You first may have heard of James T. Harris as "James from Sherman Park," a caller to local radio shows. Always enthusiastic and informative as a caller, Harris, a former teacher and current corporate and motivational speaker and consultant, got the call, if you will, to be a talk show host due to the quality of this comments.
Today, he's a bright, younger voice on WTMJ-AM radio. Talking about a wide range of issues, ideas and options, his "National Conversation" radio show appears from 1-3 p.m. Saturday and 6- 9 p.m. Sunday (he also fills in on weekdays).
Harris is "quintessential Milwaukee through and through," lives in the City with his family, collaboratively works for change and, through his show and speaking, works to get others to better understand generational differences.
He's political, passionate and lively. And, in this Milwaukee Talks he discusses his conservative views, Brett Favre, what Milwaukee needs, Barack Obama and more.
OMC: Give us the two to three-minute James T. Harris bio.
James Harris: Child of one Randy and Dessie Harris. First generation born here in Milwaukee -- my parents are from Mississippi. Grew up on the northwest side of Milwaukee, attending Browning High School, and then John Muir Junior High School, and then I started to stretch as I decided to go to Tech -- Milwaukee Tech -- instead of the neighborhood Madison High School. Quintessential Milwaukee through and through. I love the city. Grew up here. Thought I was going to get away for a minute -- I moved and actually went to school in Madison. That didn't work out. After a couple of semesters, I decided to leave before they kicked me out.
Ended up in Champagne, Illinois for a couple of years, but then came back to Milwaukee to finish school, and ended up graduating from -- eventually from -- Cardinal Stritch, by way of UW-Milwaukee and then a year overseas at University of Nottingham, England. I then came home and worked for a little bit before I met my beautiful wife. Almost left again, then when I met her, the grass was greener and the sky was bluer. Started having babies, and now (my) parents are just seven minutes away, so Milwaukee is a place that I couldn't imagine being anywhere else right now because all of my community, church, family, friends are all within about a ten-mile radius. So, love the city.
OMC: Tell me about your first job.
JH: The first job I ever -- paying job, where I had to pay the government and they got their money first -- I was a dishwasher for a restaurant up near Northridge. It's not there anymore, but I remember my first job, my first night as a dishwasher, I got snowed, I believe is the term. There were pots and pans as far as the eye could see -- on the floor, going back and I remember having that deep, sinking feeling like I was never going to get out of this, and a guy came over, and just helped me out. I worked there for about six months before I realized, "I can't do this. I'm not cut out for this." But that was the first job, and from there, I went on to, basically through my college years, I worked as a busboy or a waiter in different types of establishments.
OMC: What about post-college? Did you know when you were going to school what you wanted to be when you grew up?
JH: Absolutely not. That's probably why I floundered in Madison. After three semesters there, it came down to me ordering my pizza while wearing my Nino Cerruti plaid shorts waiting for him to square, you know, in the fountain. Literally in the fountain. That's when I knew that things weren't going well. I went on hiatus -- when I went to Illinois actually. I had a couple of roommates who helped me get myself together.
I was very undisciplined. One was studying Bio-Chem to get his doctorate in Bio-Chem, and the other was getting his Masters in English as a Second Language, and they kind of provided the structure that I was missing. I didn't know what I wanted to do until I came back to Milwaukee and had a back injury. I ended up having to have back surgery and I came home, and talked to my best friend's mother about things I was gifted and talented with, and things that I really loved.
OMC: When was that?
JH: This would have been 1986-'87. In '87 I injured myself and came home. I recuperated most of '87 and went back to school in '88. When I went back, I went back with purpose. I went back with mission. So, my GPA had to be like 1.6 when I left Madison. I escaped. And then when I went back to school, I got it up to 3.6. I mean, I lived in Golda Meir Library. I was studying history, sociology and education. I wanted to teach. Go on to teach history.
Once that was decided, I was able to focus on that goal. Still took a little time though. I went to school in England in December of '88. I came back, and in that time period made a transition to Cardinal Stritch because I was getting the run around at UWM. I just felt like I had to jump through this hoop, jump through that hoop. I figured I pay more and be able to concentrate and get out, because the nuns at Cardinal Stritch -- they don't play. So I made that switch when I came back from England in the autumn of '89 -- I started at Stritch and knocked it out in about two years.
OMC: Where was your first teaching job?
JH: I did a cooperative teaching job at West Bend West High School. By this time it was late in the day man, I was about 23-24 years old ... actually, I was older than that. I didn't want to do student teaching, so I looked for an opportunity that would pay me to get that training, which was a coop and cooperative style in West Bend. Did that, and immediately came back to Milwaukee, finished up the schoolwork, and my first and only teaching job was at Brown Deer High School from 1991-2000.
OMC: Now your have a leadership development and speaking business, right? Did that evolve out of the teaching?
JH: Teaching prepared me, man, for speaking. You had to try to teach history to a bunch of kids who didn't want to be there at 8 in the morning. So, you kind of have to find a way to entertain them, to make it interesting. So, about four years into my teaching, remember I told you I started out at West Bend West, I worked with freshmen. Those freshmen invited me back to be their commencement speaker, which was still the biggest honor in my teaching career.
I did their commencement address and afterwards there was a woman in the audience from The West Bend Company, and she asked me, "Do you speak professionally?" ... and up until that point, Jeff, the ideal of, "People get paid for this? Are you serious?" So I lied and had to say "yes, I am." I went home and had some cards made up, you know. (Laughs)
My first professional speaking job was as a teacher. I spoke to West Bend Company, and they were doing issues on diversity. I kind of took a different view on it, put together an address, and they hired me. And then in the West Bend area, I started to get more gigs -- maybe two or three a year that I would do in the evenings.
Over the years, they started to pick up more and more until it got to a point where I had to make a choice, because I didn't want to take days off -- I didn't want to "double dip" as they would say. So it came down to, "Do you really want to give a go at this or do you want to stay in the teaching profession?" and all signs were saying, you know, "go for it." So, I stepped out in 2000 and started the first incarnation of my business, Culture shock, and now, five years later, I changed it to Illumination.
OMC: From the speaking circuit to your current talk show, were there stops in between there?
JH: There were many! I listened to talk radio and that actually started when I was in West Bend, when I would drive home from the teaching gig in West Bend. I'd have the radio on, and I discovered the last three minutes of Rush Limbaugh driving back from West bend, and I'm like, "who is this guy?" And right after that, you know, Mark Belling came on and I started to listen to that, and that's how I first got involved -- listening to talk radio driving back and forth from West Bend.
In that period listening to Belling, you had Charlie Sykes sit in for him, Jeff Wagner sit in for him, and they went over to WTMJ, so I would find myself listening in the morning, and listening in the evening, just listening to talk radio for a couple of years. Then I got to the point where I would call in on an issue, and I would call all the local talk shows -- if I was listening and driving in my car, and they gave out a number, I'd call, and after years of doing that ... in the summer of 2006, I was calling in to Jeff Wagner -- it was when the Crocodile Hunter died: Steve Irwin -- and I called in to respond to that, and the producer of the show said, "Oh, what's your name?" I responded with James from Sherman Park -- that was my moniker.'
I called in as James from Sherman Park, and he said, "Dude, we've been trying to get a hold of you, cuz you've been calling in here for years." He went on to say that there was something about the way you articulate your topics, how you stand, we were wondering if we could talk to you. So, I gave him my number and he called back a few days later, and they said, "We were wondering if you would be interested in co-hosting a show ... with me."
It was actually Executive Producer Joe Scialfa and I thought, "Are you kidding? What?" I thought really maybe they had been on the Web site and saw my company and maybe some type of benefit or something, but never expected him to say, "Would you be interested in co-hosting." Then he was honest and said that if this works out there could be ... we think you have a voice that the community would like to hear, and if it works out, there could be a show in it.
And that's how it started. I'd been calling in for years, they invited me to sit in on a couple of shows -- I co-hosted seven shows with Joe Scialfa, and they gave me a solo opportunity. The Bucks Game ran into overtime, so I was only on for about six minutes. I went to a commercial break thinking that I'd be back after the break, and they said, "No, it's over." I was like "What? What? Oh, thank you, good night!" And then they started to give me Sunday evening opportunities. It just worked up to the point where I filled in for Jeff Wagner, and weekend shows -- Saturday afternoons and Sunday evenings. It was just like that.
OMC: What's been the biggest surprise and biggest challenge of being a talk show host?
JH: I was surprised by how quickly people hate me, to be honest. And I was also shocked by people who thought I was a fraud -- like I'm acting this way just to get notoriety. That completely took me by surprise. People that I had known for a couple of years were e-mailing me, and they were like, "Congratulations, but you're a sellout." And I'm like, "I'm just sayin' the things that I've always believed in. I'm shocked." And I still am. Whenever people e-mail me and it's like a hate-fest.
I think me being on radio started at the same time as the blog ... actually, I was blogging before the radio ... a little bit before the radio, and I'm just, you know, responding. Current events class ... I was a current events teacher ... just talking about what was happening. And it didn't get too many hits then, but then of course once the radio, things picked up, but that's the biggest thing that shocked me. The negative response.
And then the second thing is, you know ... life is show prep. I'll talk about stories that happen, and the family responds. Ho! You know? My mom or my sister calling me -- why'd you talk about that. "But it happened!" "You shouldn't be puttin' family business..." "Oh my God!" So, the personal stuff, and sometimes when you get in to a very controversial story, you know, people are crazy, and I'm always in the city, and you're always afraid of who may roll up on you. I got kids. You know, how much of this do I wanna ... I definitely don't want my words to impact on their lives negatively. It's going to happen to a certain degree, but when you start getting into personal safety ... some issues have come up over the past year and a half with some things that I've muddled into. That's been surprising.
The other thing, I'm kind of shocked ... WTMJ is the biggest station in the state ... and you know, it maybe sounds odd. I knew that when I went into this, but the impact of the words you're saying are being broadcast all over the state -- Michigan, Illinois. It still surprises me -- continuously surprises me -- that people are listening. I love the positive feedback ... I love the negative feedback, as well. Sometimes we'll get into it, because it's all about conversation. I just try to keep it about conversation. The widespread distribution of my ideas has been humbling.
OMC: Can you talk a little bit about the roots of your political beliefs and how you'd explain them to someone?
JH: The one thing I do try to do with national conversation ... I'm a conservative. I've voted Republican my whole adult life, but I grew up in a Democratic household, and what happened to us, actually, being exposed to different ideas, and these two friends who were my roommates whom I mentioned earlier, they were ... we were ... I don't know if political as much as our ideas were rooted out of our world view, which is rooted in that of our religion. Because we all practice the same religion.
So, I realize that there's people who are of a different political ilk who also are very religious, which makes the conversation all the more interesting to me. But, I can only say that my show is based off of the beliefs that I have, and they were forged through -- first being given to me and shaped by my family, and then forged through my different life experiences -- through college, through traveling throughout the world.
Although I studied in England, I traveled throughout Eastern and Western Europe before and after communism, through Africa, India, Turkey, and the people that I met and every conversation I had helped shape how I see the world. What I try to do with the national conversation radio show, is that I bring that stuff in.
But one of the things that I also try to do is to bring responsible religious conversation back to the national conversation. It's been purged, and usually when we do talk about it, it's laced with hate. I try not to do that. I really try to get people to think consciously about why they believe the things that they do and what it's linked to ... and to help them have that color their world view and how they approach life.
So, I called my radio show "The Biggest Current Events Class in Wisconsin." And one of the things I also try to do is to help people bring that whole element of my speaker side, where I deal with generations and history. And bring that into the conversation as well. And, so, what is it rooted on? Man, I'm in Milwaukee, my parents are from the South, we have that whole component.
One of my unexpressed goals is to get people of different ethnic backgrounds to talk together and to commiserate with each other, and all of that is rooted out of my world view, you know, that's been shaped by the church, that's been shaped by my family, that's been shaped by travel and education.
OMC: If you had a magic wand and you could change three things about Milwaukee, what would they be?
JH: The first thing I would do is I'd point that wand at that big ugly orange asterisk that's blocking the Milwaukee Art Museum and make it disappear -- go away. The second thing I would do is wave my magic wand and I would reduce the taxes in this state -- the tax climate, in particularly in Milwaukee. The tax climate, the property tax issue, and the Milwaukee Public School issue; I would try to wrap that all up in the second one. And here's where people would say that I'm radical -- I'd like to see the Milwaukee Public Schools not disappear, but flip-flop. I think that the private school and the home schooling should be the way people are going, and the public school should be for the people who can't do that. But right now, we're pouring tons of money, and it's not working. I would wave my wand, and we would be the leader of alternative schools in the nation -- Milwaukee. The third thing I would do, is wave my magic wand ... and you know Jeff, you're asking me at a real bad time, because, if I could wave my wand, I'd make Milwaukee's climate more like Florida's.
OMC: We'll give you that, four things.
JH: But also what I would do -- the last thing I would do -- is to change the mindset of Milwaukeeans. We're so negative about our own city. We're so negative about what exists here, and that's one of my pet peeves about the citizens who live here. We don't know what we have. We don't know how well we actually have it, and when other people visit the city, or other people relocate here, they're excited, and they're enthusiastic, and they see what we don't see.
I have good friends that came here and established a restaurant, and he's always going on about the wonderful things that Milwaukee has, and people are like, "What?" Or, if someone moves in from a different city, a Milwaukeean will say, "Well, why did you move here? Why Milwaukee?" Like, surprised. Shocked. You know. I would like to wave the wand and get them to get rid of that negative attitude about this place. We're here! So if we can't see it, and we can't enjoy it, if we can't explain to other people what's great about this place, what do we expect?
OMC: Please give Mayor Barrett a grade for his first term?
JH: Um, controversy! Mayor Barrett's boys and ours play on the same baseball team -- carpool together. My wife would cringe when she hears this. I like -- everybody likes -- the mayor. I like Mayor Barrett. I honestly do. I can say this because I know. However, I would've liked to have seen more out of him. More leadership. Even for more right or wrong. Even if he goes on the wrong -- stands out on something that ends up being completely backwards, he's out there.
I would give him a D+/C- on the leadership thing, because he has not given Milwaukee a vision to aspire to. And I believe as a leader, that's very important. You need to articulate what's great about our community and where you're taking it and get the people to buy into it. He hasn't done that. D+.
However, I think you have to give people the benefit of the doubt the first go-around, all right? And I understand that there's problems with the administration, a problem with the organization, but ... it's not the hard grade, you know, it's the "here's where you are now" assessment, right? But the real grade will come in the second term. Because I think that now that he's got his bearings, now that people are used to him in this spot, he has an opportunity, at this time, to make some very bold moves.
And I'm afraid -- well, bringing in the police chief was one great stroke, so we can, you know, start to look up, straight up on that. And I'm hoping there are more decisions down the line that are like that. Bold moves that help address our problems here.
JH: Man. Love Brett Favre. I love Brett Favre. I got in trouble on the radio for saying that I love Brett Favre so much that he could ask me to hold his right butt cheek and I would.
"Is this the right pressure, Mr. Favre, cuz I'll do it. I'll hold it." Just like that. You know, I became a huge Packer fan ... I grew up in the Bears -- my father was not from here, he was a Bears fan, and he was actually a fan of anybody that was playing the Packers. So, I grew up not appreciating the whole Packer legacy.
I jumped on the bandwagon with Don Majikowski. I remember that year -- we almost made it to the playoffs -- one night football, they were interviewing Don Majikowski and they were sittin' on the bubble, hopin' to get in, and then he got hurt the next year and Brett Favre came in. I'm tellin' you Jeff ... I probably only missed two or three games out of his whole career. And my boy, who's 14 years old, we have watched ... my eldest is 14, and my youngest is 9. The 14-year-old watched every game for except maybe three of Brett Favre playing football. So when he retired, my god!
When he retired, I drove to the boy's school! Pulled him out of class to tell him Brett Favre retired -- it' crazy. I love watching him play, but what I really love though, is the fact that he showed up to work every day he was playin'. He played with passion, and he strove to be excellent ... and in the end, the reason why he quit was because he knew he couldn't do that anymore. He could not put in what it takes to be the very best he could be. I respect that. I think that's a lesson for all of society to embrace -- to really put all you have into what you do, and if you can't it's time to look elsewhere.
As a matter of fact, that's one of the reasons why I stopped teaching. I had a teacher say to me, "You know, I always thought that by this point in my career I'd have wrote the great American novel. I thought I would be living a different life, but here I am teaching, still, after 25 years, with a big family. I woke up one day and said, ‘This is my life. That's all you'll get.'" That scared me. If you're not playing a big enough game in life, you will screw up the game you're playing just to make life interesting. And so, that's why I love Brett Favre. He gave it his all, and instead of screwin' it up, he's moving on to something else now.
OMC: Ald. McGee?
JH: Come on, man. Come on. I'll say this: when the whole controversy broke, and everyone was breakin' bad on Ald. McGee, including myself, on my blog, his brother responded. And first it was very contentious. He was hurling stuff at me, you know, did the usual ... Uncle Tom and all this kind of stuff ... but I was just kind of firing back, not in a disrespectful way, because you know, it's family. But we ended up forging a friendship out of that. We still e-mail with each other. And because of that, it's forced me to sort of look at Ald. McGee in a different light.
Having said that, he's still a thug and a criminal who will never see the light of day, and I think it's an embarrassment to the city that he's still in a position where he's winning elections from behind bars. But it also speaks to just what that section of the section of that city thinks of itself; that it doesn't deserve better. That's what I have to say about that.
OMC: President Bush?
JH: I will never, ever, get over the fact that President Bush's first nomination to the Supreme Court was Harriet Miers. What? Dude! What was that? ... and that's when I lost faith. This man isn't real. This man is putting loyalty over ideology.
Since that, you know ... the budget blown ... having said all that, I think that he's a decent enough guy, and I believe that he, as far as the war, is where I agree with him. Mistakes are made, but mistakes are made. We held him on too high of a level. Mistakes are made all the time during war.
We've got to get back to some basic questions that people want to forget, you know, that we were discussing on the eve of or post Sept. 11 -- things after Sept. 11. I think that in the end, and stability grows in the Middle East, he will go down in history as the Abraham Lincoln of the Middle East. People get mad when they hear me say that, but think about it! He literally changed the dynamics. This war, and supporting Iraq, if a state comes out of this in a democratic nature, he's done an incredible thing that people said could never be done, so I'll give him that.
But domestically, he was a disappointment. There were huge, huge opportunities that were lost. Things that were promised ... usually happens. And what President Bush has done for me is really help me to embrace, I believe, "Psalm 145: Do not put your trust in politicians and mortal man who cannot save when your spirit departs to return to the ground. On that day all of their plans come to nothing." Thank you. Thank you President Bush.
OMC: Hillary Clinton?
JH: Mmm-mmm-mmm. Lord have mercy. Hillary Clinton, I think, I think ... hey, did you hear today, what's his name, Mayor of Detroit? Kilpatrick. Kwame Kilpatrick. You know, all these charges came down, you know. The flirting and the taxes and the affairs. His wife wasn't standing by his side in the baby blue dress suit, like the other wives. Usually, if you're a woman, you put on a suit and you kind of stare at him with a little bit of anger. The guy wears a dark suit with the red -- "That didn't take place!" And every time something happens like with (New York) Gov. Spitzer and that kind of stuff, it takes me back to what Hillary allowed Bill to do and why.
And this run is the payback. I can't get past that, you know. Character counts. Do not be deceived, bad company corrupts good character. And when I think about Hillary or Bill, I come back to that. And the people who were in her inner circle who are now dropping bad on her -- governor of Arizona -- Richardson. The people who were supposed to be loyal, the people who they've been through this together with now attack her and this woman's character. I don't believe that she has the experience to be the President of the United States. What has she done? So the only reason why she's in the position is because she's married to Bill -- if her last name wasn't Clinton, she wouldn't be in this place, which speaks badly -- poorly -- for democrats.
OMC: Barack Obama.
JH: The "Chocolate Jesus!" Now, I'm under a lot of pressure. People didn't like the "Chocolate Jesus" name. Did you ever see the movie "Coming to America" with Eddie Murphy and they had the scene with the band, "Sexual Chocolate"? Well, I decided to change Barack's name from "Chocolate Jesus" to "Secular Chocolate." He's now "Secular Chocolate." That's not playing as well, but people are leaving me alone.
Um, Barack Obama. The man is handsome -- striking. Striking figure. He is articulate when the teleprompter is rolling, he's fantastic. Lovely family. In a lot of ways, Jeff, he's like me. However, ideology is vapid. He, in experience, I mean really, honestly. Geraldine Ferraro was correct. If this man were not African-American, in the truest sense of the word, would he be where he is?
I think that as exciting as it is to have someone black on the precipice of something as important as this is really cool, but when we listen to what he has to say, when we listen to how he conducts his life, again I come back to the character issue. The whole thing that just blew up with this pastor, I think is, and should be, seriously considered. I wouldn't sit in the church for 20 years listening to that kind of stuff. I mean, when I was 17 years old, I left the church of my youth, because the pastor was on the pulpit talking about white people. That's not how I live. That's not how I see the world. That's not how I want to live.
So how can you be talking about conclusion and racial harmony, peace and reconciliation? How can you be talking about reconciliation among the races, when you're sitting at church on Sundays listening to this? The two don't work, and I believe the fact that our society has moved so far away from church, religion and God, that they think that the two do, but they do not.
And I think Michelle Obama's comments about "This is the first time I can be proud of my country." is all tied into the spirit of Pastor Jeremiah Wright's sermons. The whole ideal of when Barack Obama has been talking about for the last week, about grandma, you know, and the typical white person, plays into the spirit of Jeremiah Wright's sermons, so I've got a problem with that.
Basically, two problems with Barack Obama: number one, he is liberal to the point almost of fascism, and number two, that fascism is born out of his religious, philosophical world views, which is rooted in the teachings of Jeremiah Wright, former pastor of the United Church of Christ in Chicago. Someone said last week, "Is James T. Harris the only black man in America that won't vote for Barack Obama?" Yes! Let me say that here. Yes!
OMC: Well, I didn't have John McCain on the list, but I'll add him in.
JH: I cannot get past McCain / Feingold. I cannot get past the fact that this is the man who on numerous occasions, talked about leaving the Republican Party. Who picked up the phone and called the Democrats and talked about what it would take to negotiate a deal to leave the Republican Party to give them the majority. I think (Vermont Sen. James) Jeffords jumped ship before he did.
I cannot get over the fact that this is the man who reached across the aisle shaking hands with Kennedy. He's not a conservative. Now, maybe that is the direction that the Republican Party is going, but that's not the direction that I'm going in. I'll be the lone person, who -- I'm catching it from one side because I'm not voting for Barack Obama, and I'm catching it from the other side because I'm not voting for John McCain.
So, I guess that makes me an independent thinker. Not independent voter. It's strange that I do believe that John McCain will win this thing just because the way the politics of ideology is playing out on the left -- between the female vote and the black vote, but I can't say that I'm thrilled about that because I think that John McCain -- you hear people say, "Well, if Hillary doesn't win, I'm voting for John McCain" or "If Barack doesn't win I'm voting for McCain."
And what does that say for McCain? And what does that say for Republicans that allowed this to happen? Unless you're not a conservative, in which case you're probably cool with this. This is the age of the moderate, which is frightening to me. I'd rather have people who have passion in their ideology and clash over it, than people be soft and squishy in the middle.
OMC: So, who's your man or woman, then?
JH: I don't have one.
OMC: If you can write someone in?
JH: I wish -- here's my wish list: if it's going to be Hillary Clinton on one side, I wish it would be Condoleezza Rice on the other. She has some issues with me, or I have some issues with some of her, she's rather moderate on a couple of issues, but that would have been a choice I could get behind. I could've gotten excited more so with Romney, although there are some things about ... well, out of all the candidates out there this year, I thought Romney would've been the best choice.
But honestly, along the generational lines, there's no Republican on the forefront of the stage right now that speaks to the younger generations. Maybe that guy out of Florida, but I haven't heard enough about him -- just starting to hear about him because McCain's starting to fish for a VP, but there's nobody on the right that excites me.
But there are candidates on the left, but they're of the wrong ideology. Harold Ford of Tennessee. I would like to see him run. There are, I forgot the gentleman's name ... there's a bunch of Gen-X candidates who are on the precipice. On the next cycle they'll jump in, and then it'll be real. For right now, there really isn't anybody out there.
Romney would've been a throwaway. I liked Fred Thompson -- I liked the idea. He had the right concept, starting out on the Internet and trying to reach people through alternative media, but he didn't have the passion, he didn't have the heart. No. I'm surprised.
I give John McCain credit because he's doin' it, but for right now, the most exciting person out there right now is Barack Obama, and I'm enjoying it even though I don't want him to win. I'm enjoying watching him generationally -- they're playing a game of Chess and he's beating Hillary. He's laying a road map for how candidates, right or left, are going to have to run in the future. And that's what I find exciting.
So, in order for me to get excited about this race, I have to pull out of it -- maybe it's a good thing I don't have a horse in this race, because now I can look at it through different eyes, instead of being about, you know, the ideological horse in the race because I don't have one.
OMC: That's interesting. Maybe it's time to go with the youngest candidate?
JH: Look, here's the reality. If John McCain, whose what, 70-71 when he gets in there, who's gonna have his ear? Seventy-year-olds. Old people. If you have Hillary get in, who's ear is she gonna have? She's gonna have the ear of the Baby Boomers and you know, feminists. If Barack gets in, one of the good things is that he's gonna have the ear of 40-year-olds, and I'm 40. We don't agree ideological-wise, but I will have a voice with him because we're of the same generation. This is generational politics, and even though the stars lined up differently this time, actually I think it is too early for an X-er to be in there, but the next go round, it will not be.
All of a sudden the younger generations are going to have an ear to the most powerful person in the world, where as right now, they do not.
OMC: You can only have two albums on your iPod, take a trip, what would they be and why?
JH: Two albums / downloads on an iPod. Well, let me play with this because it is a download. It's on my iPod. One of them would be a jazz download, and it would consist of Wynton Marsalis' first album, and his commercial for the iPod "Sparks." I love it. The song has hesitation, and "Sparks" is improv at its best, but it spans over 25 years, man, and it's uncanny to watch -- to see even in the "Sparks" song, how much he grew from when he cut this album at the age of 19, the original one. And in between "Sparks" and "Hesitation," would be a whole butt-load of Thelonious Monk, alright? Bam. That's one.
The second one would be, and the reason why is that the improv in jazz speaks to me -- being able to draw off of one another's energy and create speaks to me, that's why I would do that. Right now, the other album I would have is a compilation of Jack Johnson. Again, the creativity in his lyrics inspire me. He's a lefty. Earth-first, big save-the-planet lefty. But, he's very creative, and his outlook is very generational, but the way he combines his lyrics with his songs and his music -- simple. And with the complex words? I love it. So, it would be Jack Johnson, and it would be a compilation of Marsalis and Monk.
OMC: Any TV shows you're passionate about?
JH: I absolutely love "The Closer" and I love "30 Rock." I love "30 Rock" more than "The Closer." I'm a "30 Rock" freak. As a matter of fact, when the writers went on strike, it didn't dawn on me until I went to go download "30 Rock"... "Dude, Dude! Wait a minute!" So, I love "30 Rock," I'm looking forward to it coming back next month, and then I think they're going to bring back "The Closer" next year -- they shut it down altogether. But those are the two shows that I'm devoted to. And I don't watch them when they come on; I end up watching them online because I don't have time for all of that.
OMC: If you could have a drink or a cup of coffee with one person today, who would it be and why?
JH: If I had an opportunity to talk live over with anyone in the world over a cold Guinness, in a pub in Ireland, honestly, it would be the Apostle Paul, because his life fascinates me. He was on one track, and he got interrupted. Then he went hardcore on the other track until the day his life was taken from him. And the letters that he wrote and the people that he influenced are still with us two thousand years later.
And that wasn't his plan. He was writing out of his passion to these different people that he had met along the way, and the letters were saved, come on! And the things that he put up with. I really think that he would be the number one person.
I've read some biographies on him ... actually, I read a long one, actually, it was a book on tape, on his life, and this guy was fascinating, and I would like to have the opportunity over a cold Guinness. I don't know if he'd drink one, but I would. He'd be one of the persons that are on my "Must Speak To" list.
OMC: And the question I like to ask everyone is, what is your definition of success?
JH: The other day my daughter was looking at my blog, and she said "Daddy, you're on the Internet!" I said, "Yeah baby." She said, "You're also on the radio." I said "Yes, honey." She said, "You're on TV!" I said, "Yes I am." She said "Then why aren't we rich?" "Well we are rich." "No we're not! We're not rich." Hmm.
My definition of success is, I'm successful right now Jeff. I'm doin' what I love to do. I'm teasing my mother-in-law all the time; I want to be paid for all of my ideas. Not realizing that, here we are.
So, my definition of success is to have the opportunity to make a living in the things you're passionate about, because you're not really working. My mission in life is to motivate, inspire, and compel people to live to the highest and best use. And in the facets of my life, that's what I'm doing, that's the underlining thing here. I have fun trying to make people think. I have fun connecting the past to the present, to get people to think about the future. And I'm in a position right now where as a professional speaker, that's what I do all the time. I love doing it.
I love the fact that I'm being flown out to places -- nice places, exotic places to do that. And I also love that fact that on a weekly basis, and whenever I'm asked to fill in, I'm just as passionate about talking about those things as well. So, I think it's about having an opportunity to make a living at what you are hard-wired, what you are designed to do, and that's the definition of success.
A life-long and passionate community leader and Milwaukeean, Jeff Sherman is a co-founder of OnMilwaukee.
He grew up in Wauwatosa and graduated from Marquette University, as a Warrior. He holds an MBA from Cardinal Stritch University, and is the founding president of Young Professionals of Milwaukee (YPM)/Fuel Milwaukee.
Early in his career, Sherman was one of youngest members of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, and currently is involved in numerous civic and community groups - including board positions at The Wisconsin Center District, Wisconsin Club and Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. He's honored to have been named to The Business Journal's "30 under 30" and Milwaukee Magazine's "35 under 35" lists.
He owns a condo in Downtown and lives in greater Milwaukee with his wife Stephanie, his son, Jake, and daughter Pierce. He's a political, music, sports and news junkie and thinks, for what it's worth, that all new movies should be released in theaters, on demand, online and on DVD simultaneously.
He also thinks you should read OnMilwaukee each and every day.