What It Means to Be American
A National Conversation


Don’t Get Between This Marketing Executive and the Pickled Radish

Guy Kawasaki Believes It’s American to See the Glass as Half-Full

December 22, 2015

Guy Kawasaki is a writer and Silicon Valley marketing executive who grew up in Hawaii. He was once the “chief evangelist” of Apple and now holds the same title for the online graphic design company Canva. Kawasaki is also an executive fellow of the UC Berkeley Haas School of Business. Before participating in a panel about what Hawaii can teach America about race, he talked about selling jewelry, the salad dressing that best describes him, and the person right now who most closely resembles Steve Jobs.

Q: When are you at your most creative?

Q: What did you have for breakfast today?
I had papaya, bacon, rice, takuan—which is a pickled radish. An omelet, iced tea, coffee, sweet potatoes. When I come to Hawaii, I pig out. I can’t get this stuff anywhere else.

Q: Who was your childhood hero?
It was a football player named Ray Nitschke. He was a middle linebacker for the Green Bay Packers. Of course, I believe 20 years from now, we’ll say, “What were we thinking letting kids play football?” More and more stuff about concussions is coming out. In a sense, we can already say that about boxing. I have had two boys play football. I have a third one coming up. I told him, “Don’t play. But if you do, be the placekicker.”

Q: You worked in the jewelry business for a time. What were you best at selling?
The short one-word answer is close-outs [when you get rid of stock]. I was very good at selling that. Anybody can sell the hot new stuff.

Q: What’s your least favorite thing about the Internet?
The trolls on social media.

Q: What salad dressing best describes you?
Oil and vinegar. There are aspects of my life that are seemingly incompatible. You might want to know what. If you look at what I have to do—speak, do interviews—all this kind of stuff requires an extreme amount of extroversion. Fundamentally, I’m an introvert.

Q: If you could play any musical instrument, which would you choose?

Q: You were once Apple’s “chief evangelist.” Who is your favorite tech evangelist now?
Elon Musk. Elon Musk is closest thing to Steve Jobs right now.

Q: If you could be any animal, which would you want to be?
Some kind of bird, so I could fly.

Q: What does it mean to be American?
To be American is to see the glass half-full, not half-empty. To be American means that you are accepting of other people, races, lifestyles, sexual preferences, everything. Being American also means that you strive for a meritocracy, that life is not based on where you’re born, how you’re born, whom you’re born to.

*Photo by Kenna Reed.