Ben Silverman Talks Politics
FROM LEFT: Mayor Gavin Newsom; Ben Silverman
Media entrepreneur and former NBC Entertainment cochairman Ben Silverman talks to gubernatorial candidate San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom about campaign strategy, the power of new media and a visit to the Santa Monica Farmers' Market.
BEN SILVERMAN: What got you interested in politics?
GAVIN NEWSOM: It was probably a photograph of my father and Bobby Kennedy that was signed to my mother that had more of an indelible impact on my desire and interest in politics than anything else. It was a photo taken during Kennedy’s [fateful] campaign swing through California. My father was running for the state senate at the time, and clearly he was the driver of my political interest. But the photograph was always on the wall, and remains to this day—with my mother’s passing—the most valuable thing I own. The spirit of the times and the hardheaded pragmatism Bobby Kennedy inspired were the guiding lights for me in terms of my desire to get involved in the life of my city and now the state of California.
BS: How do you think the world of politics has changed since you first had that desire as a boy?
GN: You go in with a great sense of ideals, and you quickly realize there’s the practical application required to manifest those ideals. And that hardheadedness I speak of, you get so much of that with Bobby Kennedy and his words. I think it was through his practical application of [those ideals and his grasp of the spirit of the times that] he realized the hard work that needed to be done. In many ways that spirit has returned—at least momentarily—and the question is whether or not that effort has begun to fade with the election of President Obama. I’d like to think we’re recapturing that spirit and the times, but it’s too early to know.
Otherwise there’s no doubt that politics has become even more cynical and more distant for too many people. What I hope the president inspires is that rekindling, that connection, that sense of community that defines so much of the best of the sixties. I hope we can recapture that here in 2009, ’10 and ’11.
Mayor Newsom speaking at the Awearness book launch at a Kenneth Cole store in San Francisco
BS: I know there are many elements of the work you’ve accomplished in San Francisco that you would take onto the state stage. Are there things in LA you’ve seen that you’d be interested in pushing across the state?
GN: Nothing has impressed me more when I come to Los Angeles than the robust investment that’s made in the community clinics here in the southern part of the state. The idea of one-size-fits-all healthcare does not work. There are elements that are unique to individuals, their histories and their backgrounds, and Los Angeles County probably invests more than any other county on a per-capita basis in healthcare delivery. The problem is it’s not connected. It’s really been a focus of mine—a disproportionate focus—in learning more about the nuances of healthcare delivery here.
PHOTOGRAPHS BY WIREIMAGE.COM; FIDEL LIRIO (NEWSOM); MITCHELL HAASETH (SILVERMAN)