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Meet Seth Leibsohn

Today we’d like to introduce you to Seth Leibsohn.

Seth, before we jump into specific questions, why don’t you give us some details about you and your story.
A student and graduate student of political philosophy, with a law degree in hand as well, I was privileged to be hired by the former Secretary of Education, William J. Bennett; the former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Jack Kemp; and the former Ambassador to the U.N., Jeane Kirkpatrick to run their think tank, Empower America. That think tank worked on all of the issues above, and of course, tax policy and drug policy, given Jack Kemp’s work on tax reform and Dr. Bennett’s work as the first Director of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. Several years in, Dr. Bennett was offered a nationally syndicated radio show and he asked me to launch it with him as a co-host and producer. We commenced that effort in 2004 and built that show into one of the top-ten national radio shows in the country. My parents who had lived in Phoenix, where I was born and raised, since the 1930s, were aging and needed some help.

So, in 2011, I moved back to Phoenix to help them. The local affiliate of our national show knew I was moving to Phoenix and offered me my own show here. At the same time, given my work with Dr. Bennett, the founders of one of the state’s more prominent prevention organizations, notMYkid, asked me to join their board. In short order, I became that organization’s chairman and was honored a few years ago with the volunteer of the year award in Arizona for my work in substance abuse prevention. Along the way, I also have ghostwritten and publicly authored several books on public policy and politics. Today, I am delighted to continue my work with notMYkid and my daily three-hour radio show, where we discuss the most important issues of the day with what I like to think of as the Platonic conditions of dialogue: candor, intelligence, and goodwill.

Has it been a smooth road?
The longer I live the more I think there are few smooth roads. But there is a Talmudic saying that there are always two roads in life: one that is long but appears short, and one that is short but appears long. I put that together with what Thomas Paine wrote during our Revolution: “We have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly; it is dearness only that gives everything its value.” I’ve also learned that everybody, simply and truly everybody, has and has had struggles–some that are visible, some that are not and that it’s important to recognize that about our fellow friends and citizens. We are not guaranteed a pain-free road, heck, we aren’t really guarantee anything, but I’ve learned more from people who have been through Hell and came out of it than people who have not been there yet, and I think it is a yet. It may be multiple “yets.” I’ve always loved the line from Leo Rosten that “I learned that it is the weak who are cruel, and that gentleness is to be expected only from the strong.” Turns out loss, failure, disappointment and how we handle those things is what makes us strong and, hopefully, gentle.

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I love that I get to engage in a vital seminar and discussion with Arizonans and, really, people from all over the country who listen in and call into my radio show, a vital seminar on the most important issues of the day, combining humor and trivia and everything I’ve been able to learn from Aristotle to Aerosmith, from Montesquieu to Maynard Ferguson. It’s a privilege and a joy to have that platform and that people have gelled to it, risen up to it, appreciate it, and contribute to it.

My volunteer work with the prevention organization notMYkid has also given me great purpose and meaning. I love the idea from the old book, Catcher in the Rye, as to why Salinger titled that, the idea that children can and should happily play, but will fall off the edge of their fields from time to time, or be presented serious challenges, and yet we can help, we can help catch them when they fall and before they fall and put them back in play. There are a lot of challenges to our youth today, and one thing I know, given all the challenges, one thing adults cannot do is declare surrender to those challenges in the presence of our youth.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
I love Phoenix. I grew up here. My dad moved here in the 1930s and I will always be a Phoenician though I have lived large parts of my life in other places. Being in the communication business, yes: this is a great city for that. As someone who is pitched a lot of stories to cover, I am amazed at how many great and innovative and caring people and organizations there are here, and how many different communications outlets and firms there are to promote their work. Being in the charitable space as well, chairing a non-profit, I am continually brought to deep emotion over the generosity and care of our community. Arizona is a good place. And when you think about our political and social contributions to the country, for a relatively small state population-wise, it’s growth over the past decade, and ongoing, is testament to all of the above.

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