Above you see a picture of Colorado-politico Jared Polis in Iraq last year. The never-ending war has become a cornerstone in Polis’ Congressional campaign, perhaps because of his parents’ past opposition to the Vietnam War, a vicarious history Polis cites as one the main components of his political activism.
Of course, the war hardly counts as Polis’ only political interest. The 32-year old, who made a fortune riding the world wide web, has long been active in his state’s educational evolution, both in elected office on the Board of Education and through his own eponymous foundation. The Colorado native also toots his environmentalist horn.
In fact, the issue is number one on his website:
Preserving our natural resources for future generations is a critical priority. As a matter of personal and collective integrity, we need to stand up for the environment by initiating and supporting policies that emphasize sustainability through innovation and collaboration.
That said, it comes as no surprise that a report on Polis’ previous oil and mining investments caused a bit of stir yesterday.
Polis addressed that report in this exclusive interview with our editor, Andrew Belonsky. The boys talked more than just investments, of course, like Polis’ Barack Obama endorsement, how Colorado reflects the United States and, yes, whether this peace-loving Boulder-resident has ever taken a toke.
Read all about it, after the jump…
Andrew Belonsky: Your campaign website cites your parents’ anti-war activism as a political inspiration, but, more than that, why are you running for office?
Jared Polis: Sure, really to make a difference. I really enjoyed the work Iâ€™ve done running some schools as superintendent and starting some companies, but a lot of the issues that I care about, that are our future, that are our planetsâ€™ future, depend upon our political issues that need to be addressed in Congress. Thatâ€™s really the only place you can have a real impact on ending the war in Iraq and protecting the planet from global warming. In my own desire to give back, to making the world a better place and making sure that everybody has hope and opportunity, I decided that running for a public office and serving in Congress would be the best way to do that.
AB: I understand you have foundations that benefit educational purposes, but couldnâ€™t you â€“ as weâ€™ve seen since Bill Clinton left the White House and as weâ€™ve seen with a lot of gay philanthropists, you can make quite a difference in the private sector with foundations and raising money. Is Congress really the most effective?
JP: There are all different ways to make a difference and, as Iâ€™ve said, Iâ€™m thrilled to have started and run some public charter schools that have served over 1,000 new immigrants and helped them learn English. Iâ€™ve been very active in the LGBT equality movement here in Colorado. I was one of the major donors to Referendum I, which would have established domestic partnership. It narrowly failed, but we came very close. Iâ€™ve been very active on that side of things, but, again, thereâ€™s only one place that you can go to end this war in Iraq. Thereâ€™s one place you go to have a real impact on global warming. Thereâ€™s one place you can go to have universal equal rights for gays and lesbians and transgendered people and thatâ€™s Congress. Thatâ€™s federal action. While having influence on the outside is important and we need people to do that, and while working on a state and local level is also critical, somebody needs to step up and run for Congress and show leadership on that level. And I have an opportunity to do that with an open seat. Our member of Congress is leaving to run for Senate.
AB: And do you ever get any arguments that youâ€™re too young?
JP: You know, I think it has more to do with qualifications and what somebody has done in the past than oneâ€™s age, per se. Iâ€™ve been in elected office; Iâ€™ve served on the state Board of Education; Iâ€™ve been chairman of the state Board of Education; Iâ€™ve started businesses; Iâ€™ve served on environmental boards, like Colorado Conservation Voters. I donâ€™t think thereâ€™s any doubt about my qualifications for this position. That being said, I donâ€™t think that age will be much of an issue. You know, it could also resonate with some, because Iâ€™m twenty years younger than the other candidates and I think some people feel that weâ€™re ready for a new generation of leadership.
AB: About Colorado – itâ€™s a very interesting state. Itâ€™s the epicenter of the American Evangelical movement and it was essential in – what was it, Amendment 2â€¦
JP: Yes, Amendment 2, which banned anti-discrimination statutes from local jurisdictions.
AB: Until it was overturned. But now we have people like you. Tim Gill is based in Colorado, Jon Stryker’s sister, Pat â€“ leaders in the gay rights movement. The state has been leading the movement.
JP: I think Colorado is in a lot of ways a microcosm of the whole country. We have a liberal college town that I happen to live in, Boulder; we have a major urban city, Denver; we have areas where the far right and the radical Christian right holds sway. Itâ€™s a very diverse state and, like the country, itâ€™s hard to pigeonhole it. But, also like the country, Colorado has been evolving in a more tolerant direction. Iâ€™ve certainly been a part of that through my efforts in the equality movement. We have a long way to go. We donâ€™t have domestic partnership in this state. We just achieved work place protection, but we have a long way to go, because there are many parts of this state where there is still rampant discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.