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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Paul Rieckhoff: The Power of Righteous Anger

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Paul Rieckhoff: The Power of Righteous Anger

In my view, if you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Whether it's school shootings or our failed infrastructure or our president or the tax on our election, I think there is righteous reason to be angry.

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.

Paul is a veteran, activist, and founder of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. Last year, he founded Righteous Media and launched the Angry Americans podcast. Subscribe wherever you get your podcasts and find the show on social media at @AngryAmericans. Follow Paul on Twitter at @PaulRieckhoff.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 9 of Burn the Boats with Shannon Watts and Casey Weinstein by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Shannon and Casey tell us about the death threats they’ve received for standing up for what they believe. So we want you to tell us what other lines you think should never be crossed, regardless of how strongly you disagree with someone.

Ken Harbaugh: Burn the Boats is proud to support VoteVets, the nation’s largest and most impactful progressive veterans organization. To learn more, or to join their mission, go to VoteVets.org.

Paul Rieckhoff: In my view, if you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Whether it's school shootings or our failed infrastructure or our president or the tax on our election, I think there is righteous reason to be angry. A righteous anger has permeated this country from the founding days of the revolution.

KH: I’m Ken Harbaugh, and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions. On Burn the Boats, I interview political leaders and other history makers about choices they confront when failure is not an option.

Today I sat down with Paul Rieckhoff, veteran, activist, and recently - in his own words - aspiring media mogul. Last year, Paul founded Righteous Media, a media outlet for the middle - for the moderates and independents. Paul sat down with me to talk about being an independent in today’s political landscape and about the role that veterans might play in helping to bring Americans together.

Paul Rieckhoff, welcome to Burn the Boats. You're, of course, the founder of IAVA, the Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, a tireless advocate for veterans ever since your time on Iraq, scourge of the VA. I've got that written down here in my notes, and New York City government, I should add, because in the last week alone, I mentioned to two friends of mine, one who was a senior VA official under Obama, the other in city government in New York, that I was doing this interview and their eyes went wide. One of them said, "That guy was unstoppable." Thank you for your tireless advocacy. You have, lately, of course, pivoted. You're a media mogul now. Is it fair to say? Tell us about Righteous Media and what you're up to, Paul.

PR: I think I'm an aspiring media mogul, proved by the fact that I come to you live from my home studio, AKA my wife's closet, so that's where I'm recording right now. You got to improvise, adapt, and overcome.

KH: That's right.

PR: That's what we learned in the military, and the same is true in advocacy, and the same is true in the media landscape. I did 15 years in the advocacy space of veterans and very proud of what we built at IAVA, but it was kind of like the military. At some point, I had to get out and do something different. For me, I wanted to find ways to continue to serve. I did a little bit of soul searching. I wasn't going to sell out and go make a bunch of money. Politics really isn't a lane for me, primarily because I'm not independently wealthy and I'm a political independent. I'm unaffiliated, and that led me to recognizing that the new battle space for me on causes that I care about, I think the issues that are most urgently facing our country, can be best tackled through the media. I think that's where I can make an influence, that's where I can push issues, it's where I can tell stories, and it's where I can hold people accountable, whether it's city government, the Trump administration, or the Obama administration. I think there's a lot of folks that need to be held accountable, especially in times like this. I learned how to do that in the advocacy space and now I'm trying to extend that through Righteous Media and through my podcast, Angry Americans.

KH: In this political climate, Paul, especially in an election year, how long can you remain independent? At some point, don't you have to plant a flag and decide which team you're going to go with?

PR: It depends. You could pick a different team each game. We can be independent as long as we need to be. This is the new political dynamic. I think there's a new political landscape, I think there's a new media landscape, and 40% of Americans are independent and unaffiliated. In the same way Coke and Pepsi are obsolete and there's a million other options, and everything from iced teas to Bud Light Seltzer, I think there need to be more political options. I think Americans, at their heart, are independent and unaffiliated. It doesn't mean you're neutral. Of course, I'm still going to take a stand on issues and I think independents across this country are going to take stands on issues, but I think it's about focusing on the people and the policy, and not about the partisanship. I think most Americans are fed up with it and they're fed up with the media landscape. That's why I wanted to build something different. What we're building with Righteous is kind of like Crooked for the middle, Crooked for the unaffiliateds and the independents. There's Fox News out there for the right and you've got MSNBC and Crooked for the left, but what about the people in the middle? That's who we're talking to, with, and for. I think it's a powerful group of people that are being only now appreciated. They're the people who are going to move swing states. You see people like Mike Bloomberg jumping in. You see people like Biden and Buttigieg sticking around in part because they're moderate. You're going to see Trump probably moderate himself a little bit, because I think most Americans are not partisan. They're patriots, they're somewhere in the middle.

KH: When it comes to Trump, though, it's pretty clear to me, you have planted a flag. You've made it abundantly clear that you think he's unfit. I believe your catchphrase in describing our president is President Mayhem.

PR: Yeah. Definitely. I do a segment almost weekly on my podcast about President Mayhem. If you think about the commercials on the TV where you see Mayhem, the cat in the attic or the car wrecking your car, that's President Trump, but that's not because he's a Republican, it's because he's Trump. If he was a Democrat, I think I'd have the same issues with him. He was a Democrat at one point and I think in this new dynamic, you've got folks like him and like Bloomberg that have switched parties and moved back and forth. I think Elizabeth Warren was a Republican at one point. For me, it's about putting country first. That's what I learned in the military, that's what I learned in advocacy, and I think that's what we need more of from people in the media and from all Americans. I think we need to recognize that what he's doing is bad for America, his leadership has been catastrophic, and it could set us back generations. It would be easier if it was just about partisanship but it's transcended partisanship. In my view, if you're not challenging him and you're not pushing him and you're not trying to contain him, you probably have an ulterior motive and you may not be appreciating the scope of the damage he's inflicting on this country. This is about the future of our country and now the future of the world. In my view, he is the single most negative influence in our world and in our country. He's President Mayhem. We wake up every day and find new ways that he's screwed up our country. We found out that he's taking over $7 billion from the Pentagon budget and diverted that money to the wall. That's money that could go toward military schools and toward training centers. Instead, it's going to a very political, very partisan, very divisive issue in the wall. I don't think that supports the troops. I don't think it supports our national defense and I think it cuts to the core of the damage that he can do. That's just the stop that's below the radar. The Iran fiasco is maybe the most glaring example recently, but I think it's time for patriots to step up, and I think that has to transcend parties.

KH: You have found a way to channel anger as a driving force in how you talk about politics and how you appeal to your audience. Why did you choose anger as your animating principle, and then I'm going to try to provoke it a bit because I've got some issues with it, but you first.

PR: Sure. In my view, if you're not angry, you're not paying attention. Whether it's school shootings or our failed infrastructure or our president or the attacks on our election, I think there is righteous reason to be angry. A righteous anger has permeated this country from the founding days of the revolution.

George Washington was an angry American. Martin Luther King was an angry American. Harvey Milk was an angry American. People who saw something that outraged them, rightfully, and took action. That's the question. What do you do with the anger? I think Trump has channeled anger, often, for the negative, but you can turn that anger into positive action, and that's what my podcast has been about.

It's also an animating question because I think it's about being honest. People are angry. They're angry about a lot of things. We have to talk about it and we have to figure out how to talk around that and talk with that and channel that and come together. That might be the thing that brings us together. If everybody can agree that they're angry about how bad the New York Knicks suck, that's a great place to start. We can go beyond that. The question is, what do you do about it? I think that's where I want to be a positive driving force. Every one of my podcasts has a positive action. We say don't just be angry, be active. I think that's what we want to turn into a positive movement, and frankly, take it back from Trump. Trump does not have a monopoly on anger. He does not have a monopoly on patriotism. He does not have a monopoly on people who are fed up with government or taxes or anything else. It's about expanding the conversation. It's been really popular and people are responding.

KH: I think that pivot away from anger as its own end is critical here, because, I hope you'll agree with me that anger is part of the problem, undirected anger, just that boiling over anger that seems to define our politics these days is part of why we seem unable to get anything done. You invoked Martin Luther King who certainly was angry at his core about many critical issues, but he also understood that the only thing that overcomes hate is love. That's one of his timeless quotes, right? My concern with framing your political theory around anger is that it just feeds the division.

PR: Yeah, I really don't see it that way. I think that anger is a symptom, it's not the cause, and how you choose to respond to things is sometimes beyond your control. If someone shoots your kid in a school and you come up to me and tell me I don't have a right to be angry or that I shouldn't be angry ... Kids are being killed in schools. I think that's reason to be angry. How we channel that and what we do with that, you can't overcome the reality that that is an emotion you will feel. Maybe you're a monk and you can channel it and get on a higher plane and not be angry, but I think everybody gets angry at some point and it's about having an open conversation about the emotional reality of what we're experiencing in this country, and then choosing to do something with it positive. I believe in love, as well. I think love is a very powerful galvanizing force, but if love was an overriding leadership mode, then Cory Booker wouldn't have dropped out. Cory Booker was the candidate of love, and it's not really transcending our politics right now. You have to have an understanding that people are upset and they have a right to be. Just the number of issues I've ticked off in this conversation already, I think may initiate people to think about it differently. Just wait a couple days. Trump will give us new reason to be angry, and the question for each of us is what we do about it. Even more than anger being the problem or the solution, I think leadership is the problem or the solution. Right now, what we're dealing with is, in my view, the worst leader we've ever had in the White House and many other failing leaders on both sides of the aisle and government. The American people have an opportunity to lead at their local level, whether they are a football coach or they're somebody with 100 Twitter followers, or somebody like you with a podcast. I think it's time for leaders to step up and convey a positive command climate, a positive image, positive leadership, and to try to find ways to come together and move forward.

KH: You mentioned school shootings, and if ever there was an excuse to be angry, that's at the top of my list. I'm a father of three and I know you have kids as well. Can you share your story about the magnet game? I'm going to give you a chance to be angry.

PR: Sure, and maybe that's a good case study. I've got two kids. One's four and one's 10 months old. My son was in a little school nearby our home when he was two years old. We got an email about a year and a half ago that in response to current events, our school is going to teach these little toddlers the magnet game. Basically what it is, is, they couldn't say, "Hey, a school shooter's coming into your building." They said, "If we say we're playing the magnet game," all the children are to basically run to the teacher as though the teacher is a magnet and follow the teacher wherever the teacher goes. If the teacher goes into the bathroom and closes the door, all the kids go into the bathroom. If the teacher goes outside and goes to a tree to get out, all the kids have to follow that teacher. This is, I think, breaking down to its very core, the understanding that our two year old toddlers are not safe. They are being taught the magnet game so they don't get shot and murdered in their classrooms. This is the kind of issue that I know every American can connect with, every American is concerned about. It keeps us up at night, and it's a great example of where Trump, and I would argue, the Democrats, are failing us. Our kids are no safer right now. We haven't moved these issues forward, and often we're distracted by so many other things. I think school shootings are a great example of why people have a right to be angry, but what are we going to do about it? I think you see moderates and independents and many veterans can be a bridge. It might be trigger locks, it might be background screenings. Those might be the ways we can come together. I think we can come together because they're good ideas and because they're patriotic ideas and because they're practical ideas, not because they're Republican or Democrat ideas.

KH: Do you feel like, on issues like this, veterans and the veteran community writ large, has a special kind of authority to speak out and to act as influencers?

PR: I think we have unique credibility and I think we have unique popularity. If you walk into a room, no matter what the political background is, no matter where it is geographically, and you say, "I'm a combat veteran," you have people's attention. You have people's respect. You may not keep it for longer than a couple minutes, but you will have their attention, you will have their respect, because in part they know you have an experience that they can't relate to and an experience they value and trust. On a very basic level, our familiarity with weapons, with firearms, puts us in a position to get credibility and to move this issue forward, and I think, to build bridges. It's the ultimate issue where we could have Republicans and Democrats come together on something like trigger locks. Trigger locks, background checks, things that most people support from different backgrounds, people in the military capacity can talk directly about their understanding of firearms. They're not trying to take away everybody's guns, and they've also seen what assault weapons can do on the battlefield. I think they're in a unique position, a moral high ground, but most of all, an experience high ground. Most of the folks that we've served with, have fired their weapons a lot more often than local police, so we have a really unique opportunity, is what I'd call it, Ken, to try to be a group of people who add light to all the heat. That's what veterans are for me. They're not an antidote, but they definitely can bring the temperature down. They can add some light to the heat, and they can create some kind of common ground in an environment where there doesn't seem to be very much.

KH: You've also described veterans, though, as equivalent to the clergy. If America was a religion, vets are keepers of the flame. What do you mean by that, because that must go beyond a specific issue in your mind, like sensible gun reform.

PR: Yeah. If American were a religion, I think veterans and the military are like the clergy. They are a very small, elite group of people who have essentially taken an oath to separate themselves from the rest of society to protect, and potentially die, for our values. That puts them in a very unique stratosphere.

There was a great New York Times piece recently, underscoring how many people in the military consider it a family affair. Generations of people are going into the military because it's considered the family profession. We've got less than one half of one percent of the American people who understand things like integrity and teamwork and the basic values of democracy, and what it means to read the Constitution, to actually read the Constitution and then raise your hand to support and uphold and defend it, puts you in a very different place. They're not all superheroes where they're infallible or they're a monolith, but I think they are in a very unique position to guide our conversation. I think they have a responsibility. They've served overseas. When they come home they have an opportunity and a responsibility to continue to serve. You don't have to run for congress, you don't have to be a cop. You might just be a good citizen in your community, but I think, especially in times like this, veterans can be that positive force and they always have been. George Washington was the first citizen soldier. He said “When we assumed the soldier, we did not lay aside the citizen.” He put his guns down, he went in and tried to find ways to continue to serve, and I think we need more of that. But I also think we need more ways for more people to serve. I'm a proponent of service for people who want to join the military, mandatory service of some kind, I think, is a positive thing for our military and for the fabric of our country. I think it’s one of the most - my father was drafted, my grandfather was drafted …

KH: You said mandatory service. I'm cutting in, but that's a tall order in America today. You didn't say that accidentally.

PR: No, I'm all for it, man. I think, if you really think about it, many folks would be, as well. You don't have to serve, necessarily, in the Marine Corps. It could be the Peace Corps. It could be City Corps, but I think having all young people serve in some way is essential for the future of our country, or at least to have the overwhelming possibility of service. I think it's one of the most problematic issues we face, is the civil-military divide, where it is that small group of people who continue to serve over and over again, and a lot of other folks who are watching the Kardashians, where we've got to figure out ways to bridge that divide to really heal the fabric of our country and get back to the way it used to be. In a time where many people are banging the drums to go to war with Iran, the idea that most people won't be touched by that, I think, is terribly damaging. Even if there was a small draft every time we went to conflict, where Trump stood up and said, "You know what? We're going to Iran, and there's going to be a lottery and 100 people are going to get chosen," I bet you'd have the country's attention.

KH: Yeah.

PR: They'd be watching what's going on, and that threat or that social backstop, I think, is essential to a healthy democracy. The professional military we have right now is great for the military, but I'm not sure it's great for America. I think, over time, if we continue to engage in forever wars where people continue to go for 20th tours and everybody else is living life uninterrupted, I think that's terribly damaging to the core of our country.

KH: Yeah, and if not an open lottery style draft, maybe at least the kids of the people making the decisions to getting us into those wars, right?

PR: Yeah, look, Kushner's of age. He could go into the military. Ivanka Trump could go in the military, and we laugh, but Reince Priebus just did it. There are people in politics who have taken direct commissions, who have gone in. Pete Buttigieg was a direct commission. There are a lot of ways to go into the military and find ways to serve, but I think you do have to address the lack of skin in the game, and especially for politicians but not just politicians. I think it's something that everybody in America has to think about and really ask themselves how they feel about the future of this country and if they're willing to sacrifice.

There are no raises in taxes, there's no draft. A lot of folks are living life uninterrupted, and I don't know if that's sustainable for a healthy, thriving, growing country like we've got.

KH: Do you take some comfort in the fact that the trend in Congress towards no military representation has been, at least temporarily, reversed with this freshman class? You've got folks like Max Rose and Mikey Sherrill. All of these freshman representatives with experience in a combat zone, that's got to be a good thing, don't you think?

PR: It is, but unfortunately, we're seeing an overall drop in the net number of veterans in congress. It's coming on the backdrop of the entire generation of World War II veterans dying and the Vietnam veterans going quickly behind them. The overall percentage of veterans in Congress, I think, is at or close to the lowest it's been in modern history. It is encouraging that we've got these new folks with a new perspective, and that's intensely valuable on every issue, on education as much as it is on armed services. I think we need people who are tested, who've been leaders, who understand what sacrifice is all about, and have the practical skills that it brings, but I think we've also got to look at the overall trend line where, if we have only veterans in Congress, then Congress is going to look like the military. It's not going to be representative of the rest of our country and that's something we've got to be thoughtful about, as well.

KH: I want to go back to this idea of the soldier citizen and the veterans as clergy, because I think there's a flip side, which is, the risk of hyper-valorizing the American vet. It's bad enough to see a generation welcomed home like my dad's was, and you began to tell us about your family heritage, to see the Vietnam generation demonized, but then you have the pendulum swinging in the other direction.

I guess I want to hear you reflect on whether there are any risks associated with putting vets on the pedestal.

PR: Oh, sure. I'm the independent, so I can see both sides of every discussion. I think this is a good example. They're not beyond reproach. This is the challenge of the recent news with Donald Trump pardoning war crimes, somebody like Eddie Gallagher. This is the problem. We are not above the law. We are not above reproach. We are accountable and should be accountable just like everyone else if not more so because of the tremendous responsibility we have. Definitely a concern that the pendulum will swing in the other direction, but I think that's a very luxurious position for us to be in right now. As someone who's been a student of social movements and a student of the veteran's movement with many elders like Wayne Smith and Bobby Muller, and so many others. Shad Meshad and Max Cleland. They've always said to me, that support is strong and different but it's also fragile. If a vet walks in and is the shooter in a school shooting tomorrow, our popular support could drop dramatically. I think a bigger issue is that Trump has also, in some ways, cannibalized our popularity and traded on our popularity to the point where he's damaged our brand. There are a lot of people who've said to me, all things considered, a lot of groups are doing poorly under Trump but vets are doing okay. He loves vets, he donates to vets, he supports vets, and I've actually talked to philanthropic foundations that have said to me, you guys need help but you don't need it like you used to, because Trump's got you. Now Trump has also politicized the military to the point when he makes his case for the Iran war, or the Iran bombings, potentially, standing next to generals in uniform, General McConville and General Milley are flanking him.

KH: Right behind him, yeah.

PR: We also have to be wary of the fact that Trump is trading on our star power, just like he trades on anyone else's star power, and that is, I think, also something we should all be very, very careful about and looking to, because he's politicizing the military because he understand in a very astute way, that they are the ultimate populist issue. For many years, we used to say, babies, puppies and vets. In politics, babies, puppies and vets are the three things that always work. Nobody wants to slight a baby, a puppy or a vet. If you get your picture taken with any of them, it's going to go into your campaign ad, it's going to go in your commercial. There is a unique popularity of star power to veterans, and that power has to be handled carefully like any other kind of power, and especially from our commander in chief and our civilian-elected leaders.

KH: Is there anything the military itself can do about that misappropriation, or does it have to be up to the influencers like you to speak out? The generals flanking Trump when he's making overtly political speeches, do they have a choice?

PR: They absolutely do. There's a great video online. I think it's a Canadian or an Australian general, who is standing at a podium with a politician and he literally turns to him and says, "Sir, this is political," and he walks away. They can do that. That's a dramatic stance to take, but behind closed doors, they can challenge him. Mattis is gone. Mattis didn't leave because he's happy. A lot of the military leaders have left and I think it's also interesting to note, Ken, than in times like this, you don't see military leaders on the Sunday talk shows. As the drum beats continued for a war with Iran, you saw for the most part, secretary of state, Mike Pompeo. We very rarely saw secretary of defense, Mark Esper. Now you've started to see him, but you don't see the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs. General Milly is not out in front. Contrast that to Admiral Mullen or Colin Powell or Norman Schwarzkopf. Think of the days where the generals in uniform would help make the case and help communicate to the American people. Trump has really succeeded in pigeonholing them, in mushing them, in shutting them down, and on some levels, the Pentagon's been complicit. They have not been doing regular briefings. They have not made themselves available to the press corps, and therefore not available to the American people, or the military families. If your kid's on a plane in the 82nd Airborne right now to the Middle East, you're not getting regular press briefings from the Pentagon? I think that's outrageous, and I think these are the many components to the politicization of our military that is essential that people keep track of and understand, because they're very, very diabolical, politically diabolical, incredibly effective. You're going to see that on the campaign trail as Trump weaponizes guys like Eddie Gallagher. You may be out there, Ken, as a surrogate for a Democrat candidate, and on the other channel is going to be Eddie Gallagher and Pete Hegseth making their case for Donald Trump, so there's going to be a different kind of proxy war in the next couple of weeks on the campaign trail, and it's going to be political veterans against political veterans. That's going to be a whole new level of warfare, politically.

KH: You've given us a mental image that I want to leave with, which is of a four star general standing up in uniform and telling the commander in chief that he or she won't be co-opted into a political stunt. We end every show this way. What is the biggest, bravest decision that you've ever been a part of, the kind of Burn the Boat decision that we base this show on?

PR: People who know my history know that when I got home from Iraq, I spoke about my experiences. I was still in the National Guard and on May 1st, 2004, I actually did the Democratic response to the president's weekly address opposite George Bush. I wrote about it in my book, it's been well documented. I wasn't a Democrat, and I'm still not a Democrat, but I had met John Kerry and talked to some folks, and they said, "Would you like to give a speech opposite the president?" It was something that I thought was only reserved for politicians, but I got to write that speech myself. On that Sunday morning, I went into a studio and recorded a speech opposite the president. At that moment, they had legal minds on the phone with me who could not tell me if I would go to jail. They said, "We don't know if you're violating the Hatch Act. We don't know what's going to happen. Good luck." Commanding officers in my unit didn't know because there was really no legal precedent for it. Now, you've got Tulsi Gabbard who's in the National Guard and running for president. You've got a different dynamic, but in 2004, I think, when I decided to make that speech, especially because of the risk for my family, my brother used to say he was more concerned about Republican snipers than he was about Al Qaeda ones, because of what we were doing at that time, but it was a risky time. It was 2004. I was young and didn't have kids and wasn't married and probably wouldn't make the same decision now, but I knew at that moment, once I gave that speech, there was no going back. I also knew I had a squad leader at Walter Reed who lost his legs, my guys were coming home and they were struggling, and guys like Sean Hannity were telling me we had plenty of body armor, and the insurgency was in full bloom and things were going wrong in Iraq and the American public didn't know. If I could have been part of the breach element to pierce that bubble and initiate a conversation, then it was worth it, but it's kind of surreal to look back on it now after all these years.

KH: Now, we have the Afghanistan papers to put that all in stark black and white. Paul, it's been awesome having you on the show. Let's do it again.

PR: Thanks for having me, it’s a real pleasure.

KH: Thanks again to Paul for joining me. Paul hosts the Angry Americans podcast, which you can find wherever you’re listening to Burn the Boats right now. You can also find a link in the episode description below.

Today, Paul and I debated the role of anger in politics and we wanted you to weigh in. So we asked if you think anger is a destructive force or a positive one or both?

Isabel Robertson: Hi, I’m Isabel Robertson, producer of Burn the Boats. I’m in the studio here to read some of social media comments from you all on the topic of anger.

On Twitter, @eggbotme said: “Anger is only good to a certain point. As a motivational tool. However, too much anger clouds judgement.”

Over on Facebook, Sean Knight said: “Anger can be both [positive and destructive]. It depends where your anger is punching. Are you challenging systems [of] oppression and those who abuse those at the margins and bottom or are you using it to divide people...to maintain or gain power and influence.”

Also on Facebook, Joe Roth said: “Anger is an inevitable destination of discourse when two parties can’t agree. While it’s healthy to feel anger when you reach an impasse it’s important to channel that energy into productive discussion, rather than allowing emotion to dilute one’s stance and lead into a stalemate.”

Thanks so much for your thoughtful comments! You can join in the conversation yourself by finding Ken Harbaugh on Facebook or following him on Twitter at @Team_Harbaugh.

KH: Next week, I’m talking to Casey Weinstein, an Ohio state representative, and Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action. We’ll talk about the gun control debate and death threats each of them have received for standing up for what they believe.

And we want you to join our discussion. What lines do you think should never be crossed, regardless of how strongly you disagree with someone? Leave us a message at 216-245-5461 or send a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com.

Thanks to our partner, VoteVets. Their mission is to give a voice to veterans on matters of national security, veterans’ care, and issues that affect the lives of those who have served. VoteVets is backed by more than 700,000 veterans, family members, and their supporters. To learn more, go to VoteVets.org.

Burn the Boats is a production of Evergreen Podcasts. Special thanks to Evergreen executive producers Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia. Our producer is Isabel Robertson. Audio engineer is Sean Rule-Hoffman. Our theme music is Climbing to Greatness by Cody Martin.

If you enjoyed today’s episode of Burn the Boats, please rate and review us on iTunes - it really helps other listeners find the show.

I’m Ken Harbaugh and this is Burn the Boats, a podcast about big decisions.

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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

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