David was kind enough to sit down for this interview last year. Enjoy!
Giancarlo Gonzalez: When you were growing up, did you ever imagine yourself being in this position as a public servant?
David Holt: I was one of those kids who was always involved in student council and my parents were always civically engaged, particularly on my mother’s side, even though they never sought office, they had both worked in government and were politically aware. I was the kid who was pushing for President Bush when I was nine years old and I suppose if you had known me then, this may not be shocking that I’ve grown up to seek and hold public office but I never knew specifically what I might be interested in. I did go to college in Washington, D.C., George Washington University, so clearly I was on a public service path. It wasn’t until this Senate seat came open and it was where I had grown up and the guy that held it, Glen Coffey, had gone to the same high school I had, so it made a lot of sense. I like different levels of government for different reasons and I’ve served at them all. I’ve served in the White House, I’ve served in the Speaker’s office in the U.S. Capitol, I’ve served at City Hall for the Mayor, I previously served at the state level before coming here as a senator so I’m familiar with all of them and they have their pros and cons and I’m glad I’m here now. I love being at the city though too. I think there’s a lot to be said for the role the city plays in our life, and the role, specifically Oklahoma City has played in our community’s renaissance. Right now, I think this a good place for me and I’m glad I’m here.
GG: What in your life do you feel most grateful?
DH: In public service, if your answer isn’t “family” and you don’t mean it, then you’ve got a problem. (Laughter) because as Harry Truman said, ‘If you want a friend, get a dog.’ Politics is a brutal business and fortunately, I feel as if I have some friends here. Nevertheless, it’s just the nature of politics that personal ambition is often prioritized, by a lot of people, above human decency. And so, if you don’t have some kind of grounding in a family that you can go home to at night, and understand that that’s what really matters, not whether you passed a bill or whether you got some leadership position then you start to lose your soul and lots of people do. The divorce rate in Oklahoma is high to begin with but it’s probably even higher among politicians and one of my primary goals in life is to make sure that my family life remains my highest priority. If I’m not grateful for that then I’m not valuing it, so that has to be number one.
GG: If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be? It could be superhuman even!
DH: (Laughter) I wish I could be a morning person (Laughter) I’m inevitably late for something that happens in the morning and on top of that we have little kids but I do not get up well in the morning. I would not be a good farmer probably! Even with kids, I still struggle.
GG: So, theoretically, your house, containing everything you own, catches fire and after saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be and why?
DH: Our photos, photos of things as a family, photos of things professionally, pictures of presidents and things. That’s the thing that best jogs your memories and life is, in the end, just an accumulation of memories and anything I can do to preserve that for myself and our kids, that would be the first possession after, of course, all living things. I’m sort of the scrap booker for the household.
GG: What would constitute a perfect day for you?
DH: Being out and about, on a beautiful day, on a good weather day, with Rachel and George and Margaret. When we get a fun Saturday, where we just don’t have any obligations, and we go to the zoo and go out to eat, that’s what life is all about.
GG: What, so far, is the greatest accomplishment of your life? And you can go in any direction, public, personal…
DH: Well, I’ll give two answers so they don’t compete. I mean obviously, personally, having a successful marriage and family, can’t top that, that’s what life is all about. Professionally, getting to serve in the Senate, the people and the places that made me who I am, that’s, so far, the top professional accomplishment of my life. I’m proud of a lot of other things, it was a lot of fun to be around City Hall at a time of great progress, it was a lot of fun to work in the White House, I mean all those things are neat but this is my opportunity as myself, not serving necessarily another elected official, as myself, to serve the people in places of that part of Oklahoma City where I grew up, that’s a great honor.
GG: What is your most treasured memory?
DH: Wow. These are, these are kind of, you said these aren’t hard hitting Giancarlo (Laughter)
GG: (Laughter) They’re not! (Laughter)
DH: Because they’re not easy! (Laughter) Most treasured memory. (Pause) See, you know, that’s so hard for anyone with kids to answer, especially if you have more than one, because now, all you can do to be politically correct is to say a three way tie between the birth of your two children and your wedding day.
GG: Aw that’s beautiful!
DH: (Laughter) Well you have no choice Giancarlo!
GG: Last question. What do you value most in a friendship?
DH: Someone who is themselves and is candid. There’s hardly anything that’s more of a turn-off than someone who’s just always guarded and maybe in politics you’re exposed to more of that. To my benefit and sometimes to my detriment I’m very open and candid with people, not in a bad way, it doesn’t mean I like to say mean things to people, it’s the opposite, I like to say nice things, and I like to be transparent with people and I like them when they’re transparent with me. But in politics, I value this more, because it’s so obvious when people are guarded and they’re not telling you something. I don’t like that. I don’t like surprises. When somebody who hasn’t talked to me in weeks and weeks and weeks says “Let’s get together next week”, I always want to know why because I can’t even sleep the night before, because it’s like “What are they going to spring on me?” and I think that just comes from politics having too many surprises sometimes, I prefer some predictability. Being with candid, open, and transparent people brings predictability because you really know them and you how they’re going to react and you know what they’re thinking, you know what they’re going to tell you, those are comforting things in a friend, and I seek comfort in friends because the life I’ve chosen is full of conflict, so some others might seek out friends who will argue with them and that’s fine, it has it’s place, but as I’ve said, the thing I seek most in friendship is simply a place to escape and to find some comfort and for that to happen you’ve got to have transparency and trust.