The Nitty Gritty
Senior Director of Communications at Competitive Enterprise Institute.
How long I’ve been a member of America’s Future Foundation:
I’ve been involved with AFF for around five years. I can’t quite pinpoint when I became an official member, but it was a couple years back.
What I do, and why I love it:
I manage the communications team at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, which means I help guide the development and execution of our marketing, outreach, digital and traditional media capabilities and strategies. CEI is unique for a think tank because our experts take a more active approach to policy by focusing on advocacy, coalition-building, and litigation, in addition to analysis. In any role, I think it’s important to believe in what you do, but particularly for my job, it’s critical to believe in what my colleagues do. CEI isn’t afraid to take on tough issues, and on some days that makes my job tough as well. But, that’s a good thing. I admire CEI for being aggressive, and they’ve taught me a lot about the importance of being fun and creative in the policy world. There’s never a dull moment.
Invaluable skill I’ve learned:
Problem-solving. Somewhere, sometime, something will go wrong with a project you’re working on. Over the years, I have found being able to think clearly and act effectively can prevent a small problem from becoming a big problem or even a crisis. This is especially true in the communications world. I value people who I can trust to handle difficult situations, and I strive to be that person on my team as well.
Most important moment in my career (so far):
Oof. It’s hard to say, since so much of my work relies on the folks around me. One memorable moment came when I was promoting research about how the Affordable Care Act would add to our federal budget deficit. We secured some great media placements and the attention resulted in the White House responding directly to the report on WhiteHouse.gov. I was still at my first job in DC at the time, and for the first time I felt like I knew what I was doing as a communications professional.
Biggest career lesson I’ve learned:
It’s ok to fail, and in fact, failure can be a good thing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m still afraid of failing. But, I now realize the humility and personal growth we gain from failure can be essential to our success. If you look at the great entrepreneurs and innovators, many of them didn’t find success overnight. It took many experiments, models, and prototypes before they came up with something that worked. It’s also important to remember the value of failure hinges on what you learn from it and how you alter your behavior in the future.
What attracted me to politics:
I tend to shy away from politics and focus more on the policy, but there is some overlap. I think of communicators in the policy world as translators, and my job is to educate people about why they should care about public policy and understand how it affects them.
How I formed my political beliefs:
Do you know that little kid who always asks, “why?” That was me—maybe still is. I’m a proud Kansan and I like to believe there is an independent streak that runs straight through the center of our country. I was taught to think for myself, and unfortunately for my friends and family, I have always been curious, skeptical, and relentless when it comes to asking questions.
Opportunities I see for the movement:
I hope liberty-oriented organizations can help increase government transparency and encourage more accountability to show all Americans how their government works (or how it should work) and motivate them to engage in debate about what kind of country they want to live in. Our opportunity is to create a better, freer society and get more people involved in working toward that goal.
Most important trait to have to be successful in the movement:
I think that completely depends on who you are and what you want to accomplish. But my advice is to think for yourself, acknowledge what you don’t know, and surround yourself with people who are smarter than you.
Why I think America’s Future Foundation is important:
AFF is an excellent resource for young professionals and even those of us who are still trying to figure out what we want to be when we grow up. Does anyone ever actually figure that out? When a person moves to a new city – especially one as large as Washington – it can be hard to find a “community” where you fit in. For young free-marketers, AFF provides that network of support. AFF events are a great way to learn about other liberty-oriented groups, meet people in your field or in a field you’re interested in, and AFF workshops are also a great way to gain new skills for your career or a career you’re contemplating pursuing.
Any advice for freedom fighters beginning their careers?
Challenge yourself and don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t stop learning simply because you’re not in school anymore. And, be the person your team can rely on – be the person that gets the job done.
If I were going on a Netflix binge, it would be …
I had stopped watching Mad Men a while back and so I had a couple seasons to catch up on. It was embarrassing how quickly I made it through them.
Favorite Political Talking Head?
I don’t tend to like listening to political talking heads much. But as far regular commentators and contributors to the political shows… probably George Will.
Favorite British Television Show?
Does Downton Abbey count? I just started watching it recently, so I’m about five years behind, right? I won’t give away the details but I just saw the episode in season four that stunned everyone. It. Was. Devastating. I apologize to all my friends obsessed with this show that I previously judge. I’m officially sucked in.
Any good commuter stories?
This isn’t really a commuter story, but I used to drive to work. And about three months after I moved from Arlington to DC, I had the privilege of having my car stolen. Who steals a 99’ Ford Taurus? I ended up with quite an entertaining story that involved a couple guys named “Mike” and “Mickey” and an establishment called WTF Towing – can’t make that up.
Most underrated movie of all time?
Maverick – back when Mel Gibson wasn’t crazy—and also has Jodie Foster, Graham Greene, and James Garner in it. It’s a comedy, and what I would call a “fake” western – set in that time period but more hokey than serious. It’s actually a movie I could watch over and over again.
How about the most overrated?
That’s tough… In general, I’m not a fan of horror movies, so there’s probably some “great” horror movie that I think is silly.
Liz Thatcher works in marketing at the Center for Shared Services. She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Political Studies from the Master’s College.