Derek Brown, Utah’s recently elected Republican chairman, has in his 48 years on earth clerked for a Federal Judge; been Utah Senator Bob Bennett’s chief counsel; and was elected to the Utah State Legislature, serving there until he was tapped by Utah Senator Mike Lee to begin work in Washington as his deputy chief of staff.
Yet, among all of that he has found the time for the “most important” things in life; such as getting married 25-years ago, raising four children together, and playing the piano professional to help put himself through school at BYU and Pepperdine for his J.D.; but really began that gig at age three in his parent’s home when he sat down and started playing the piano there by ear, as they say – a child prodigy. Enjoy this Q & A interview Chairman Brown had recently with Candidates.vote’s Clark H. Caras.
Candidates.vote– Okay, I ask what you do for a hobby and wait for a typical response of hunting, fly fishing, skiing, reading the classics and you share with me that yours is playing piano.
Chairman Brown– I guess with work, family and other things I’ve not had time for what some might consider a hobby. Mine is that I play piano; and I’ve done it most of my life. In fact, I played piano professionally for restaurants, recording studios and a dozen other places to help make ends meet as I went to school.
Candidates.vote– Personally, I went through five teachers in five years of trying to learn to play piano. How old were you when you started you hobby?
Chairman Brown– Three years old is when I think I sat down and started to play for the first time. (With both humility and a bit of embarrassment in his voice…) I guess I was what they call a “prodigy” because I could play it by ear. I guess when I first did it everyone stood around with their mouths open. And yes, I still play and I’ve enjoyed it a lot and still do. So there it is – playing the piano with my hobby.
Candidates.vote– Alright, we can move on to the most important question I typically put to interviewees. And I can promise you, it typically catches them off guard, so here goes. Are you a hamburger or a cheeseburger kind of guy?
Chairman Brown(Not even skipping a beat…) – Cheeseburger! Why would anyone have it without cheese? Or, for that matter we need to add the pastrami and bacon to it.
Candidates.vote– Pickles or no pickles?
Chairman Brown– No pickles. Why in the world if you have bacon on something would you want to ruin it with pickles? And actually, I know I read somewhere – I really did read this somewhere – that people who eat pickles on their fast food burgers are 70-percent more likely to get in accidents.
Candidates.vote– You have stepped into a position and Utah’s GOP chairman at a time when pundits across America are pointing to what used to be easily the most Red state in the nation and are now saying, after the loss of a seat in Congress, Utah is turning a bit Purple. And some in Utah might say it’s because of a bit of division in that Grand Ole’ Party. What do you say to such banter?
Chairman Brown– I love Brene’ Brown and “The Power of Vulnerability”. It teaches people want to know you’re real; that you’re as vulnerable as they. It teaches if you get to know someone you won’t hate them and that it’s hard to hate if you move in close.
When I was in the Legislature I had a friend, another legislator, who told me the story of how someone had posted on Facebook some really terrible things about him. He found out the person lived just around the corner. So one night when he went home, he walked around the corner and knocked on the person’s door. And after sitting down, maybe still not agreeing on everything, they are the best of friends. If you move in close, no matter the person or the party, it really is hard to hate or disagree.
Candidates.vote– What book might we find on your nightstand if we were a fly upon the wall in the Brown household?
Chairman Brown– Arthur Brooks, “Love Your Enemies”. It’s brilliant and it’s a blueprint for bringing America together. I serve on the board of the Sutherland Institute that just brought him a few weeks ago to Utah. His, “The Conservative Heart – How to Build a Happier and More Prosperous America”, should be required reading for every Republican candidate – for that matter for anyone running for office.
Candidates.vote– So it’s obvious you like a good book, so what’s the last movie you saw and enjoyed?
Chairman Brown– Well, the last movie I saw was just before the state convention in May and it was Aquaman.
Candidates.vote– Utah’s known for a lot of beautiful places with its monuments and collection of national parks. What’s one of the Brown family’s favorite places to get away in all of this landscape of mountains, red rock and desert?
Chairman Brown – My father-in-law has a ranch in between Panguitch and Hatch where we like to go and the kids love it. He has chickens and sheep and plenty of room to run.
Candidates.vote– What periodicals and newspapers do you read and maybe subscribe to?
Chairman Brown– I don’t subscribe to any newspapers, but I do try and read what’s in the Desert News, the Times and the Post; to get a scattering of all the bias and get a better sense for what’s going on. Any of that is better than getting on Facebook.
It knows who you are. Who you like and who you agree with. And with that you get trapped in the circular feedback and it does nothing but confirms your bias.
Candidates.vote– With all that is going on in the politics of our nation and the world; what is the message you have for anyone thinking of jumping in and becoming involved, or maybe even deciding to jump out because of discouragement?
Chairman Brown– We must refuse to be used. I lament we are polarized as a nation. You must ask yourself if you are part of the problem or going to be part of the solution. Politics are fundamentally a reflection of our culture.
It’s said 93-percent of people in America are upset and polarized. Well, who are the seven-percent? If you look you will find they are the small percent that is profiting from the division! I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., and have seen the Democrats and Republicans don’t “hang-out” like they did 20 years ago. They knew each other and their families back then. They go along outside of Congress.
Candidates.vote– You mention those things and they reflect what’s happening nationally. What do you see for Utah and the Republicans you were just elected to lead?
Chairman Brown– Utah does so well as a state. We do know each other well and our families. We all have the same goals and objectives. It’s just a matter of a few differences to get there.