Mulhern is a Harvard-educated lawyer, motivational speaker, and the author of a recent book, Everyday Leadership. He lives in Lansing with his wife and three children, and Dan Mulhern is the subject of this week's 10 Questions.
1.As the husband of Governor Jennifer Granholm, you are Michigan's first First Gentleman. Do you see your role as different from a First Lady's?
My role is different less because I am a man than because I am the particular person I am. Each first spouse gets to mold the role, and that's one of the best things about this role. There is perhaps one difference due to gender. As the first first gentleman, I can celebrate the election of my wife as Michigan's first female governor, and help claim that victory of equality and opportunity for all of us – women and men included. And I can show that men can do this with pride, intelligence, and love.
2. You've done a lot with your job—from encouraging volunteerism, to starting leadership seminars for state employees, to serving as chair of the Spouses' Council of the National Governors Association. But do you also do the traditionally "female" tasks of decorating the governor's mansion and putting together the menus for official dinners?
I do the traditionally female tasks of being the hands-on lead partner in raising our three kids, and my wife has been a tremendous partner in that. When the first spouses' conversations turn to decorations and menus, my first instinct is to pull out my transporter and yell, "Beam me outta here, Scotty." I am largely inept on house details, so I delegate the decisions and try to help with the implementation.
3. In between college at Yale, and law school at Harvard, you were a community organizer and high school teacher—and more recently, you were a leadership consultant in Detroit. You also have three kids. Are you still working full-time as First Gentleman—and how do you balance all of your corporate, government, and family responsibilities?
I have recently begun a nightly guest-talk radio show on leadership and do some paid public speaking outside Michigan, but I largely quit my business and kept just one paid client in Michigan. (I don't want to give ammunition to Jennifer's opponents or distract from her important work with charges of conflict of interest, so I have chosen not to do work for pay in Michigan.) I am an active --some would say hyperactive -- volunteer. But I put the family first. Jennifer and I schedule regular date nights. I coach the kids. And hard as it is I just say no to an awful lot of invitations that I'd love to say yes to.
4. The governor just won a very tough re-election campaign last year. To what extent have you advised her on political strategy?
My main focus on the campaign was to help Jennifer in the way I helped executive clients as a business coach: I would listen, reflect back ideas, and work to make sure my wife's policies and strategies were aligned with who she is and what her values are. And I was one voice on an exceptional team of advisors.
5. Is there skepticism among voters that the First Gentleman is pulling the strings in the background?
Anyone who has viewed Jennifer Granholm knows very clearly that she is, with due respect to Springsteen, The Boss. The rest of us do our best to help her and keep up!
6. Are you disappointed that your wife can't run for president because she was born in Canada? Do you think "natural born citizen" should be redefined to allow immigrants to run?
Jennifer Granholm would be a tremendous president, and Michigan is fortunate in challenging times to have her completely and totally dedicated to her job. The constitutional prohibition works in her favor because it keeps down distraction and second-guessing about her motives. She is focused on what's best for Michigan -- period. As far as the policy matter, I think that immigrants, like converts to the faith, often have greater conviction than those of us born to our country or faith. I say let them run and let voters decide.
7. Has anything changed in Michigan as the result of having a woman as governor? Do you think women are more accepted in leadership positions?
I love watching the eyes of young girls when they meet Jennifer. It seems to me they are not just seeing her, but they see themselves reflected in her. They could be governor, and that is awesome! What a great country that keeps opening doors to people. We have a ways to go when it comes to women in high level executive positions, but I think Jennifer has helped widen and smooth that path.
8. Did you ever consider running for office yourself? Might you do so in the future?
I used to think about it a lot when I was younger. Now, I am thrilled to be able to serve as I do. I enjoy doing my daily radio show on leadership and writing a weekly column called "Reading for Leading" (You can listen to the show or get a free subscription to the newsletter right here.) And I have enjoyed writing my book Everyday Leadership. In my career I have always tried to ask two questions: What is God asking of me? And: What is my world asking of me? How can I best serve? And I'll keep asking that and try to live fully in every stretch of the road I'm allowed to walk.
9. What do you and the governor plan to do after her term is up in 2011?
Take a real vacation. After our honeymoon twenty-one years ago we've never gone away for more than a week. We will enjoy's Jack's high school years. And, we'll use the talents God has given us to give back to others. Maybe the Peace Corps. Maybe working together to revive my consulting business. But trying to keep making a difference in whatever we do.
10. There's obviously been speculation about what role former President Bill Clinton might play if Senator Clinton were elected president next year. Any words of wisdom?
Me? Give advice to Bill Clinton?!?! Come on! He has had extraordinary, unbelievable opportunities to impact on the world, and I hope and assume he will continue to play on a worldwide stage. Yet I hope and wish for him that amidst all of that vital activity, he might also focus on and exult in the incredible opportunity to serve his wife. Being "first gentleman" is an invitation to a certain old-fashioned nobility. I know that this role has made me a better dad, husband, and person. I would wish the same for President (Bill) Clinton.