PHILADELPHIA—U.S. Congressional Representative Jared Polis '96 is the first openly gay man elected to Congress as well as one of its wealthiest members. He created successful businesses,founded charter schools andchaired the Colorado Board of Education. Polis talked with the 'Prince' during the Democratic National Convention about the University's influence on his career, Bernie Sanders supporters and Hillary Clinton's presidential bid.
The Daily Princetonian: How did your time at Princeton build a foundation for your current work in public service?
Jared Polis: Well, I'd say the people I met at Princeton, we had about five or six of us that met up here at the convention. One of my classmates is a colleague of mine in Congress, Derek Kilmer '96. And of course through my liberal arts education, you know, it helped prepare me for a complicated world, and of course I took to heart the motto, "…in the nation's service," and am doing my best every day to be in the nation's service.
DP:You served as the communications director ofUndergraduate Student Governmentwhile you were at Princeton. How did student government translate into real government for you?
JP:It was a long time ago. Yeah, I was actually in student government, and I see a certain responsibility to be involved at any level you can. Just as I was interested in what was going on with student activities at Princeton, I'm interested in the direction of our country and the communities I represent.
DP: How has your background in entrepreneurship influenced your policy-making?
JP: It's a good skillset to bring to Washington. Frankly, there aren't enough entrepreneurs and small business people in Congress, and I enjoy sharing my perspective as somebody who started and ran several small businesses with my colleagues.
DP:In more detail, what kinds of benefits have you seen?
JP: Everything from policies around how we can improve capital markets to... employment law to Internet freedoms. Really, our success in small companies as entrepreneurs touches a lot of different areas of law that I'm able to constantly affect as a member of Congress. I'm getting ready for the fifth annual Startup Day across America, a bipartisan cause that I started several years ago where we have several dozen members of Congress and the Senate out visiting startups in their districts across the country.
DP: A big focus area for you has been education. What do you hope that the next President does with regard to this issue?
JP: I've been very thrilled that there's a Students for Education Reform chapter at Princeton, and it's been fun to interact with them over the years. I hope that we can continue our commitment to ensure that every child in our country has access to a quality public school, regardless of their zip code, their ethnicity, their income. And we need to make college more affordable.
DP: How do you think the protests by Bernie supporters throughout the convention will affect the presidential race?
JP:Oh yeah, there were a few times they started chanting something and then everybody else started chanting, "USA, USA." I couldn't even hear what they were saying. Then we all started saying "USA, USA" instead.
DP: So you don't necessarily think they're having a big impact on the race.
JP:No, I haven't heard them… maybe they were outside somewhere, but I haven't heard much.
DP: As the first openly gay man to be elected to Congress, what advice would you give to members of underrepresented groups who are seeking office?
JP: Really, I think that Congress is at its best when it represents our country in every way and looks like America. That means we need more representation from traditionally underrepresented communities, whether they're communities of color or the LGBT community.
DP: Any last words on the prospect of the first African-American president being succeeded by the first female president?
JP: It's gonna happen.
DP: OK, great. Thank you. Is there anything else you'd like to add?
JP: On that same topic, it was really emotional to see that amazing montage of all of the white male presidents, of course followed by our first African-American president, followed by of course, hopefully, Hillary Clinton. It was a very powerful montage they displayed at the convention center [Tuesday] night.
DP: In light of all the unexpected challenges that have cropped up during this presidential race, what do you think that Hillary Clinton needs to do to ensure her victory in the coming months?
JP: She just needs to continue to be as authenticas who she is, an inspiring leader, someone of great integrity, intelligence, who's prepared to be effective as our next President from day one.