With the heartwarming laughter of his four kids in the background, Attorney General Josh Shapiro appeared from his home in Abington to join The Citizen, in partnership with Fitler Club, for a discussion about the state of our Commonwealth, the power of giving back, and who we’d all be wise to listen to more (spoiler: youth!).
Over the course of more than an hour, Shapiro engaged in a moving conversation with Citizen co-founder Larry Platt. If you missed the live chat, you can watch it here.
Meanwhile, here are six (of many) things we learned about the AG during the event:
1. He’s got game
Shapiro starred on his high school basketball team during his days at Akiba Hebrew Academy (now Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy). A former teammate, Platt disclosed, describes him as a cross between Steve Kerr and John Paxson. And though he didn’t make it as a walk-on at University of Rochester, he still loves the game: He coaches two of his kids’ travel basketball teams and, like the rest of us, was fully engrossed in the recent ESPN Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance (he and Platt apparently engaged in a lengthy texting exchange about basketball after the event ended).
2. He’s more interested in service than politics
Shapiro’s mom was a teacher and active in the Soviety Jewry Movement, and his dad was a pediatrician. Being raised by such role models, it’s no surprise Shapiro believes strongly in the importance of making a difference in your community.
As a pre-teen, he organized a pen-pal program between American Jews approaching their bar or bat mitzvah and Soviet Jews of about the same age. Leading up to his own bar mitzvah, he even went to D.C. to talk to the State Department about releasing his pen pal to come to the states and be Bar Mitzvahed alongside Shapiro.
“That really was a moment where I didn’t realize so much that it was about politics but I did realize the power of someone’s ability to organize. The power to see something and get after it and fight for it. And my mom taught me a ton about that,” he said.
3. He values a diverse team
“I surround myself with smart, diverse people who think differently than me,” Shapiro said. “I want to be challenged every day when I go to the office. I don’t want a bunch of yes-men and yes-women.”
He’s told us he’s assembled what he calls the strongest, smartest, most diverse staff in the history of Pennsylvania.
“We’ve got more women in positions of leadership than men. Communities of color and our LGBTQ brothers and sisters are represented around both the big tables in my office and the small tables where decisions are made.”
He craves being challenged by different opinions. And he says he values integrity above all; it’s central to everything the AG’s office does.
4. He’s not afraid of Amazon
Or Big Pharma. Or the Catholic church. Or any of the “big guys” who have no shame exploiting people. He’s already prosecuted 60 politicians for corruption. “I ran to be the people’s attorney general,” he said. “We are, in our office, fearless. We know that when the facts and the law and the evidence [are] on our side, we will run through walls for the people that we’re sworn to represent. Because otherwise, no one will.”
5. His voice has an uncanny resemblance to Barack Obama’s
No joke: Close your eyes, and hit play on the video above—tell us you don’t hear it! He also resembles the former president in these ways: He’s an exceptional communicator with a strong sense of empathy and a totally unpretentious aura. Does he have his eye on a bigger stage? Well, he loathes the question of whether he has plans to run for governor; all he’ll say of his future plans is that he is running for re-election.
6. He’s a Citizen reader
“In this time where journalism is so under fire, there is a lot of misinformation, and it’s really hard to know who you can trust. And it’s really hard to find things that you read and then know how to take action from,” he said. “You’re giving people things that are factual, you’re giving people things to think about, whether I agree or disagree with the opinions expressed. And I think we need more of that kind of journalism. It’s a really important part of our culture in the Philadelphia region.”
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