If you like the “get it down,” boot-skewered style of Charlie Baker, you should send me to Washington. But if you like the divisive, polarizing approach of Senator Warren, by all means, re-elect her.
On February 10th, 2018, lawyer, philanthropist and candidate for United States Senate from Massachusetts John Kingston, joined Merion West’s Michael DeSantis for an interview to discuss his personal relationship with Mitt Romney, his commitment to philanthropic causes, and why he is running for Senate as a Republican in the deep blue state of Massachusetts against Elizabeth Warren.
Thank you for joining us today, Mr. Kingston. Given your role as an advisor to Mitt Romney during his presidential campaign and your work as the Executive Producer of Mitt, could you tell us about your journey with Mr. Romney?
I first met Mitt Romney in 1994 when he was running against Ted Kennedy. We both had strong ties to Harvard Business School community, and I was very impressed with his experience. I then worked with him on his campaign for governor of Massachusetts. It wasn’t until his presidential run in ‘08 that we began to get close.
We then began to work on a variety of different projects after the campaign. That’s when I got involved with the documentary. Obviously I was very proud of the documentary. It was a truly accurate and earnest portrayal of Governor Romney and his family. We ended up launching it at the Sundance Film Festival in 2014. The day we aired it we saw articles in the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and the New York Times. It’s not very easy for a documentary to get that type of attention. It was also the first original documentary sold to Netflix.
We did a lot of things that we’re very proud of. The documentary just showed how wonderful a human being he is. Politics aside, just the decency of the Romney family. The one thing that stands out in my mind in the film that I am always reminded of is the scene right before the first debate with Obama where he’s cleaning up trash flying around outside the hotel. He was just a regular guy who happened to be extremely intelligent, and wonderfully impressive, who succeeded at everything he ever did. Just a decent ordinary guy.
A lot of news outlets and pundits said if they saw the Romney in the documentary during the election he would’ve won. Do you think if Romney showed this genuine side of himself the outcome would’ve been different?
I think every campaign that ends up with a losing outcome thinks about things they could have done better. I think the lesson I learned is to be authentic at all times. Put your best foot forward. Don’t try to be scripted; don’t be too messaged or disciplined. Just be who you really are and let the chips fall where they may.
I read in your biography that you used to teach social justice at Harvard. Most Republicans today would run for the hills if they saw that. Could you tell me what you think of social justice?
Whatever you call the principles, we all care about the concept of freedom, liberty, and dignity for all. These are inherently Republican principles. The point is that any person in the public square who is trying to lead people in an honorable way, ultimately should have the opportunity to strive for the American dream. Whatever you want to call it, that’s what I care about.
For our readers who are less familiar with your work, could you tell us a little bit about Sword and Spoon, the philanthropical group founded by you and your wife Jean?
Well, Sword and Spoon is an umbrella of a variety of different initiatives to advance ideas, causes and concerns. Our initiatives with college campuses are to make them a free exchange of ideas. The Veritas Forum has been around for 30 years and we are working with campuses all around the country to push for the free exchange of ideas.
We have projects helping take care of veterans, and projects working towards strengthening families, which I believe to be the cornerstone of a free and prosperous society. We also provide ladders of success and other projects aimed at helping struggling people. There are also a variety of other public policy initiatives that fall under this umbrella.
There is storytelling and different artistic initiatives that are all under the Sword and Spoons umbrella, all of which are consistent with the theme of promoting freedom, liberty, and dignity for all in the public square.
I wanted to ask you about Charlie Baker, a Republican in a deep blue state. He is the most popular governor in the country. Do you think his style of politics will help you in your race?
I absolutely think the world of Governor Baker and what he has achieved and advanced. He’s doing a great job. There is nothing more popular than great results. The Baker brand of politics is something I closely identify with. When it’s Governor Baker and I at the top of the Republican side of the ballot, I am going to be able to establish a contrast for the voters who want to see our style of politics, as opposed to the Democrat’s style.
If you like the “get it down,” boot-skewered style of Charlie Baker, you should send me to Washington. But if you like the divisive, polarizing approach of Senator Warren, by all means, re-elect her. Just know what you’re going to get out of it. You’re going to get more angst, division, and gridlock in Washington.
You definitely have a certain brand of politics that’s different from President Trump’s. Is that why you founded Better for America?
I think it’s better to think about how he’s done now. The regulatory reforms, tax cuts, generals, judges have all been great. Justice Gorsuch came from Harvard Law school the same year I graduated.* What we have to do in Washington is move past straight partisan efforts.
Everything is done now on an entirely partisan basis. That’s not the America I know and love. I’m trying to bring back a true reach-across-the-aisle style to this whole thing.
For our last question, when did your dreams of being a professional athlete change?
I never truly believed that I could be a professional sports star. I just really wanted it. In our family we would think of all sports all the time and when I was a kid it was my only fixation. As you grow up things change.
I am more successful than I ever thought I’d be. I am just unbelievably grateful for the blessed life I’ve had and with that comes a great responsibility – a responsibility to help anyway I can. I love this country so much and I love the people of Massachusetts so much that I want to do my very best every day, as I’ve been doing with all these projects throughout the years. Every day I try to show the vision and leadership of the sort that will dignify everybody.
Thank you for joining us.
It was a pleasure.
*Editors note: Justice Gorsuch graduated from Harvard Law School in 1991, whereas Mr. John Kingston entered the school in 1991.