The Strategic Elements team sat down with Strategic Partner, Anthony (Tony) Zagotta. With more than three decades of experience in public affairs, Tony has brought seasoned strategic advocacy to the team. You can read our conversation below.
What started your passion for all things Italian?
My first-generation grandfather, who shared our family history with me, which originated in Calabria, Italy…and Sunday afternoon spaghetti and meatball dinners at my grandparents (in the Chicago area).
What advice do you have for a young person just starting their career?
Create an interesting, well-rounded life for yourself based on more than your academic/work career–you will be happier and more attractive to employers. I learned far more from “real world” campaigns than I did from political science classes. Read a lot, travel a lot, make lifelong friends. And, always, always allow yourself to be “teachable.”
How do you combat stress and fatigue at work?
It took me a long time to get to this place but it is important to practice self-care. Do something for “you” each day outside of work. This is a daily discipline and could be something as simple as a workout or time alone in the morning with meditation/prayer (and coffee). If we don’t care for ourselves, we aren’t of much use to others.
What book changed your life?
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. While I don’t agree with all of Rand’s philosophy, the book had a profound impact on me: society should celebrate those who create and produce–not demonize them.
Tell us about your dinner with Margaret Thatcher.
I was chairman of an international youth group at the time, and she was our patroness. So, I had the opportunity to sit next to her at dinner for 3 hours in London. We talked about politics and other world leaders. She was just as dynamic, full of conviction, and larger than life in person– as she was in public. Truly an amazing woman and an experience that I will never forget.
What is your favorite pastime?
I love to travel, with a particular affinity for Italy, France, and South Africa.
If you could switch lives with anyone for a day, who would you choose? Why?
The President (doesn’t matter who the person is). I would have an around-the-clock schedule that day: call heads-of-state and ask a lot of questions, intel briefings and ask a lot more questions (that would be very eye-opening), fly Air Force one and make a speech announcing major policy changes (all in line with my views, of course), appoint my clients to positions not requiring Senate approval, and check out the White House living quarters. It would be incredible.
What are you most looking forward to?
The day when I can spend my whole summers in Italy, spending long afternoons at a café, having cappuccinos while I people-watch.