During a luncheon event at Harvard Law School’s recent Public Interest Celebration, Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm ’87 and First Gentleman Daniel Mulhern ’86 offered advice about forming a career in public service, running for elected office, and being involved in government.
“It’s not about you,” said Granholm, encouraging members of the audience to consider running for public office. “It makes it easier for people to run for public office when people realize it’s not about you. It’s about the change that you want to create.”
The couple tackled a range of topics during the lively conversation with Dean Elena Kagan ’86. In particular, Granholm and Mulhern urged those in the audience to become involved with politics at the local level. They noted that term limits often leave state governments with a shortage of those who are willing to be public servants.
“There are a million pressures,” said Mulhern. “You have to fight these many, many different forces and pick your battles very carefully. Fight the battle from the inside where it’s not pretty and the forces are brutal sometimes, and the compromises are constant.”
Speaking about their relationship, Granholm and Mulhern also emphasized how important it is that they have each other’s support. Granholm said that she never expected to be in a leadership position, partially due to her gender.
“My mom used to tell me three things: don’t talk about yourself, because people don’t want to hear it; don’t ask strangers for money; and don’t wear your good clothes every day,” said Granholm. “And, what do you when you run for office, but all three of those things. So, it was very much against the grain of what I felt like I was brought up to be doing…I didn’t want to be the one out front.”
During her introduction, Kagan praised the couple’s careers. “Jennifer Granholm is truly one of the leading lights of American politics. Dan…is a committed public servant, dedicating himself to many initiatives and organizations that better the state of Michigan,” she said.