great – it is our two party system that is broken. America is on the side of our founding father, George Washington, who did not identify with a Party but as an American!
Many will say this will be very hard to do, and to that I will paraphrase President John Fitzgerald Kennedy (JFK) by saying that we do these things not because they are easy but because they are hard, because that goal, treating all voters and candidates — regardless of their party — equally, and ensuring that all Arizonans have a right to know who is spending money to influence candidate elections. Why? Because those goals will serve to organize and measure the best of HighGround’s energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we, my colleagues here at HighGround, and our friend Paul Johnson are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win.
JFK’s words Inspired a generation to Preserve the American Experiment and Celebrate the real principles enshrined in our Declaration of Independence that all men (and women) are created equal.
So this year, we at HighGround with the help of hundreds of others will endeavor to reinvent the architecture of Arizona politics.
Speaking of architecture, all of us at HighGround have been incredibly blessed this past year to participate in the effort to Preserve, Celebrate and Inspire Arizonans through the efforts of the David & Gladys Wright House Foundation to literally gift this architectural marvel, Frank Lloyd Wright’s last residential masterpiece, to the people of Arizona. We wish to publicly thank Zach Rawling and his mother Katharine for giving our team at HighGround the opportunity to be a part of this tremendous team effort. Thank you Zach and Katharine for inspiring us – your dreams and motivations represent the very best of all of us.
Finally, and on a very personal note, I will end with a saying I have adopted from the Harbaugh brothers (football coaches at the University of Michigan and the Baltimore Ravens) – Nobody’s got it better than us! But, in particular me, because I have all of my friends and colleagues who have helped me through this 20 year journey. Most importantly, here I will end by paraphrasing Hamilton again, because I have the best of wives, my wife Patricia, and the best of women in my daughter Barrett who both bless me every single day of my life — indeed, nobody’s got it better than me!
Thanks for being part of the journey and we hope you enjoy our new webpage!
Cheers to a joy filled ride in 2016!