Ro Khanna (00:00):
Hi, my name is Ro Khanna. This is Compassionate Las Vegas, the podcast.
Will Rucker (00:29):
Welcome to Compassionate Las Vegas, the podcast. I'm your host, Will Rucker, and I wanna thank you for joining us on season four today. We can conclude our season with a real highlight. I think you're gonna be inspired. I know that you're gonna be educated, and I think you're gonna have a good time with us today too. So welcome to the podcast. None other than Ro Khanna. Our congressman from California
Ro Khanna (00:56):
Well, will thank you. It's an honor to be on. You're setting the bar really high. I don't wanna disappoint your listeners here,
Will Rucker (01:03):
. No, just, just who you are is, is a treat. So I've had the privilege to spend a bit of time with you. It seems like you're in, in Nevada more often than I am . But I'm so grateful that you've spent so much time activating our voters here this season. We've had so many great guests, but I wanted to end with you because I think you are the type of congress person that we need to know exists. This program, of course, is compassionate Las Vegas, and what you do, the policies you put forth and the way that you put them forth for me exudes compassion and progress. So I wanna start with the hardest question of the show, which is how do you define compassion?
Ro Khanna (01:47):
Well, well, I appreciate the work you're doing just by having the podcast. To me, compassion is about putting yourself in other people's shows and treating them with respect. It's not just about charity or giving things to people. It's about really seeing what is it that a person values? What is it that they have to contribute, what matters to them? And trying then to, to understand that and respect that.
Will Rucker (02:21):
I love that. I love that so much. And one of the things I try to do is center around values. When you start talking strategy, that's where you get the division. But when we focus in on our common values, I think that's where that common humanity shows up. And you can't put yourself in someone else's shoes.
Ro Khanna (02:39):
Absolutely. I think too often our politics start out with debates about policies, and we're not talking about the things that really matter to, to, to people. And what really matters to us is our families, our, our kids, our loved ones, our our parents, our friends. If you think about what you really remember and what define you but we don't talk about a lot of that. We don't talk about our faith. We, we, we, we kind of put that to one side and then we kind debate the policies. And I think if we brought more of the whole person into these debates it certainly can do worse than we're doing now as a country. I mean, hopefully it would get, get better. People would see each other more as human beings.
Will Rucker (03:27):
Yeah, that's so true. When the, when the bar is set where it is, , it's hard to do worse. So I, I didn't have this written down as a question to ask, but you did spark it for me. I define politics as groups of people deciding how they're gonna live together. How would you des define politics?
Ro Khanna (03:45):
That's a pretty good definition. I, that's, you know, Aristotle tried it and you got a pretty good, good, good definition. I, I guess I would describe it as people who are working towards a, a, a common purpose. So if it's a people in our country, what is the common purpose for our country and the state, the common purpose in Nevada for the state, or in my congressional district in Silicon Valley, What is the common purpose? And and, and working towards that.
Will Rucker (04:15):
Nice. Yeah, I like that a lot. And I, I like California, so I get in trouble because you probably have heard it. You know, don't, don't, California, my Nevada, I'm not one of those people. I'm like, California is kind of awesome. But one thing that I really like about it is, as a state, you have adopted compassion as a core values. So you are one of the compassionate states with the global charter for compassion. Do you think we have any chance of getting the nation, so getting folks in DC to sign on to the charter for compassion as a nation?
Ro Khanna (04:51):
I think we do because Americans are deep down. We're, we're a compassionate people. We care about our neighbors, We care about our families and friends and community where some of the most charitable people when you see someone who's in need, usually people will step up to, to, to help. So we just have to elevate that. And I don't think that's a California thing. I think that's a cultural thing around this country. So I, I'm hopeful that that we will
Will Rucker (05:23):
I like that you say that. I, I see, I told you, you're gonna have the optimism. You're gonna inspire people keep us, keep us streaming. What keeps you going? What keeps you motivated and inspired to do this work?
Ro Khanna (05:37):
Well, my, my story is so improbable. I mean, my grandfather spent four years in jail alongside Gandhi and India's independence movement. My parents were immigrants from India, came in the 1960s. I was born in 1976 in Philadelphia or Bicentenary. And at the age of 40, I, I mean, the country gave me this extraordinary opportunity to represent this vibrant place of Silicon Valley with Apple, Google, intel, all of the, this innovation. And I think of other people who've had these journeys, Your journey. Well, and the journey of so many of my colleagues from all different heritages and backgrounds. And I think that this country is becoming a beautiful nation long term of people from around the world. And heritage and Nevada is already there. Now I get people say, Well, what about all the hostility and the polarization and the anger? And I'm not poll but what keeps me going is this vision of what we can become. And I think what we will become,
Will Rucker (06:41):
I wrestle with that, and here's why. You know, running for office is clearly not an easy endeavor. Once you get into office, it's also not easy. And here's where I personally struggle the most common sense solutions, things that we know make life better for all of us, that some people just vehemently oppose. And it's as if they choose the thing that's against their interest often, and it appears for no reason. I mean, there are certainly reasons why, but how do you navigate that where, where you're trying to do good for folks and you're just like, No, we don't want what's good.
Ro Khanna (07:25):
Oh, well, I had that frustration every day in Congress. I mean, one of the things I thought, Can't we just make community college in this country free or vocational education free? What other country do you have going into debt? 30,000, $40,000 just to get an education. And of course there's vociferous opposition to that. I guess my view is that we've gotta, one, get the big money, special interests outta politics. But two, anything that good that happens usually requires thousands of people, millions of people marching for it, fighting for it mobilized for it. So I, the, the longer I've been in Congress, the more I kind of appreciate the activism. And I think we're sort of at the last mile of a relay. The hard work are all the activists, the organizers who build the movement to get to the point where we're just then writing the bill that they build the support for. But I've seen how popular movements can transform things. The climate, the fact that we've got 300 billion, the biggest investment ever in climate is because the kids are sitting in senators in Congress. People's offices demanding climate action. So what gives me some confidence is popular mobilization and movements.
Will Rucker (08:41):
Hmm. So for someone listening or watching that says, You know, all of this is great, but it's, it's not what I want from me. How do you open up that window to expand this idea? Independence obviously is a strong American value, but how do you expand independence into interdependence?
Ro Khanna (09:04):
Well, I'd say obviously you should fulfill your goals and ambitions and care about your family and friends. But then if you end up participating in something, it doesn't have to be politics, it doesn't have to be elective office. It could be a cause in your kid's school. It could be a cause in the community. It could be something you just do as a volunteer that you will find that that is something that just is enriching. And certainly that's been my life experience, that those things are enriching. And I think it's up for, for all of us as Americans who are individuals, but also part of a city, a state, a country, the world to find some time, carve some time out to be part of that community. I mean, it's an awesome feeling when you do things as part of a community and succeed together. It's like playing sport. And we all remember how good it is, you know, to play sports. I mean, if you think about when you played sports as a, as a young person competitively, some people keep playing. And, you know, we don't remember, at least I don't remember the times where I may have had a really great game. I do remember the times our team won. And so doing things as a team and, and, and succeeding is a great satisfactory and gratifying feeling.
Will Rucker (10:25):
Yeah. You bring back memories. So I still have a trophy from when I played soccer as a youngster. And sports never, I, I didn't stick with sports. I ended up in theater and music and that sort of thing. So in the marching band, of course we had to go to the football games, which was fun. But you're, you're absolutely right. Being and remembering that we are on the same team overall I think is something that can certainly help us. But building that collaborative spirit, understanding that the role I play is important and I can't be a success all by myself, I think is something that sports shares with theater and with music. So with that in mind, how do you approach compromise versus collaboration or compromise and collaboration?
Ro Khanna (11:14):
Well, I know the issues I won't compromise on. I'm not gonna compromise on abortion and a woman's right to make decisions over her own body. I'm not gonna compromise over LGBTQ plus equality, which are human rights in my view. I'm not gonna compromise on voting rights that every person in America should have the same right to vote. But there are places I will compromise. And that is if I want a, a trillion dollars a year in climate legislation, because that's what I think we actually need, and we can get 300 billion over 10 years, I'm gonna say, Okay, let's compromise. Cuz something significant is better than nothing. If I have a vision on how we grow our economy, and a Republican says, Well, we need to also look at the bureaucratic regulation aspect. I'll say, Okay, let's look at that and compromise. When you're one of 4 35 people in Congress, there are a lot of people with a lot of opinions. And if you don't compromise, you'll just never get something done, and it'll be insufferable. No one will sit at lunch with you. I mean, so you gotta take yourself a little bit you know, not too seriously remember, you know, you represent just one part of a, of an awesome country.
Will Rucker (12:24):
Yeah, I, I like that. And I think that's a good reminder for folks. It's over 400 people in Congress. That's, I, I mean, imagine planning a family reunion for 100, how difficult that is now, try to get something done with 400 people who represent thousands and thousands of people each. So I think that's such a important point to highlight.
Ro Khanna (12:48):
Yeah, no, I think sometimes we forget, but, but, you know, and for those who haven't visited the capital, it's still a majestic thing to do. And I feel as sense all whenever I go there and, and one of the best parts of Congress, you really meet people and communities from all over the nation. And you learn a lot about different people, their traditions, their hopes, their dreams and ultimately we've gotta find a way to, to do things like we're doing here, talk to each other in a, in a real way.
Will Rucker (13:19):
Yeah. I'm looking at the height of your ceiling. So are you in DC right now?
Ro Khanna (13:23):
I am. I'm back in DC and then go back to California. So it's it's back and forth.
Will Rucker (13:30):
Okay, good. Yeah, and I, I, you reminded me of that when you said that the majesty of the halls, and I used to visit every year pre c haven't been back since Covid, but I'm, I, I've got that itch. I want to come and Oh,
Ro Khanna (13:44):
We gotta have you back at some point.
Will Rucker (13:46):
Yeah. It's, it's an amazing place and I do encourage anyone that can get there just to visit, Please go and experience it for yourself. Take the tour cuz remind you of our history and how far we've come. I think one of the things that always kind of puts me back into reality is when they talk about the literal fights that used to happen on the floor, and now it's like, you know, the fights that we have nowadays in comparison, , I'm really, Yeah,
Ro Khanna (14:12):
No, I mean now, now it's a tame. People used to get caned and, and beaten on on the floor. So now we just beat up each other over cable news. I mean, but at least it's it's rhetorical and not physical.
Will Rucker (14:28):
Yeah, exactly. So, hey, I want to change pace for just a bit and ask you a few questions. So I'm gonna give you the first half of a sentence and I just want you to finish it with whatever the first thing is that comes to mind. So don't overthink it, you know? Yeah. Don't be a politician on me here but just answer whatever comes to mind. Right.
Ro Khanna (14:49):
Will Rucker (14:51):
Compassion is the gateway too.
Ro Khanna (14:55):
Will Rucker (14:56):
Ooh, love is
Ro Khanna (15:01):
The, the deepest human emotion. Mm-Hmm.
Will Rucker (15:04):
friendship matters because
Ro Khanna (15:08):
Will Rucker (15:11):
Mm-Hmm. the best things in life.
Ro Khanna (15:15):
It's family way.
Will Rucker (15:17):
Last one. I am,
Ro Khanna (15:23):
I am a servant of, of, of public, public servant, of a deep patriot.
Will Rucker (15:31):
Beautiful. I try to throw those in there and, and catch you off guard a little bit.
Ro Khanna (15:35):
Ah, you do, you do. But you are the hardest questions.
Will Rucker (15:38):
Yeah. but, but they're so important because understanding kind of those train of thoughts that come, I love everything you said, you know, it's each one of those we could expand on and expand on. So I wanna ask you a few more off the cuff. Which, what are you listening to now? It's a little different. What, like, what music are you listening to right now?
Ro Khanna (15:58):
You know, I'm going back to listen to, to, this is a measure. Bruce Springsteen, I, I grew up listening to him and I, I've listed some of his songs to Kendrick Lamar because they're both in different ways talk about place and the importance of place in growing up. And I just have turned to some of their music lately.
Will Rucker (16:18):
Okay. I love Bruce Springsteen. I actually have a book with him and President Obama on my mantle downstairs. Ah,
Ro Khanna (16:28):
Yeah. Well, he's got this great song, My Hometown, which is about a town he grew up in. He says he was an eight year old boy, and he was driving with his father on this Buick. And his father says, Look around, This is your hometown. And then he says the textile mills went away, and now that he has a kid and he's driving away with his kid, leaving his hometown. And there was just something about that that spoke to so much, unfortunately, the American experience. But music you know, when you listen to music, it's, it obviously moves you, but it also captures so much of what's going on in, in people's lives.
Will Rucker (17:03):
Yeah. And again, with the music background that I have, it's, it's the thing that when I, when I need to get ready for something I put on music, if I need to calm down, I put on music and have those playlists. All right. So last question of the day. How is role showing up as compassion?
Ro Khanna (17:23):
I show up as, as get past when I'm, when I listen, you know, but that's when I'm my best self. When I'm, when I'm self-absorbed, when I'm on a phone, when I'm thinking about things that's not being compassionate. But when I'm open and listening, that's, that's compassion.
Will Rucker (17:41):
Wonderful. Well, I so appreciate you taking time outta your busy schedule to join Compassionate Las Vegas, the podcast.
Ro Khanna (17:48):
I love it. Thank for what you're doing. Will, I mean, obviously I admire your public service, but maybe this is a deeper public service. So if you could get us talking like this with each other you could really change things in this country.
Will Rucker (18:00):
Well, that is certainly my goal. So thank you to our listening and viewing audience as well. As I always remind you, you are not just a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop, and what you do matters. So live compassionately, we'll see.