Burn the Boats

When Failure is Not an Option

Host, Ken Harbaugh, interviews political leaders, influencers, and other history makers about the choices we confront when failure is not an option. Choices like Alexander the Great made when he landed his troops on the shores of Persia and ordered his men to burn their boats.

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Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols

I admired other leaders, but Lee was special. For me, he had this separate place of almost sacred level of leadership. But I went through about a month of wrestling with what Annie had said. And then finally on a Sunday morning, I got up one day, came into my office, took the painting down, took it out to our backyard, threw it in the garbage and they took it away the next day.” - Gen. Stanley McChrystal

In this bonus episode of Burn the Boats, Gen. Stanley McChrystal reflects on his formerly-beloved painting of Robert E. Lee and his perspective on Confederate symbols.

The Atlantic op-ed that Ken reads from in this episode is titled “At 63, I Threw Away My Prized Portrait of Robert E. Lee”.

Recent Episodes

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Pete Buttigieg: On Moving Forward

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:20
Pete Buttigieg, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, talks about his campaign, his decision to end it, and his hopes for the future of our country.
Listen to Pete Buttigieg: On Moving Forward

Max Rose and Ali Soufan: Fighting White Supremacist Terrorism

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:19
US Representative Max Rose and counterterrorism expert Ali Soufan talk about the work they’re doing to address the threat of transnational violent white supremacist groups in the United States and across the world.
Listen to Max Rose and Ali Soufan: Fighting White Supremacist Terrorism

Sarah Longwell: How to Save the GOP

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:18
Sarah Longwell, publisher of the Bulwark and co-founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law, talks about being a staunchly “Never Trump” Republican and about what the future of her party looks like.
Listen to Sarah Longwell: How to Save the GOP

Pride Month: Gina Ortiz Jones

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:17.5
This rerun in honor of Pride month features a conversation with Gina Ortiz Jones, Democratic candidate for Congress in Texas’s 23rd district, about the challenges of being a gay service member under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as well as her difficult race to represent her district.
Listen to Pride Month: Gina Ortiz Jones

More about the name of the show...

In 334 BC, Alexander the Great led Greek troops across the Dardanelles Straits and into Asia Minor, landing on the shores of Persia. He hoped to finally vanquish his greatest enemy, Darius III - the King of Persia. But Alexander was badly outnumbered. The Persian army assembled to attack and Alexander’s troops began to speak openly of retreat. So he gave an order: "Burn the Boats." He told his men, “we either return home in Persian ships, or we die here.” There would be no turning back.

By burning his boats, Alexander hoped to galvanize and motivate his troops. They needed to fully commit to defeating Darius and the Persians. There was no other way - failure was not an option.

This podcast explores decisions our guests made when they fully committed to something because failure was not an option.

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The Team

Ken Harbaugh

The Host
A former US Navy Pilot & past president of Team Rubicon Global; served as a commentator for NPR; a host on Crooked Media; & a contributor to The NY Times & The Atlantic.

Isabel Robertson

A producer, writer, & researcher based in CLE. She has worked on programs like StoryCorps, Wait, Wait...Don't Tell Me, the Intercept. She serves on the ACLU-Ohio Board of Directors.

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