Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

June 11, 2012


Host: Ted Simons

Former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano


  • Former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano talks about his new book, The Campaign Within: A Mayor's Private Journey to Public Leadership. It’s a personal memoir of his private and public life as Tempe Mayor, during which he was forced to reveal he is gay.
Guests:
  • Neil Giuliano - Tempe Mayor
Category: Government   |   Keywords: tempe, mayor, giuliano, former,

View Transcript
Ted Simons: Former Tempe Mayor Neil Giuliano has been a public figure for most of his professional life. For most of that time he tried to keep his personal life a secret. That all changed in 1996 when he announced he was gay after a Tempe resident threatened to out him. Since then he's been a prominent spokesman for gay and lesbian rights and he’s just written a book about his struggles to balance his personal and private lives. Good to see you again. Thanks for joining us. A typical question is why did you write the book. I’m not going to ask you that.

Neil Giuliano: Okay.

Ted Simons: I'm going to ask, when did you decide to write it?

Neil Giuliano: I started writing it when I was still in office shortly after I came out publicly. Bill Davis was a reporter for the then Tempe Tribune and he suggested this was an interesting story, that it could possibly be historic. That's a long time ago now in the arc of the gay rights movement. We worked on it together, brain stormed, then my story changed over time and here it is a long time later and it’s finally out.

Ted Simons: Did you intend for this book to be as personal as it is? Because folks may be looking for political operations and others at campaign issues. This is a very personal book. Did you intend that from the start?

Neil Giuliano: No. In fact my first thought was I wanted to just do an autobiography and kind of just do a very nuts and bolts this is what happened from my coming out in a very political sense. What I realized was especially because of the historic times we live in for gay and lesbian Americans it was important to give the back story that informs my behavior, my decisions, my activities over a long period of time really that helped form my personality. That's why it turned into a memoir.

Ted Simons: Who encouraged you to write a book like this? Who discouraged you?

Neil Giuliano: It's interesting. Some of my political supporters, some of the political people that I have counted on for great advice over many, many years said, “Do you really want to be that honest? Do you really want to come that clean on so many different topics?” They were more hesitant. The people who were supporting me were personal friends, people from the gay rights movement who said, I believe now having led GLAD Gays and Lesbians Against Defamation for four years, telling our stories is the way we change hearts and minds. I decided I would fully tell my story as well.

Ted Simons: The process of writing can be a self-discovery kind of process. When you were writing this, now even when you were writing it now that it's in hard cover, did you learn things about yourself?

Neil Giuliano: I learned things about myself. There's so many parts that I actually wrote about that didn't end up in the final book. What’s fascinating about writing a book is that it's my story but the publisher owns it, it's the publisher's product so to speak. There were I thought really great stories with great excitement that didn't get into the book in the end.

Ted Simons: Did it ever feel like -- I ask this a lot of authors, especially people writing about themselves, did it ever feel like you were writing about someone else?

Neil Giuliano: I think when I was writing about when I was very young, a child. I didn't remember a lot of my childhood. I talked to some family members to help remember some things, piece some things together. At that point it was like how much of that was really me? Then I was assured by others, “Yeah that was you. You were that little not kid. That little snot kid, that destructive kid in the classroom.” It was really interesting to come to terms with that.

Ted Simons: As far as coming to terms with other aspects of your life, you are such a different person now than before you came out.

Neil Giuliano: Of course.

Ted Simons: That person, is that still you?

Neil Giuliano: I'm not as guarded. In the sense I guess you have to say not entirely is that still me. I'm just so fortunate and feel so grateful that I chose to live openly, that I didn't choose to live a life of deceit, a fake life. I could have easily married a woman, gotten into that kind of relationship, had children like many, many people do. I'm so grateful that I didn't choose that.

Ted Simons: Couple of things in the book when I read them I thought, you still read about this kind of stuff from folks who have been politicians and may have political ambitions. You had a mystical experience regarding your father. Talk to us about that.

Neil Giuliano: Well, it was a crazy time. He had been dead for a while. A fraternity brother of mine at Arizona State University when I was resident advisor was killed in a tragic car accident on the Friday of homecoming weekends. I was struggling with my own self-worth, who am I, what am I really all about, and I firmly believe after Chuck's funeral and all of the drama with that that my father stood at the end of my bed and told me, “It's okay. It's okay.” And I know people will say, “You were delusional, under stress. But I really believe he was there.”

Ted Simons: You wrote about this.

Neil Giuliano: Yes.

Ted Simons: No hesitation writing about it.

Neil Giuliano: No. I think opening up and allowing people to see that we're all complex in one way or another, that's why I called it the Campaign Within. Obviously it has the political thing but really that within journey and that experience with my father after he passed away was a very real one.

Ted Simons: One other point I read in the book, I thought you don't read this from aspiring politicians of the past very often. Suicide was contemplated at one point. Contemplated it sounds relatively seriously.

Neil Giuliano: It was a really rough time when I was in college, when I was a sophomore in college. I didn't fit in with the straight guys. I felt really bad about it at the time. But I would walk right by the group of guys on campus that were at the gay student organization table. Some of them knew that I was one of them, that I was gay also. Some of them didn't. There was never that kind of conversation about that. But it was a very, very difficult time, very time of really struggling. I really got to the point where I didn't think I was ever going to fit in, that I would ever be successful, ever accomplish mission, ever make anyone proud of me which as the Italian American Catholic kid growing up it was all about making someone proud of you. I thought about well, I can just walk out into the street in front of these big trucks that are coming by and not deal with this anymore. What I had read, what I had heard from my church and from society was you're immoral, disordered, you have nothing to offer because you're not like everybody else.

Ted Simons: Difficult to write about?

Neil Giuliano: It was difficult to write about but also I think because so many even today so many young people still struggle with their sexual orientation, even their gender identity, it's important for people to realize you may have those feelings, but you put them aside and move on and you find people who can help you. You just press on as hard as you have to and you can become anything you want to become.

Ted Simons: When you were writing the book sometimes authors will have a person in mind or a kind of person, composite person. Who did you write this book for?

Neil Giuliano: I wrote it for young people who are still struggling about their own identity. I also wrote it for the broader society, straight folks, to help them understand that even someone who from all outward appearances was successful and was involved in politics and hopefully did a good job in politics still had a really tough time as a young adult and still struggled growing into adulthood with some of these issues.

Ted Simons: Do you have political ambitions for the future?

Neil Giuliano: I haven’t decided that. I'm so fortunate, I have a great position, I'm CEO at San Francisco Aids Foundation, keep my permanent residency here in the valley, which is really great. I love being able to come back and forth on that 90 minute flight. I just don’t know. I watch what’s going on in politics right now. The voices of the extremes are dominating everything. I hope we'll come back to the center at some point.

Ted Simons: Do you think that's what happened in the last mayoral race in Tempe? That was a really nasty race.

Neil Giuliano: I think it was reflective of what's going on nationally. When the only voices getting a lot of play are the extremes people get drawn to those. We need to put that aside. We need to get back to governing for the 60% to 70% that are in the middle.

Ted Simons: We have about 30 seconds left. Do you think that all those years that you kept your private life secret, quiet, do you think you would be the person you are now if you had not done that, if you had been open earlier?

Neil Giuliano: The way that I led my life certainly provided me the foundation and the internal fortitude, gave me the strength to be able to become what I have become, accomplish what I have been able to accomplish with a tremendous support group and a whole lot of other people haven't accomplished anything by myself. The way my life has played out has been right for me. Everyone has to see and understand their own campaign within.

Ted Simons: Fascinating read. Thanks for joining us.

Ted Simons: Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," a discussion on the potential impact of a merger between US Airways and American Airlines. We'll look at the issue from a marketing perspective. That's Tuesday at 5:30 and 10:00 right here on "Arizona Horizon." That is it for now. I'm Ted Simon. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

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