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Ten years after serving in Afghanistan, Jason Kander was a rising star in the Democratic Party, testing the waters for a presidential run. In 2018, he shocked the political world when he ended his campaign for mayor of Kansas City to seek treatment for PTSD. He joined David to talk about falling in love with the Army, focusing on his career as a fo…
 
At 15, musician John Legend wrote an essay proclaiming he would one day become a famous singer and use his platform to advance civil rights. His words ended up being particularly prescient; he has since spent his life pursuing dual paths of artistry and social justice. For the 500th episode of The Axe Files, John talks with David about his musical …
 
As we prepare for the 500th episode of The Axe Files, we take a look back at the show’s very first episode featuring Sen. Bernie Sanders. David spoke with Sen. Sanders in September 2015, just a few months after he announced his campaign for the Democratic nomination for president. In this episode, Sen. Sanders talks with David about his childhood i…
 
When David Chalian was in first grade, he memorized the names of all the US presidents—in reverse chronological order. His interest in politics was second only to his love of theater. Chalian later found the intersection of his two passions as a journalist covering the larger-than-life characters and intricate storylines in politics. Now the politi…
 
By the time Colorado Gov. Jared Polis was 16, he was already enrolled at Princeton University. At 23, he became a millionaire after selling the business he started in his college dorm, and at 25, he was elected to state-wide office in Colorado. As a Democratic politician with a libertarian streak, Gov. Polis spent 10 years in Congress before becomi…
 
Sen. Chris Murphy caught the political bug early; he was first elected to the Connecticut state legislature at age 25 while still in law school. He eventually served three terms as a US Congressman before being elected to the US Senate in 2012. Shortly before his term began, he became an outspoken advocate for gun reform after a gunman killed 20 ch…
 
Kellyanne Conway made history as the first woman to run a Republican campaign for president when she helped Donald Trump win in 2016—a far cry from her days packing blueberries at a farm in New Jersey. As many advisers fell in and out of Trump’s orbit during his presidency, Kellyanne remained a constant presence before leaving the White House in Au…
 
After more than three decades representing his Michigan hometown in Congress, Rep. Fred Upton announced his retirement in a speech on the House floor in April 2022. He joined David to talk about his famous Michigan family, his focus on bipartisanship, why he supports gun safety legislation, voting to impeach Donald Trump following the January 6 att…
 
John Dean, former counsel to President Richard Nixon, was directly involved in covering up the Watergate break-in. But he has also been credited with taking down Nixon, thanks to his critical testimony before the Senate committee investigating the scandal. In recognition of Watergate’s 50th anniversary, John joined David to talk about his professio…
 
Former US Secretary of Education and CEO of Chicago Public Schools Arne Duncan now spends his days focused on stopping gun violence in his hometown of Chicago through his organization, Chicago CRED. Curtis Toler, the organization’s director of outreach, grew up surrounded by violence and was a gang leader before joining CRED, where he works to stop…
 
Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts tried to get out of applying to the University of Chicago, as his father wanted, by pretending to forget about the application. His ruse didn’t work, and he ended up attending the school and spending more than a decade in Chicago before making his way back to Omaha. Gov. Ricketts joined David to talk about what he le…
 
Chris Krebs was a champion pole vaulter and spent time as a scuba instructor before getting into infrastructure risk management. He ended up as the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at the Department of Homeland Security, a role that put him in former President Trump’s crosshairs as Chris sought to secure the 2020 ele…
 
Rep. Jackie Speier got her start in politics working for Rep. Leo Ryan, then a California state Assemblyman. But what started as a high school assignment ended on an airstrip in Guyana, where Rep. Ryan was killed, and Rep. Speier was shot five times ahead of the Jonestown Massacre. She has since dedicated her life to public service, making a mark w…
 
Growing up, Shaka Senghor wanted to be a doctor. But at age 14, he ran away from his unstable home. By 19, he was in prison. While in prison, he began unravelling his past, seeking to understand how he went from a bright young boy to solitary confinement. Shaka joined David to talk about the overwhelming challenges facing young people in neighborho…
 
Al Franken has been in the public eye for decades, first as a comedian and then as a senator from Minnesota. Since he resigned from the Senate in 2018 amid sexual harassment allegations—that he has denied—he has mostly stayed out of the spotlight. He talks to David about his transition from comedy to politics, his departure from the Senate and his …
 
As a high school student in Montana, Ambassador Michael McFaul became interested in Russian affairs while working on a debate team assignment concerning trade sanctions on the Soviet Union. He first visited the Soviet Union in college and went on to serve as US Ambassador to Russia from 2012 to 2014. Ambassador McFaul joined David to talk about Rus…
 
Inspired by the stacks of books in her parents’ home, Republican strategist Sarah Longwell once thought she might become a poet. But at Kenyon College, she found herself more captivated by political science than writing. Sarah joined David to talk about coming out as gay in a very conservative professional environment, her work to keep Donald Trump…
 
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