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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All Episodes

Jake Wood: A New Mission Closer to Home

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:28
Jake Wood, veteran and CEO of Team Rubicon, talks about his new memoir, the value of veterans serving in disaster relief, and the power of vulnerability in leaders.
Listen to Jake Wood: A New Mission Closer to Home

Jacqueline Novogratz: Marshalling a Moral Revolution

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:27
Jacqueline Novogratz, founder and CEO of Acumen, talks about the role of markets in working towards a better world and how the kind of work she does has changed in recent years as the rising generation demands sustainability, inclusion, equity, and justice.
Listen to Jacqueline Novogratz: Marshalling a Moral Revolution

Rerun: Pete Buttigieg

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:26.2
The day after the election, hear a rerun of Ken's conversation with Pete Buttigieg from the summer - talking about patriotism, his hopes for the future of our country, and the need for America to rebuild trust.
Listen to Rerun: Pete Buttigieg

Voting Rights and the 2020 Election w/ Esosa Osa and Sylvia Albert

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:26.5
Just days before the 2020 election, Ken passes the mic to guest host Esosa Osa, Research and Policy Director for Fair Fight Action. Esosa interviews Sylvia Albert from Common Cause about voting rights and next week's election.
Listen to Voting Rights and the 2020 Election w/ Esosa Osa and Sylvia Albert

MJ Hegar: Campaign Like a Girl

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:26
MJ Hegar, Democratic candidate for Senate in Texas, talks about her campaign, what drove her to run in the first place, and the prejudiced responses she sometimes gets to the Purple Heart on her license plate.
Listen to MJ Hegar: Campaign Like a Girl

Rep. Tim Ryan: Politics and Mindfulness

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:25
Rep. Tim Ryan talks politics - Trump, Ohio, and Tim’s current reelection campaign. He also talks about something he wishes all politicians would practice: mindfulness.
Listen to Rep. Tim Ryan: Politics and Mindfulness

Rep. Cheri Bustos: Legislating by Listening

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:24
Representative Cheri Bustos, congresswoman from Illinois and chair of the DCCC, talks about the values that women bring to leadership and about winning as a Democrat in a district that also voted for Trump.
Listen to Rep. Cheri Bustos: Legislating by Listening

Bonus: Sec. Leon Panetta and the Anniversary of 9/11

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:23.5
In this bonus episode of Burn the Boats, Sec. Leon Panetta talks about the ultimate tough decision: launching a raid into Pakistan based on uncertain intelligence. He talks about that, as well as the current presidential administration and the state of our political landscape.
Listen to Bonus: Sec. Leon Panetta and the Anniversary of 9/11

Anthony Scaramucci: Room on the Off Ramp

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:23
Anthony Scaramucci talks about his brief tenure as the White House Communications Director and his recent decision to denounce Trump, as well as his journey from working class to Goldman Sachs and the White House.
Listen to Anthony Scaramucci: Room on the Off Ramp

Swati Mylavarapu: Making Politics Accessible

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:22
Pete Buttigieg’s chief investment officer and founder of Incite.org and the Arena, Swati talks to Ken about campaign finance and about diving into politics as a relative outsider.
Listen to Swati Mylavarapu: Making Politics Accessible

Andrew Towne: Modern-Day Adventurer

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:21
Andrew Towne, endurance athlete and principal with the Boston Consulting Group, has climbed the tallest mountain on every continent, including Mount Everest, and rowed the Drake Passage with the Discovery Channel series The Impossible Row.
Listen to Andrew Towne: Modern-Day Adventurer

Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:20.5
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.
Listen to Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols

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

Fred Guttenberg: Father of Two

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:17
Fred Guttenberg, gun safety advocate whose daughter Jaime was killed at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, talks about how the loss of his daughter drives him, what changes must be made to ensure safer gun laws, and what draws Americans to firearms in the first place.
Listen to Fred Guttenberg: Father of Two

Mansoor Shams: Muslim Marine

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:16
Mansoor Shams, founder of MuslimMarine.org, talks about both his good and bad experiences as a Muslim in the US Marine Corps, about patriotism in today’s America, and about making his life’s mission opening the minds of others.
Listen to Mansoor Shams: Muslim Marine

Soledad O’Brien: Journalism’s ‘Tough Love’ Critic

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:15
Award-winning journalist Soledad O’Brien talks about the current news landscape, what success means in journalism, and her flexibility and optimism in seizing new opportunities.
Listen to Soledad O’Brien: Journalism’s ‘Tough Love’ Critic

Amy McGrath: From the Marine Corps to the Campaign Trail

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:14
Amy McGrath, candidate for the US Senate seat in Kentucky, talks about the state of the Senate under her opponent Mitch McConnell, about her experiences campaigning in such a high-profile race, and about how her days as a fighter pilot informed her approach to leadership and patriotism.
Listen to Amy McGrath: From the Marine Corps to the Campaign Trail

Joe Sanberg: Seeking Financial Security for All

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:13
Joe Sanberg, progressive entrepreneur and investor in Los Angeles, talks about his work to end poverty, his personal connection to the cause, and about the role of both politics and faith in how Americans think about economics.
Listen to Joe Sanberg: Seeking Financial Security for All

Patrick Murphy: Constitutional Crisis and the US Military

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:12
The Honorable Patrick Murphy talks about the role of the military in American democracy, about his leadership in getting Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell repealed, and about the challenge that servicemembers face when their oaths to the Constitutional conflict with orders from the president.
Listen to Patrick Murphy: Constitutional Crisis and the US Military

Ryan Manion: Harnessing Grief to Do Good

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:11
Ryan Manion, president of the Travis Manion Foundation, talks about losing her brother to war, about her own PTSD diagnosis, and about harnessing her brother’s memory to do good.
Listen to Ryan Manion: Harnessing Grief to Do Good

Voting Rights Special with Demos and the ACLU

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:10
Naila Awan from Demos and Ben Guess from the ACLU of Ohio talk about the importance of full voting rights for all and the work they are each doing to achieve that.
Listen to Voting Rights Special with Demos and the ACLU

Shannon Watts and Casey Weinstein: The Dangers of Fighting for Gun Safety

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:9
Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action, and Casey Weinstein, state representative for Ohio’s District 37, talk about gun safety and the intimidation they have received for standing up for what they believe.
Listen to Shannon Watts and Casey Weinstein: The Dangers of Fighting for Gun Safety

Paul Rieckhoff: The Power of Righteous Anger

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:8
Paul Rieckhoff, host of the Angry Americans podcast, talks about being an independent in today’s political climate, about the role of veterans in our country, and about anger as a political force.
Listen to Paul Rieckhoff: The Power of Righteous Anger

Bill Kristol: The Crisis within the Republican Party

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:7
Bill Kristol, founder of The Weekly Standard and chief of staff to the Vice President under George H. W. Bush, talks about the current state of the Republican party, how it got there, and his bipartisan push for political decency.
Listen to Bill Kristol: The Crisis within the Republican Party

Mary Beth Bruggeman: Inclusion, Leadership, and Service

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:6
ary Beth Bruggeman, the president of The Mission Continues, talks about her experiences as a woman in the Marine Corps, about the responsibility of teaching military leadership in wartime, and about the work TMC does to harness the energy and skills of veterans to work on social issues in their communities.
Listen to Mary Beth Bruggeman: Inclusion, Leadership, and Service

Bonus: Adam Frankel on Writing for Obama

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:5.5
In this bonus episode, Ken continues his conversation with Adam Frankel, talking about what it was like to write speeches for President Obama.
Listen to Bonus: Adam Frankel on Writing for Obama

Adam Frankel: Healing Family Trauma through Honesty

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:5
Adam Frankel, former speechwriter for President Obama and author of a new memoir, The Survivors, talks about generational trauma - from his grandparents’ experiences in the Holocaust to his mother’s struggles with mental illness and a revelation about Adam’s own identity - and the importance of honesty in his family’s healing process.
Listen to Adam Frankel: Healing Family Trauma through Honesty

Bonus: The Rights of American Samoans

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:4.5
In this bonus episode of Burn the Boats, Staff Sergeant Jeniffer Afualo-Robinson talks about losing her security clearance and, with it, a pathway to career advancement, just because she was born in American Samoa.
Listen to Bonus: The Rights of American Samoans

Joe Sestak: Individual Rights and the Common Good

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:4
Joe Sestak, retired 3-star Admiral in the US Navy and former candidate for Democratic presidential nominee, talks about the similarities between the Navy and the campaign trail, about his daughter’s illness inspiring him to run for office, and about a pilot under his command who chose to defy his orders.
Listen to Joe Sestak: Individual Rights and the Common Good

Gina Ortiz Jones: Overcoming Barriers to Serve Her Country

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:3
Gina Ortiz Jones, Air Force veteran and Congressional candidate in Texas’s 23rd district, talks about the tough decision her mother made to immigrate here from the Philippines and about the challenges of being an LGBT service member under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, as well as her difficult race to represent her district.
Listen to Gina Ortiz Jones: Overcoming Barriers to Serve Her Country

Mikie Sherrill: Challenging Authority and Reaching Across the Aisle

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:2
Mikie Sherrill, former navy pilot and federal prosecutor and current Congresswoman from New Jersey, discusses the challenges of pushing back against leadership and reaching across the aisle to do what she believes is best for her district and the country.
Listen to Mikie Sherrill: Challenging Authority and Reaching Across the Aisle

Michael Gerson: Faith, Friendship, and Empathy in Today’s Political Climate

Burn the Boats | S:1 E:1
George W. Bush's former presidential speechwriter, Michael Gerson, talks to Ken about his dissension from the Republican party, about the role of faith in motivating his decision to speak out, and about where he thinks our country is headed.
Listen to Michael Gerson: Faith, Friendship, and Empathy in Today’s Political Climate

Coming Soon!

Burn the Boats
Listen as Ken Harbaugh interviews political leaders, influencers, and other history makers about the tough choices they've made, starting with columnist Michael Gerson on November 20.
Listen to Coming Soon!

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