Tuesdays with T4A: Rusty Rueff (09/10/13)

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As part of our marking six months as an organization, we are launching a new weekly piece called Tuesdays with T4A, in which we will feature an interview with one member of our distinguished T4A.org Board. We begin this week with Rusty Rueff, a friend since the campaign, and Co-Founder (with Jim) of T4A.org.

Rusty Rueff
Co-Founder
Rusty and Jim also founded Tech4Obama, which was a huge fundraising and organizing success for the President’s reelection campaign. Rusty is a prolific startup advisor and investor, and serves on a number of corporate and philanthropic boards (including ours!). He was CEO of SNOCAP through the sale of the company to imeem, Inc. in 2008. He also served as EVP, HR at Electronic Arts (EA); during his tenure, EA was named one of the “100 Top Places to Work For” by Fortune magazine. Rusty and his wife Patti are dedicated patrons of the arts; Rusty is President of the GRAMMY Foundation, and the Patti and Rusty Rueff School of Visual and Performing Arts at Purdue University is named for them.

Where did you grow up?
I was born in eastern Kentucky (think the TV show Justified) and grew up in Southern Indiana, in Jeffersonville (think John Cougar Mellencamp country or Kentucky Derby territory).
What was your first job?
Bussing tables at an all you could eat buffet place called King’s Table. No plate to be cleaned and bussed was ever empty at that place. That was hard work.
What is your first political memory?
The assassination of Robert Kennedy.
What is your favorite book?
Captains Courageous by Rudyard Kipling.
Who are your role models, and why?
I have always tried and merge together the best of people and then see if I can stand up to that test and there have been different people at different times in my life who I have tried to model their best characteristics. That list spans from Jesus Christ to John Adams to Mark Kelly (the astronaut and devoted husband of Gabby Giffords).
As you look at your community, city/state/country, how do you view your role/responsibility as a citizen? Within that context, how do you view your role as citizen in relation to our Government and Democracy?
I love my country and I believe that effective government plays an important role in our ability to keep this experiment of democracy alive. I believe that we each have the responsibility to bring our talents to bear to make our communities better. We each should be giving of our time, talents and treasures to help those who are working to improve our society.
Just about everyone (regardless of political affiliation) sees a large gap between our politics (Washington, DC as well as state capitals) and the reality on the issues we face as a Country. Why do you think that is? I know it's a tough question, but what do you think can be done to close that gap?
Way back when I wrote a blog, “Can democracy survive Facebook?” I still wonder about the answer. Total transparency is a great thing, but it has sucked the courage out of our politicians. Today they won’t socialize, build relationships or work on projects with someone across the aisle for fear that the picture and the soundbite will be taken out of context and they won’t get reelected. Couple this with out of control campaign financing needs and abilities, SuperPACs and constant campaigning expectations, and we get elected representatives who care more about keeping their seats than doing the right thing and knowing and working together with their colleagues. When self-survival becomes the priority, how do we ever expect someone to be in touch with the issues that matter to others?
Are political parties becoming less relevant today, particularly for young adults? Whatever your answer, why do you think that is?
The party structures are the problem today and I believe that youth understand that more than ever. We are in an age that an individual can make a big difference, without the support or having to be affirmed by a “party” or structured body. Social media has allowed for influential voices to have emerge without constraint. Political parties create constraints on who can do what and get support, or not. This is antithetical to the way the world is moving and this is making the political parties less relevant. I would also add that never more in history than now have we been able to suss out the “party line” in communication. This canned rhetoric turns younger people off and feels like “establishment” trying to manage them. 
You’re a Purdue Grad. What exactly is a Boilermaker?!
Lore has it that the “Boilermaker” comes from the time when Purdue played Wabash College in football and the team came in on train (it’s about 35 miles away) and many of the players shoveled coal into the steam engine while en route. Off of the train came a group of guys, covered in soot and sweat, only to be greeted by Wabash fans who said, “They aren’t a football team, they are just a bunch of boilermakers.”

It’s a proud mascot though as Purdue has built and international reputation for turning out graduates and research that lives at the intersection of STEM, creativity, innovation and the humanities.

If you could be anyone else for a day, who would you be?!
For one day, knowing that I didn’t have to be that person the next day? President of the United States.

  • But if I could break it down for the day:
  • Meb Keflezighi for my morning run
  • Billy Graham for my quiet and devotional time
  • Michael Chabon for my daily writing time
  • John Doerr for my investing and Board work
  • Ryan Seacrest to choose what entertainment event I wanted to attend that night
Meet me here: 
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