the mosaic principle: the six dimensions of a successful life and career
The answer is to make change our friend. The answer is to have broad access to information and information technology, to have broad-based systems of education and healthcare and family supports in every country, and to try to shape the global economy.
—President Bill Clinton, 1999
Potomac, Maryland—Saturday, December 12, 2015
The cars begin to arrive in the early evening, lights piercing the mid-December gloom. A small army of valets springs into action, shepherding cars toward their appointed destinations in neighboring fields and yards. A couple of police cars stand watch at the end of the road, although it’s unclear whether they are there to provide security, to act as a deterrent against excess revelry, or simply because they are curious to see what’s going on. Despite everybody’s best efforts, by 7:30 p.m. there is a substantial traffic jam along this quiet, prosperous neighborhood street in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, DC— the more remarkable because it is a Saturday evening.
Inside, the already substantial and beautifully appointed house has been extended by a huge marquee that envelops most of the backyard. It’s a cold night, but the rented marquee seems to come with more than adequate built-in heating. So guests are able to shed their heavy winter coats and mingle in search of people they know. This is no trivial task, because at last count the guest list has risen above 750 people.
And not just any old 750. I turn to my right and there is John Roberts, chief justice of the Supreme Court—and nearby are a couple of his associate justices. Around the corner, I almost bump into Wolf Blitzer, CNN’s redoubtable anchor—then various other journalists heave into view. In the corner, several members of Congress are huddled together, deep in discussion. Some of them are instantly recognizable, some of them not. And then clustered in the kitchen is a group of teenagers—children of our hosts and their friends.
It is easy to parody this event as a scene out of This Town, Mark Leibovitch’s satirical take on the
insularity and chumminess of political Washington—which he calls “America’s gilded capital.” That is, until you ask the obvious question, “How do you know John and April?”—referring to our hosts for the evening. Then you get a sense of the breadth and range of their networks. John Roberts is there because he and Delaney met through their respective kids’ school; others because they have worked on nonprofit initiatives with April; several because they are business partners and counterparts; almost all because they have known both of their hosts as friends, neighbors, and colleagues for a long time in a variety of settings.
John and April Delaney are almost embarrassed that their annual holiday party has grown to this size. “This just started as a few of our close friends fifteen years ago—and now look at it,” says April. “It seems like we add a hundred people to the guest list every year.” But they acknowledge that as their professional context has changed in recent years, the scale and scope of their networks have come in more than handy. And their guests are equally happy to be there—and would be worried if the annual invitation failed somehow to arrive.
John Delaney trained as a lawyer, but he has spent most of his career as a businessman, founding two companies listed on the New York Stock Exchange before he was forty years old. He has shown a flair for finding underserved segments of the financial services market. In 1993, he cofounded Health Care Financial Partners, to make loans available to smaller health-care service providers ignored by larger banks. Then in 2000 he cofounded CapitalSource, a commercial lender aimed at funding small and medium-size enterprises. In addition to his companies, he founded Blueprint Maryland, a nonprofit group that aims to create jobs in the state.
Delaney had always been involved in politics—most recently as a Democratic fund-raiser and supporter. But in 2012, he decided to take a step further and run for Congress—specifically for the Sixth District of Maryland whose southernmost boundaries almost, but not quite, coincide with this street in Potomac. Although the previously Republican district had recently been redrawn by the state senate to give the Democrats a better chance of winning, the overwhelming favorite was incumbent state senator Robert J. Garagiola. That’s when Delaney drew upon his by now prodigious network—for fund-raising, endorsements, and onthe-ground volunteers.
His campaign proposition had strong echoes of Mitt Romney’s pitch for the presidency, albeit from the other side of the political aisle: “I understand how to create jobs and the needs of small businesses—and small businesses are the job creation engine.” And in another echo of the presidential campaign that year, his opponent accused him of “loaning money to unscrupulous companies and gouging businesses with exorbitant interest rates.”
In April 2012 Delaney pulled off a stunningly large victory in the Democratic primary, beating Garagiola by 54 to 29 percent; and in November he beat ten-term Republican congressional incumbent Roscoe Bartlett by 59 to 38 percent. When he took the congressional oath in January 2013, he became the only former CEO of a publicly traded company to serve in the 113th US Congress.
Delaney is adamant that he did not assemble his network for political purposes. “I really never thought that I would run for office until 2011. When I made the decision, it was great to be able to draw upon such a wide circle of friends—not least because so many of them have experiences and insights upon which I could draw. But in many respects, it was just a coincidence—these are just the people I have got- ten to know during 25 years of living and working around here.” ■
Delaney had always been involved in politics—most recently as a Democratic fund-raiser and supporter. But in 2012, he decided to take a step further and run for Congress.