Op Ed: I'd Like to Introduce You to My Brother, Jared Polis

Jorian, Jordanna and Jared in Boulder in 2010.
Jorian, Jordanna and Jared in Boulder in 2010. Courtesy Jorian Schutz
I am Jared Polis’s brother, and he wants to be your governor. So I thought I’d write a little something about what I know of him.

Jared is eight and a half years older than me, but we still had a lot of time together growing up. He and my sister and I would play all sorts of games, sell cherry tomatoes from our garden on the street, go camping in the Rockies, collect coins and stamps and baseball cards, and go to see baseball games (the Colorado Silver Bullets and Colorado Zephyrs, neither of which exist anymore, sadly).

But most of all I remember my brother quizzing me. I used to love memorizing the flags and capitals of different countries, and Jared made it fun to learn and know these things. Included in these quiz games was a lot of information about American history and government. My brother had a passion for this subject and infected me with it at a young age. I learned about the legislative process from Jared, too; he found a way to work as an intern at the Capitol in Washington, D.C., and he came back with first-hand stories of George Mitchell and Tip O’Neill.

click to enlarge Jared, Jordanna and Jorian in Vail in 1986. - COURTESY JORIAN SCHUTZ
Jared, Jordanna and Jorian in Vail in 1986.
Courtesy Jorian Schutz
Jared had a way of pursuing his interests and dreams that I’ve always admired. I was the one who vacillated and hesitated and changed my direction and path. Jared was always consistent, and persistent. There were no swings in his behavior or his beliefs. He did not have a “wild phase” or a “radical phase” — and, honest to God, he never once tried marijuana. He had his struggles, I’m sure, both in the business world and on his personal path, particularly when he realized that his interest in public service conflicted with his sexual orientation (which was very much the situation not so long ago). But he never got depressed or disengaged, never stopped believing and working, and as a result he had a lot of success, and helped a lot of people, too.

Westword profiled Jared Polis in 1999. - WESTWORD
Westword profiled Jared Polis in 1999.
Jared believes that people should get an equal chance. He gets that from our parents, who always rooted for the underdog, and from our grandparents, immigrants’ children reared on the idea of helping the unfortunate and loving your neighbor as yourself. At the same time, neither my brother nor my parents had an anti-market philosophy. On the contrary, they were inspired by and admired successful business leaders. But they also knew — first- and second-hand — how the market, and the law, could be distorted by powerful, exclusionary groups. I remember my brother quizzing me about “oligarchy” and “crony capitalism,” but I could never have imagined that these words would come to apply to our own nation so accurately as today.

Jared was always forward-looking with regard to the future of high tech. In the early days of AOL, he saw the potential for dial-up Internet access and jumped on it, making quite a success of his first startup (American Information Systems, Inc). He did things like that again and again, sometimes with great success: helping my parents develop their little online greeting-card site into one of the most popular websites in the world, founding, co-founding Techstars, etc.

Then Jared took that same persistence and innovation and applied it to active philanthropy. He worked to pass initiatives to fund our schools and strengthen Colorado’s ethics laws, while founding charter schools for at-risk children. When he told us in 2008 that he was considering running for the congressional seat that Mark Udall had just vacated, I counseled him not to. He was doing such interesting stuff in the “real world”! But Jared had a passion for public service, and he was willing to put everything else on hold. Now he has made a similar decision to run for governor. Personally, I’d rather have him back to his free life in the private sector, but Jared sees the possibilities for Colorado, and he knows how important it is for our state to have a strong counter-balance to the Trump government. So he has chosen to offer his considerable energy for this important job.

Finally, I just want to say something about my brother’s phone calls. Jared may not seem like a particularly emotional or touchy-feely person. But then when you see the questions he asks, the attention he gives, and the intricate mental notes he makes, you know how much he cares. I swear he calls our mother almost every night, and he did the same with our late grandmother when she could barely hear. Jared could be flying to Afghanistan or Iraq, or on an all-night congressional vote binge, or deep in the mountains of his district campaigning, and he will always place that call. I know he does the same thing with his kids when he can’t make it home. He is an excellent father.

If you were to ask me what weakness my brother has, I might say that it is the same as one of his great strengths: He almost never gets flustered or upset. Whenever he’s confronted with an angry protester, a piece of hate mail or a nasty attack ad, he stays calm. He takes the time to speak with even his angriest critics, and he turns the other cheek. He will defend himself and his record in public, to be sure, but he will not waste breath on purposeless anger and petty arguments. That’s not how you move things forward, not how you get things done. Neither my mother nor I have this quality; thankfully, it’s Jared who is running for office, and not us.

Westword occasionally publishes op eds on matters of interest to Denver readers. If you have one you'd like us to consider (and that includes any pieces on Walker Stapleton by his relatives!), send it to [email protected]
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