(Pardon the political context in a time when we should refrain from politics, but I use my lengthy political consulting career to make a few non-political points.)
Recently, a buddy of mine remarked, “Phil, how many people can say they got a Member of Congress to go to church and brunch with them like you did?” I said, “I don’t care that she is a Member of Congress. I just wanted to spend quality time with a friend in faith and fellowship. If you think I stand in awe and reverence of a title or office, you don’t know me at all. Heck, I was the only person that did not even want her to run for higher office.”
When I was an ambitious 20-year old, I would be confused about why some folks did not run for office or higher office when they could easily win because the spouse was not on board. Now in my 30s, I know better. Take away the 24/7 Hollywood-like atmosphere and cable news media circus (that has done more to poison politics and warp the priorities of the star-struck youth more than anything else in the modern era…it has turned politics into sports for nerds) and being an elected official is a job.
Like other jobs, it is a job that can suck. It has ridiculous hours and demands. You might want to have a home cooked meal with friends and family on a Saturday night, but if the local senior center has an event, guess where you need to be? The stress is almost unbearable for those with geographically large districts. Sometimes, a husband just wants to chill with his wife and vice-versa, hence the case with spouses vetoing a political career. I understand now and that is perfectly alright.
I was at a family dinner somewhere in Maryland recently and someone tried to facetiously jump the line at the serving table by saying, “[elected official] in the house!” The spouse said, “that ain’t going to work around here. Get in line like everybody else!”
There are five takeaways.
1. Sometimes I wish my friends (all of them female…see #2) ran for dog catcher so they could know who really cares about them and who just wants to rub elbows with the Washington elite and brag about their involvement on the campaign on the Cocktail Party circuit to advance their careers and boost their egos.
Some of my friends are associated with the Washington elite. I don’t hold that against them, but I never fit in comfortably with the stuffy, aristocratic Washington-centric suburbs west of DC. I am a down home, blue collar Baltimore guy myself. The point is that I have been in the room with you-name-it celebrity but at the end of the day, the photo I want to place on my shelf is the photo with my friend, not whats-his-name celebrity.
Similar to how big time college football players find out who their real friends are after their careers end (I have some first-hand experience with this), politicians will find out who their real friends are when they are just starting out as a “nobody” in politics or when they are no longer viable.
As for me, I would build a website for my friend’s dog catcher campaign better and with more enthusiasm than I would for a viable “celebrity” Presidential candidate who is a stranger to me. A photo op with a friend of mine will always be more prized than a photo op with some political “celebrity” who commands $5000 for VIP access at a fundraiser. A real friend doesn’t care about your fame, fortune, and trappings thereof. A real friend is reliable, dependable, and likes you for being you.
When the lights are turned out and the party is over, I will still be there.
2. When I was younger and up to this point (Way past my expiration date…Thank you Maryland for believing in me after my unexpected nuclear fallout in Virginia politics on Christmas Eve 2013…Virginia’s loss is Maryland’s gain), working in politics was fun. I can’t turn down a “Vote for Mom” campaign or the occasional “Vote for my Crazy Sister” campaign.
In case you haven’t figured it out by now, I love the ladies! The vast majority of my friends in politics are female and yes, I have been told many times that I have “The World’s Most Beautiful Client Roster.” Take that as a compliment, ladies.
I had a great time, but the older you get, the younger they get. I am a recovering political junkie who is almost reformed and have long said to myself that I am not going to be 40 and be emotionally invested in a candidate who is 30. I’ll fight for Maryland, the motherland, and will keep building quality websites for elected officials and candidates of all ages which is what I do best in politics. However, I quit national politics in 2010, lost any nostalgia I had for my Capitol Hill days long gone, made all the friends I could possibly want in politics, and found it is high time to do something for myself. No, this is not an announcement of my own candidacy for office! Heavens, no.
3. This one is a bit controversial. The older I get and the more I become part of the “elders”, the less inclined I am to call an elected official by the title and more by just the first name. I know there is protocol in certain contexts that should be followed, but if an elected official is offended by you calling them by their first name instead of their title, it speaks more about their delusions of grandeur than your irreverence.
4. You decide alone who is a valued and worthy friend in your life. Don’t let the opinions of 125,000 nameless and faceless voters or fans affect your feelings toward your friend, whether positively or negatively – especially positively, because if your opinion of a friend elevates because she got 125,000 strangers to vote for her, you are a fair weather friend and a hanger-on.
I have had working relationships with Governors and U.S. Representatives who I would never invite to dinner at the house. On the other hand, one of my favorites in the whole wide world did not win her primary for the Maryland House of Delegates.
The positive or negative opinions of strangers will never affect the unconditional dedication I have for a friend. Upon further inspection, someone already walked this earth preaching and living this example and He called on us to do the same.
5. In the end, we are all the same when we meet Our Maker. There will be no distinction between Presidents and peasants (Galatians 3:28). Titles will be completely irrelevant. There will just be the Name above all names. These are the biggest questions He will pose. Did you believe? Did this belief transform your life and manifest itself in you through love?
Believe. Love recklessly. Keep it real.
Merry Christmas. <><