For Fathers Day, I wanted to tell you a bit about my father, Senator George Cunningham.
I grew up in a politically active family with governors and judges coming by the house, so it would probably surprise a lot of you that I wasn’t that interested in politics when I was growing up. I was well into adulthood when I first started following in his footsteps and becoming active in the community and sought elected office.
His entire career was one dedicated to public service, policy and politics. As a college student, he was already working for the government in the City of South Tucson. He moved up the ladder to leadership positions at the University of Arizona and as a Chief of Staff to Rose Mofford. He made a run for the state house in 1992 and served two terms, the second as whip for the Democratic caucus. He then served two terms as a state senator. After Janet Napolitano was elected, he served as a key advisor to her on budget issues. He still works on policy issues now as chair emeritus of the Grand Canyon Institute, a bipartisan think tank that he helped found.
Sometimes, you’ll here the phrase “he doesn’t suffer fools gladly.” It applies to my father. He isn't bothered by contrary opinions and is always up for a spirited discussion, but the one thing he can’t stand is a point of view that came from ignorance, especially the prideful ignorance that we see way too much of in today’s politics. It is because of the way he approaches policy issues: studious, deliberate and detailed. He gets frustrated when other policy makers don’t do that.
When he was in the legislature, this approach served him well. He butted heads with Governor Fife Symington, but he could respect the office. He served with plenty of people who were far more conservative than he was (back then, those more conservative included a few Democrats). He could be assured that his colleagues were, for the most part, interested in governing and doing well for the state. Frankly, it’s a very different situation up on West Washington now.
He doesn’t call me with unsolicited advice, but he’s been supportive of my career on the city council and helped me through many personal challenges. I hope I’ve been living up to the example he set as a public servant.
Thanks Dad. We need more like you in public life.