This country has no place for gender discrimination in the workplace or anywhere else in the country and there are certainly things we should do to help women have greater opportunities in the workplace. For instance we need to offer greater access to paid parental leave and easier access to childcare. We should be proud as a country that women are more successful now then they have ever been, with 58% of university students are women and there are more female CEO’s than ever before. I’m confident this upward trend will continue and of course we are better off as a society because of it.
As a part of my series about the rising stars of politics, I had the pleasure to interview Ami Horowitz. Ami is the son of an Iranian immigrant who moved to America for a better life and has made it his mission to create a better life for his family and those around him and implement change. The 46-year-old, father of 2, was born and raised in Los Angeles and graduated from the University of Southern California with majors in political science and philosophy.
After graduating from USC, Ami managed a Democratic candidate’s unsuccessful campaign for state comptroller of Maryland. Then, taking the candidate’s advice to “make money and go into politics later,” moved into investment banking, and spent over a decade working successfully in that field. After more than ten years as an investment banker he decided to follow his true calling and become a filmmaker. Despite having absolutely zero film-making experience, Ami dove in head first immersing himself into being a writer, producer and director. Over the last 10 years Ami has produced a very highly-regarded theatrical feature film “U.N. Me,” a documentary film about the United Nations. It premiered at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam. Ami’s edgy and powerful YouTube and Facebook videos have garnered over 100 million views around the world and have effected global change. His ground-breaking and informative short videos have literally changed Swedish immigration policy and US trade policy. Ami has traveled with Syrian immigrants across the Aegean ocean in a rickety raft, shelled by Ivorian rebels, and has been featured by every major publication in the world. As a hands-on filmmaker, his goal has always been to implement and activate change. Ami prides himself on more real-world experience than ANY of the candidates running. By running alongside his fellow candidates, Ami hopes to be a part of the influence that will help drive a new understanding of the importance of having a leader who understands how much unrest is in our own world.
Ami wants to make a difference and the first step is with your confidence. For more information please visit www.amiforamerica.com.
Yitzi: Thank you so much for doing this with us Ami! What can you share your “backstory” with us?
I have a pretty diverse backstory. After college I was the campaign manager for a Democrat running for Maryland State Comptroller. The candidate, at the end of the campaign, offered me sage advice when he suggested that I leave politics to earn a proper living and re-enter the field after I have made some money. He suggested that I go into his former industry of investment banking. As a 21-year-old who studied political science and philosophy, I literally did not know what an investment bank was. Undaunted by my financial ignorance, I moved to New York and cold-called investment banks from a New York City pay phone until I found a bank willing to take a chance on me. After over a dozen years as a banker, I decided to make another massive life change and pursue filmmaking. (You may sense a trend of me taking on new industries without prior training or experience). I produced and directed a documentary called U.N. Me, which opened theatrically in over 20 markets and sold internationally in 18 countries. After spending five years on one topic, I decided that while I desired to continue making edgy and provocative documentaries, I wanted to try my hand in more short-form films covering a variety of topics that spoke to me. Over the past few years, my videos have garnered over 100 million YouTube and Facebook views through my partnerships with a variety of domestic and international outlets.
Yitzi: Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that happened to you in the course of your career or campaign?
That is a tough one to single out. Some of my more interesting (and harrowing) stories include interviewing Hamas and Islamic jihad, getting shelled during a civil war in the Ivory Coast and filming in the barrios of Caracas. But I would probably have to choose my trip with Syrian refugees across the Aegean Sea. After arriving in Izmir, Turkey, I quickly found out that the local mob bosses ran this particular racket. After several meetings, including one very cordial tete a tete with a Turkish gangster that was conducted with a gun sitting on his desk, I found a mobster that was willing to let me cross on his very unsafe rubber raft with over 20 other individuals. While very little of that story was funny (other than the interview with Howard Stern describing the experience), it was by any measure interesting.
Yitzi: How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share a story of a particular person that you helped?
Bringing goodness to the world is my ultimate goal in everything that I pursue, including in my filmmaking. Although quantifying goodness is a tough metric to measure, as I sit back and review many of the stories that I have told, I feel confident that I have brought a measure of goodness into the world.
During my short documentary in Venezuela we followed a man who, along with his family, were starving. Unable to get food from the local markets, he was forced to hunt for dogs and cats in some of Caracas’ most dangerous neighborhoods. I think that by telling his story we brought him a measure of justice.
Yitzi: Which specific things do you plan to do to help the vulnerable in our society?
Unlike many of my colleagues in the Democratic party, I am not obsessed with income inequality. It does not matter to me how many billions someone has; in fact, the more the merrier. I think what is most important is providing opportunities for those in the lower classes to rise out of poverty and join the middle and upper classes. In this area we have more work to do, particularly in education, which is the ticket to leaving poverty. It is a shame that with all the money that we spend on education (we spend more on education than the military), including large per capita spending in the inner cities, that we have failed to create successful primary and secondary education for this group of people. Much of this has to do with failure of the teachers’ unions and the lack of school choice. Creating a higher quality of education for the inner cities and rural areas of the country would be a priority for me.
Yitzi: Only one in five members of Congress is a woman. This manifests itself in laws that do not always take women’s needs into account. What needs to be done to create greater parity in our representation?
This country has no place for gender discrimination in the workplace or anywhere else in the country and there are certainly things we should do to help women have greater opportunities in the workplace. For instance we need to offer greater access to paid parental leave and easier access to childcare.
We should be proud as a country that women are more successful now then they have ever been, with 58% of university students are women and there are more female CEO’s than ever before. I’m confident this upward trend will continue and of course we are better off as a society because of it.
I also believe that the gender wage gap is partially a myth and we do women a great disservice by continuing to cite that statistic. Let me explain: there are two distinct numbers regarding the pay gap: unadjusted versus adjusted pay gap. The unadjusted pay gap is the one which is generally cited but is a gross misrepresentation of reality. The adjusted pay gap statistic takes into account differences in hours worked, occupations chosen, education and job experience. The adjusted average female’s salary studies have shown that the “gap” is actually 2–10% less than adjusted average male salary. Obviously still not acceptable, but a better reflection of reality.
Yitzi: This is clearly not an easy job. What drives you?
In Judaism we have a concept of Tikkun Olam, which roughly means to improve the world. It is a conviction that has informed my way of thinking and my actions, and certainly is a driving force in my decision to run for President.
Yitzi: What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first ran for office” and why?
My political life is less than a month old so not much in the way of reflection yet!
Yitzi: Ok, fair point. Can you tell us the principles and issues that will be a part of your platform?
The United States is facing a crossroad that goes in startlingly different directions. We are a country with deep ideological differences and both sides of the aisle are trying to frame their choices as binary.
They are not.
I believe in country over party.
I have decided to run for the Democratic nomination because of the ideological radicalization of the party that has occurred in recent years. These extreme views are marginalizing the party from the majority of the country’s population and many of the current nominees hold views that are in direct conflict with the perspective of the vast majority of the country.
I am an unabashed capitalist who believes that capitalism has done more to create wealth and has lifted more people out of poverty than any system ever devised by man.
I am a supporter of a woman’s right to choose within the boundaries of Roe V. Wade.
I believe that restrictions on gun ownership are vital, but am an ardent supporter of the 2nd amendment.
I believe that legal immigration is the backbone of America’s foundation, but want to shut down the border to illegal immigration.
I believe that every American should have healthcare while preserving the free market system that has allowed the United States to have the most innovative and unsurpassed medical care in the world.
I believe that the beauty and success of this country is the allowance of individual freedom to dictate the direction that one takes.
I believe that the United States is exceptional, but what makes us exceptional needs to be fought for every single day.
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