Published October 30, 2017 on Morgan Hill Life’s website

Tom Steyer

Donald Trump paid Tom Steyer quite a nice compliment last week. Steyer is the guy you’ve seen in the TV ads lately pushing for the president’s impeachment. On Twitter Oct. 27, Trump sent out a tweet calling Steyer “wacky & totally unhinged.” High praise indeed, in my opinion.

One component in the American story is that we enjoy our greatest achievements when we get “wacky & totally unhinged” and decide to do something other people might think is crazy. It started with our nation’s birth in Philadelphia in 1776 when the founders decided to call it quits from British tyranny. No doubt the politicians in London were proclaiming the colonists “totally unhinged” in wanting their independence from Mother England. In 1787, again in Philadelphia, the new nation really got wacky and decided to try out a new type of government based on the totally unhinged notion that people could self-manage their lives under the rule of written law with a little something called the Constitution. In the 1860s, during the heat of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln got wacky and signed an act allowing for the construction of a transcontinental railroad to link California to the rest of the nation — a totally unhinged idea, many engineering experts thought. In the end, those tracks brought families to the West Coast and opened vast new markets. In its symbolism of unity, it helped heal a broken nation.

We Americans do our best when we get wacky & totally unhinged in our thinking. Think of how much courage it takes to go beyond what most people might think is realistic: Two Ohio guys named Wright building a mechanical flying machine. President John F. Kennedy’s vision of a manned lunar landing with the Apollo program. Two Silicon Valley guys named Steve starting a company named after a fruit that would empower ordinary people with information technology. The list is long of our proud American successes that only could happen when we went beyond traditional thinking.

Back to Tom Steyer. Most people who are not tuned into today’s politics probably haven’t heard of him… at least not yet. He’s a Democratic billionaire who put tens of millions of his dollars on political action ads to advocate environmental protection and social justice causes. There’s talk among pundits that he might consider running for Congress, governor or even, in 2020, for the White House.

The same day Trump sent his “wacky & totally unhinged” tweet, by chance I happened to sit next to Steyer and his wife, Kat Taylor, at a table in Cupertino’s Quinlan Community Center. The couple were honored by the Loma Prieta Chapter of the Sierra Club with its Sustainability Champions Award for their eco-smart activities at their TomKat Ranch in Pescadero. They are down-to-earth people. During their talks, Steyer made a few beleaguered husband jokes describing how his wife is always right. And Taylor sang a beautiful ballad that got a standing ovation from the Sierra Club members.

After the evening’s presentations ended, I was hoping for an opportunity to make a joke to Steyer about Trump praising him on Twitter that day. The chance didn’t come. But on a more serious note, I wanted to express my concerns to him about what a Trump impeachment process might do to polarize our nation’s divided political climate even more. The president uses the media masterfully to manipulate his army of followers. They’ll support him regardless of facts. That support might lead one day to violence. I’ve written in this column in the past how my mother, born in Berlin in 1926, saw first-hand how a similar  narcissistic leader used the German media to rise to power — and ultimately caused a world to go to war.

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We Americans seem to have a national amnesia about what truly makes the United States a great country. It’s not nationalism, tax cuts and border walls. It’s ideas, the ones that inspire our citizens to invent and innovate and build our economy and create a good quality of life for all  our citizens. It’s having the courage to be wacky & totally unhinged enough in our thinking to dare new dreams and make life a bit better for the next generation.

If he’s interested, I’d love to meet with Tom Steyer and share with him my dream for the business we started five years ago. We at Life Media Group have a vision that to truly solve our economic, social and environmental challenges, we need to tap into the most powerful energy source in the universe — human mind power. We want to build a company that will vastly improve our education systems with innovative resources that will take young people to new levels of learning. We want to help small- to medium-sized businesses more effectively market themselves and thus build a truly capitalistic system where people compete on a fair and free market playing ground. And we want to unify our country around common goals — including protecting our natural resources– by providing news and entertainment media that enhances the quality of life for all.

What do you say, Tom? Let’s get wacky & totally unhinged. Let’s not just make America great again. Let’s make it even better than before.

Marty Cheek