Burn the Boats

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

Episode Date
Bonus: Gen. Stanley McChrystal on Confederate Symbols
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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”.
Aug 05, 2020
Pete Buttigieg: On Moving Forward
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Pete Buttigieg, former candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, talks about his campaign and the choice to end it, patriotism and hopes for the future of our country, and the need for America to rebuild trust. Learn more about Pete’s new PAC at wintheera.com and by watching his Twitter feed at @PeteButtigieg.
Jul 29, 2020
Max Rose and Ali Soufan: Fighting White Supremacist Terrorism
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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. Max is a Congressman representing New York’s 11th district, which includes all of Staten Island and parts of southern Brooklyn. Find him on Twitter at @RepMaxRose. A former FBI agent, Ali is now the Chairman and CEO of The Soufan Group, a global intelligence and security consultancy. Find Ali on Twitter at @Ali_H_Soufan. In this episode, Ken references an op-ed co-authored by Max and Ali this February. Read “We Once Fought Jihadists. Now We Battle White Supremacists.” on the New York Times website.
Jul 15, 2020
Sarah Longwell: How to Save the GOP
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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. Sarah is the publisher of the Bulwark, co-founder of Republicans for the Rule of Law, past board chair of the Log Cabin Republicans, and CEO of DC-based communications firm Longwell Partners. You can follow Sarah on Twitter at @SarahLongwell25.
Jul 01, 2020
Pride Month: Gina Ortiz Jones
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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. Gina Ortiz Jones is an Air Force veteran, intelligence officer, and candidate for US Representative in Texas’s 23rd congressional district. Learn more on Gina's website and find her on Twitter at @GinaOrtizJones and on Facebook.
Jun 24, 2020
Fred Guttenberg: Father of Two
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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. Fred’s organization is called Orange Ribbons for Jaime and you can find them on Twitter at @Ribbons4Jaime . You can find Fred himself on Twitter at @fred_guttenberg.
Jun 17, 2020
Mansoor Shams: Muslim Marine
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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. Mansoor is a veteran, speaker, leader, and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. You can learn more about his work at MuslimMarine.org and follow him on Twitter at @MansoorTShams.
Jun 03, 2020
Soledad O’Brien: Journalism’s ‘Tough Love’ Critic
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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. Soledad is the CEO of Starfish Media Group and host of Matter of Fact, airing Sundays on the Hearst network. You can learn more about her work at soledadobrienproductions.com and follow her on Twitter at @SoledadOBrien.
May 20, 2020
Amy McGrath: From the Marine Corps to the Campaign Trail
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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.

Amy is a former Marine fighter pilot currently running against Republican incumbent and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell for his Senate seat in Kentucky. You can learn more about her campaign at AmyMcGrath.com and follow her on Twitter at @AmyMcGrathKY.

May 06, 2020
Joe Sanberg: Seeking Financial Security for All
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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.

Joe is the founder of Working Hero PAC, which supports elected officials and candidates who champion policies that will help end poverty. He is also the co-founder of Aspiration.com, a socially conscious online financial company. Learn more about Joe on his website, joesanberg.com, and follow him on Twitter at @JosephNSanberg.

Apr 22, 2020
Patrick Murphy: Constitutional Crisis and the US Military
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“I have full faith and confidence in our military. Our military is apolitical...They serve the Constitution and the people of the United States of America. They don't serve at the whims of whoever is in charge in the White House.” - Hon. Patrick Murphy

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 Constitution conflict with orders from the president.

Hon. Patrick Murphy is a former soldier and acting Secretary of the Army under President Obama. He was the first Iraq War veteran in Congress, where he represented Pennsylvania’s 8th district. You can learn more on Patrick’s website and follow him on Twitter at @PatrickMurphyPA.

Apr 08, 2020
Ryan Manion: Harnessing Grief to Do Good
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“It didn't feel right for me to be diagnosed with PTSD. What did I experience that was worthy of me getting a diagnosis like that? These men and women are over there dealing with incredibly complex issues. I'm just over here sitting in my middle-class suburban house and I'm told my brother’s been killed. But like, it didn't feel right.” - Ryan Manion

Ryan Manion talks about losing her brother to war, about her own PTSD diagnosis, and about harnessing her brother’s memory to do good.

Ryan Manion is the president of the Travis Manion Foundation, an organization that aims to empower veterans and the families of fallen heroes to “develop character in future generations”. Learn more about TMF at travismanion.org. You can find Ryan on Twitter at @rmanion and follow the Travis Manion Foundation at @TMFoundation.

Mar 25, 2020
Voting Rights Special with Demos and the ACLU
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Voting is foundational to our democracy. It's what our Constitution, our system of government, is built upon, that every eligible person has one vote. And that's how ultimately our leaders are elected and how important decisions are made. So we should want everyone to vote.” - Ben Guess, ACLU of Ohio

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.

Naila Awan is a civil and human rights lawyer and senior counsel at Demos. Demos is a progressive think tank based in New York City whose mission is to “power the movement for a just, inclusive, multiracial democracy” through litigation, campaigning, and policy research. Find her on Twitter at @NailaSAwan and follow Demos at @Demos_Org.

Ben Guess is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Ohio. The ACLU of Ohio is a state affiliate of the national ACLU, whose mission is “realizing the promise of the Bill of Rights for all and expanding the reach of its guarantees.” Follow the ACLU of Ohio on Twitter at @ACLUOhio and on Instagram at @ACLUoh.

Disclaimer: Isabel Robertson, the producer of Burn the Boats, is on the Board of Directors of the ACLU of Ohio. She is also a named petitioner for the Ohioans for Secure and Fair Elections voting modernization ballot measure that Ben Guess discusses in this episode.

Mar 11, 2020
Shannon Watts and Casey Weinstein: The Dangers of Fighting for Gun Safety
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I really had to make a decision quickly, which was, am I going to be intimidated and afraid and stand down and not do this work or am I going to double down and let that become white noise and just forge ahead and refuse to be silenced and intimidated and I chose the latter.” - Shannon Watts

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.

Shannon founded Moms Demand Action in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting in 2012. It has since grown to a grassroots movement with nearly 6 million supporters in the Everytown for Gun Safety network. You can find Shannon herself on Twitter and Instagram at @ShannonRWatts and her organization at @MomsDemand.

Casey was elected to represent District 37 in the Ohio House of Representatives in 2018, flipping the seat from Republican to Democrat. You can find him on Twitter at @RepWeinstein.

Participate in our voting rights special episode! Naila Awan from Demos and Ben Guess from the ACLU of Ohio talk to us about the importance of full voting rights for all and we want to know what the right to vote means to you. Let us know by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com.

Feb 26, 2020
Paul Rieckhoff: The Power of Righteous Anger
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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.

Feb 12, 2020
Bill Kristol: The Crisis within the Republican Party
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"We have two parties and it's kind of important that both of them be moderately responsible. It would be bad for the country to have one that is simply nativist and authoritarian. We can't be sure that they'll always lose. We can't be sure that they won't affect the behavior of others, including others not in their party, that they won't degrade all the standards of politics. So I’m with you, it’s a crisis." - Bill Kristol

Bill Kristol, founder of The Weekly Standard and chief of staff to Vice President Dan Quayle 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.

Bill Kristol is a conservative political commentator who served in two presidential administrations and has recently been outspoken in his criticism of Donald Trump and his administration. Bill is the host of Conversations with Bill Kristol, a video and podcast series, and he is the director of the conservative advocacy organization Defending Democracy Together. Find Bill on Twitter at @BillKristol

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 8 of Burn the Boats with Paul Rieckhoff by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous) and whether you think anger is a destructive force or a positive one in politics - or both!

Jan 29, 2020
Mary Beth Bruggeman: Inclusion, Leadership, and Service
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Diversity can be captured in a snapshot, in a photograph. But inclusion is all about finding that authenticity and bringing it fully to the table, and that is not an easy thing to achieve when you've built hundreds of years of culture around normalizing and equalizing people's character traits.” - Mary Beth Bruggeman

Mary 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.

Find The Mission Continues on Twitter at @missioncontinue and Mary Beth herself at @mb_bruggeman. Watch Mary Beth’s TED Talk on YouTube. You can learn more about The Mission Continues on their website, https://missioncontinues.org/

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 7 of Burn the Boats with Bill Kristol by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous) and tell us what you think is the biggest obstacle our country faces to having balanced and responsible political parties.

Jan 15, 2020
Bonus: Adam Frankel on Writing for Obama
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The words themselves are not the hard part. It's being able to empathize, to connect that is the most important part of being a speechwriter, and then the words themselves will just follow.” - Adam Frankel

In this bonus episode, Ken continues his conversation with Adam Frankel, talking about what it was like to write speeches for President Obama.

Adam Frankel was a senior speechwriter for President Obama and is an advisor to Emerson Collective and Fenway Strategies. His memoir, The Survivors, is available on Amazon. You can learn more about Adam on his website, https://www.adampfrankel.com/, and follow him on Twitter at @apfrankel.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 6 of Burn the Boats with Mary Beth Bruggeman by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us about a time when your identity or background brought something valuable to the table in a new community.

Jan 01, 2020
Adam Frankel: Healing Family Trauma through Honesty
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“I realized early on as I started trying to grapple with the trauma of the Holocaust in my family, I realized that my way through it, my way of processing it and managing it was by being as honest as I could and that I needed to be as honest as I could.” - Adam Frankel

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.

Adam Frankel was a senior speechwriter for President Obama and is an advisor to Emerson Collective and Fenway Strategies. His book, The Survivors, is available on Amazon. You can learn more about Adam on his website, https://www.adampfrankel.com/, and follow him on Twitter at @apfrankel.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 6 of Burn the Boats with Mary Beth Bruggeman by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us about a time when your identity or background brought something valuable to the table in a new community.

This episode of Burn the Boats is sponsored by Storied Hats: high-quality baseball hats from sustainable materials, crafted in ethical facilities – and always without a logo. Burn the Boats listeners get free shipping and 15% off with the code BOATS.

Dec 18, 2019
Bonus: The Rights of American Samoans
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"After 18 years of service, realizing then that I was no longer considered a citizen was a slap in the face and overwhelming and- Realizing at that moment in time that I was considered a non-citizen was, it was heartbreaking to be honest." - Staff Sergeant Jeniffer Afualo-Robinson

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.

Find Equally American at www.equalrightsnow.org to keep up with their fight.

Join in our discussion! Participate in Episode 5 of Burn the Boats with Adam Frankel by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us if your family has benefited from having an honest but difficult conversation, like Adam’s conversations about the Holocaust, mental illness, and generational trauma.

This episode of Burn the Boats is sponsored by Storied Hats: high-quality baseball hats from sustainable materials, crafted in ethical facilities – and always without a logo. Burn the Boats listeners get free shipping and 15% off with the code BOATS.

Dec 12, 2019
Joe Sestak: Individual Rights and the Common Good
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I think we need to remember that this great Constitution of ours that talks about individual rights, but also talks about the general welfare- those are the two great characteristics of our nation. Individual rights to be all you might be, but always aligned with the common good, the common effort.”  - Admiral Joe Sestak

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.

Joe Sestak is a politician and retired US Navy officer. He was the first president of FIRST Global, a nonprofit that promotes STEM education and careers in the developing world through robotics competitions. Joe was a Democratic candidate for president until he dropped out of the race earlier this month. Learn more about Joe on his website, www.joesestak.com. Follow him on Twitter at @JoeSestak and on Facebook.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 5 of Burn the Boats with Adam Frankel by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us if your family has benefited from having an honest but difficult conversation, like Adam’s conversations about the Holocaust, mental illness, and generational trauma.

Dec 11, 2019
Gina Ortiz Jones: Overcoming Barriers to Serve Her Country
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“I had to sign a piece of paper that said I would not engage in homosexual behavior. And knew that obviously I could lose my scholarship if it was ever found out that I was gay. But still the opportunity to serve was something that I felt called to do and compelled to do and honored to do.” - Gina Ortiz Jones

Gina Ortiz Jones, veteran and Congressional candidate in Texas’s 23rd district, talks about the tough decision her mother made to immigrate to the U.S. from the Philippines, the challenges of being an LGBT service member under Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, and her difficult race to represent her district.

Gina Ortiz Jones is an Air Force veteran, intelligence officer, and candidate for US Representative in Texas’s 23rd congressional district. Learn more on Gina's website and find her on Twitter at @GinaOrtizJones and on Facebook.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 4 of Burn the Boats featuring former Admiral Joe Sestak by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us about a person in your life who inspires you with their strength and resilience.

Dec 04, 2019
Mikie Sherrill: Challenging Authority and Reaching Across the Aisle
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“I get asked frequently, "would you sit down with the president to talk about infrastructure?" And I've always said "yes, of course." You know, just because I disagree with somebody, doesn't mean I'm not going to do everything I can to fight for the things that people in my district need.” - Rep. Mikie Sherrill

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.

Mikie is the Representative for New Jersey’s 11th Congressional District. She sits on the House Armed Services Committee and the House Science, Space, and Technology Committee, where she is the Chairwoman of the Oversight and Investigations. Learn more about Mikie at her website, https://sherrill.house.gov/, and follow her on Twitter at @RepSherrill.

Participate in Episode 3 of Burn the Boats, featuring Gina Ortiz Jones, by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and tell us about a time when two parts of your identity seemed to be in conflict, or when you felt you had to choose between different parts of yourself.

Nov 27, 2019
Michael Gerson: Faith, Friendship, and Empathy in Today’s Political Climate
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There’s a capacity for intolerance in every religious faith and there’s a message of brotherhood and unity in every faith. The key comes to emphasizing one at the expense of the other. And that’s maybe just the way human beings are constituted.” - Michael Gerson

Michael Gerson was a presidential speechwriter for George W. Bush and is now a powerful voice of dissent in the Republican establishment. Michael talks to Ken about what led him down this path of dissent, about the role of faith in motivating his decision to speak out, and about where he thinks our country is headed. 

Michael is a syndicated op-ed columnist for the Washington Post and host of “In Principle” on PBS. He is the author of “Heroic Conservatism” and co-author of “City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era” and you can find him on Twitter at @MJGerson.

Join in the discussion! Participate in Episode 2 of Burn the Boats by leaving a voicemail at 216-245-5461 or sending a voice memo to burntheboats@evergreenpodcasts.com. Tell us your first name (or anonymous, if you prefer) and, in about 30-60 seconds, tell us about a time when you made a tough decision to stand up against leadership.

Nov 20, 2019
Coming Soon!
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Burn the Boats is a podcast about big decisions, those we face when failure is not an option. Decisions like Alexander the Great made when he landed his troops on the shores of Persia and ordered his men to burn their 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.

Oct 29, 2019