Meet the Author: Guest Interview with Joe Pugliese

Or, J. Pug, if you're following along with our Hamilton-obsessed guest for the week. It's time to go backstage with Interview Captain MacLeod to learn more about our non-stop political pugilist. Let's step into the room where it happens for our next Ice Breaker session.


A common theme in your story is that you “fall on your face” and always get back up. I’m sure our audience can all relate to that feeling at some point or another in their education and career, but I’m curious, what makes you always get back on your feet even when you’re doubting yourself?

              When I was younger I never really did too well at anything. I was horrible at sports (still am—except for throwing the ole Frisbee pretty well), my social skills were pretty awful, and I just passed by in school without really trying and did average.

              Then in middle school I was lucky enough to have the best collective group of teachers I’ve ever had. They pushed me to push myself in a time where I didn’t think I had anything in me. Without them, I probably wouldn’t have found my potential or it certainly would’ve been too late for me to do anything with it by the time I did.

              So whenever I’m feeling down I just look at where I am and where I started. Honestly, that’s the reason why I love the musical Hamilton so much; I just feel there are a lot of similarities between the Alexander Hamilton that the musical presents and the narrative of my life so far. Just like Hamilton, I don’t want to throw away my shot. I realize that in some aspects I have a golden ticket that other people would do anything to have and because I’m cognizant of that I’ll do anything and everything to ensure it’s not squandered even if I’m at the lowest point in my life and completely doubting myself in some aspects.

              I also realize how lucky I am to have always had such a solid foundation supporting me. I had some teachers in high school (Shout out to Mr. Sullivan and Mr. Nelson!) that undoubtedly helped me solidify my social skills through leadership and continue to push me academically. Most important of all, for the past twenty-one years I’ve been blessed to have a family that’s been nothing but supportive of me. I keep pushing myself everyday, even when I’m doubting myself, so that I can continue doing right by them for everything they’ve given me. While I have some pretty specific goals for what I want to accomplish in the next few years, the unequivocal top goal I have is to make my family proud.

It’s been said that the measure of a true leader is recognizing when they need to say no as opposed to always saying yes and moving forward. Has there ever been a time for you when you had to quit or resign from something when you were down? If so, please elaborate on that experience and why you decided to let go and move on.

              Not really. In fact, when I’m down or in a rut I usually end up doing more than I was doing before. I don’t like losing and I definitely don’t like feeling down, so whenever I do I try to excel in as many things as I can to make up for it.

              I’m more under the philosophy of “say yes to everything” because you never know where it’s going to lead you. William Shatner has the same philosophy in acting and I think things turned out pretty well for him. Right now I’m a full-time college student, working full-time, spending as much time as I can studying for the LSAT, while still dabbling in some other outside activities such as being a ward committeeman in Ulster County and working with Marist College’s St. Jude Up ‘til dawn organization. So my plate is stacked full. I wouldn’t have it any other way though and if another opportunity presents itself, I’d be inclined to take it because you never know where the doors in life will lead you to.

If you could make up your own law, what would it be and why would you make it a law?

              I would definitely make it so that the LSAT was no longer required for law school. HA! Actually, make that for all standardized testing.

              Sure there’s reasons why it has to happen, but too much focus is put on to one performance and that’s not what life is. People change, struggle, and grow overtime. We don’t really get to see that in academia as a whole anymore because there’s just too much pressure on people to focus only on scores and grades and not focus on actually learning.

               I’m guilty of the system too. I’ve taken courses and crammed for these giant standardized tests, (the same thing goes for tests as a whole but that’s a different can of worms) and gotten my grade and moved on. I just don’t think you learn the same when you’re testing just for a number. By getting the focus off of the scores, you could make learning about learning again instead of learning being all about getting a good score on a test and then forgetting everything you “learned” a month later.

For more from Joe, be sure to check out his guest piece, "A Phenomenal Fight."