Episode 98

St Pete X features business and civic leaders in St. Petersburg Florida who share their insight, expertise and love of our special city. An initiative of the St. Petersburg Group, St Pete X strives to connect and elevate the city by sharing the voices of its citizens, and to bring awareness to the opportunities offered by the great St. Petersburg renaissance.

05/19/2024 | Episode 98 | 43:29

Sean Schrader - Future President?

In this epside of SPx, Joe welcomes Sean Schrader, a young, dynamic community leader who recently completed his MBA from the University of South Florida. Schrader shares his journey from local neighborhood meetings to working with U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist, emphasizing the importance of local advocacy, community involvement, and civil discourse. He discusses his future ambitions, including a potential stint abroad to gain global experience and his aspiration to become a JAG officer, aiming to continue his service to the community and the country.



Joe Hamilton:

Welcome Sir.


Sean Schrader: 

Thank you very much for having me. It’s great to be here.


Joe Hamilton: 

And I think I told you that one time I saw you at USF when we were walking around, I said that we actually refer to you as, I think if there were a bookmaker for such things as politics, you’d be the odds-on favorite in St. Pete to make it all the way to the White House. 


Well, hey, well, thank you very much. I appreciate it.


Sean Schrader: 

No pressure. No pressure. If you take Venmo or Cash App afterwards, we’ll settle up, you know? Sure.


Joe Hamilton: 

And you do a lot of stuff. So quick introduction, you just got your MBA from USF. Typically, for this podcast, we heard folks have lived a good, long life, and we’re looking back at what they’ve done, but you’ve lived a very full life, even just up to your point of getting your MBA.


Joe Hamilton: 

And so I think it’s actually noteworthy because you’re obviously on this path, and you’re at an interesting age where I’m looking forward to hearing your motivations and how you feel like you’re interacting with the world today, given the state of it. So I guess the list of stuff and clubs and things that you’re involved in is endless. Most recently, you just finished your term as governor of the student body? 


Sean Schrader: 



Joe Hamilton: 

Yeah. So when you look back on the things you’ve done, talk about a couple of the highlights, just so we can kind of get to know some of the things that are meaningful to you.


 Sean Schrader: 

Well, it’s been very interesting.


Throughout my 22 years, I’ve been very lucky to call Clearwater my home throughout my life. I think a large part of why I’ve stayed in this area, especially through college, has been family. I’m very, very lucky.


I talk to friends and classmates that tell me they don’t have any of their grandparents around, let alone sometimes not their parents. And I’ve got both sets of my grandparents still alive today, some in Shore Acres, some in Clearwater. And that’s really just so special to me.


And that’s really guided, you know, kind of my interest in staying very involved in this community to have that kind of support. And it’s actually a very funny story. I got going when I was about 10 years old.


I went with my dad to a neighborhood coalition meeting, very similar to the Kona organization here in St. Petersburg. The CNC, the Clearwater Neighborhoods Coalition up in Clearwater, does very similar kind of neighborhood advocacy work. My dad really wanted to get involved because they were working on some projects in his neighborhood, and nobody was helping him from the city.


So he thought if he goes to this meeting, maybe he can make some city contacts. He made a deal with me. He said, Sean, if you go to this meeting, you behave yourself, you’ll get a little toy car at the end.


And I’m a big fan of car collecting, maybe not as much as I used to be, but hot wheels, matchbox, all that kind of stuff. You can never pass it up. And so I said, okay, deal.


So I went, I was quiet. And it was a few years that we would go to these meetings. He got very involved in that organization that I really didn’t pay much attention to what was going on.


I was more interested in my tablet. But after a while, it really struck me just how important local advocacy is to change making. And I think that’s not oftentimes understood that so much can happen at the local level, because that’s often how you are most impacted by actions that are happening.


And so it was that experience that really guided my interest in wanting to get involved in the local level. When I was in high school at Largo High School, I was very lucky to be appointed to the Clearwater Charter Review Committee that kind of gave me my first taste of what real government action looked like. And you know, then the major challenge of trying to prove to other people that I’m serious in what I’m doing, because I think there’s that perception of young people being involved.


And so I did those things. And then when 2020 hit 2019, during my first school year at the University of South Florida here in St. Petersburg, pursuing my bachelor’s in business management, I was offered an opportunity to do an internship with now former U.S. Congressman Charlie Crist. And I did that for about a semester.


And then when COVID hit, I was given a battlefield promotion to become a caseworker and help people with their stimulus checks. And over a four or five month period from March of 2019 to maybe August, I helped. I was very lucky to help over 200 people get their stimulus payments.


And you got to see just how important that, you know, nonpartisan government work is, because these were people that weren’t looking for checks, maybe to get a new phone or get some new tech thing. These are people that were in dire straits. I mean, people that needed the money to pay for rent, pay for food.


And that was just really eye-opening. And so all of that to say, I did that for a while. And then probably one of the most consequential moments I had in my time so far, I’m sure you know, Joe, everything always seems to happen at once, right? Things get quiet and then you got to make big decisions.


I was approaching my final year at USF and was deciding what to do next. And I thought, you know, I’ve been lucky. I did IB in high school, the International Baccalaureate program.


I did my undergrad accelerated. Why not go ahead and get an MBA? Could use some of your undergrad classes to accelerate your time frame, use scholarship funding and those things. And so I thought, you know, I’ve never been involved in student government work at USF.


I didn’t think it was very valuable. I thought it was kind of pointless, given the fact I was already involved in the community. But I began to see more of what was going on in St. Petersburg and thought this would be a cool way to really advocate for more student engagement in our community.


I think, as you know, the mayor and other county officials and city officials are very interested in youth engagement. And I thought this would be a great kind of partnership to form. And so I decided I wanted to run for student government position.


I was going to run for governor. I’d not done a whole lot. I’d done a senator role, but I thought, why not go for the top dog position? And you know how that is.


There’s always a little politicking. I had to get my running mate lined up. And then you’re kind of figuring out who the opponents would be in the race.


I decided I was going to do it. And then less than 24 hours after I decided I was going to run, all the pieces had been lined up. I got a call from Charlie Crist’s office and they said, Sean, our district office manager has left and we are looking for somebody that could come in and kind of plug and play and help us get through the rest of his term in Congress.


And it would be a lot of work. When you were an intern, this is kind of the boss of the interns kind of deal. But would you be willing to do it? And at 20, I thought, how often do you get called for something like that? And I talked to my parents.


I talked to a lot of people. They said probably this is going to be one of the busiest moments you’ve ever had in your life, but you’ve got to take it because the experience is second to none. And so I did that and then also ran for governor at the same time.


A lot of coffee going on, definitely. But that’s kind of informed my experiences up to this point. I’m very intentional about wanting to do things that make our community and our region a better place.


As you’ve mentioned before, civil discourse, I think, is very important. I’m a much bigger fan of trying to remove politics where you can and try and help people. I think these experiences have allowed me to gain a better understanding of our community and help kind of fulfill that goal.


Joe Hamilton: You mentioned your dad. And so that tells me there was the first couple of steps on the path of service was there with your dad. And you’ve kind of evolved through several different flavors of service.


Joe Hamilton: 

And you mentioned politics, which sometimes when you think about grassroots community work and you think about working for a congressman, they’re worlds apart in that the different powers that are at play and the different motivations that are at play. So how has your drive for service evolved? What does it mean to you now? Is it just righting wrongs? Is it putting puzzles together? Is it driving forward progress? And then how does that overlay to your own personal growth path and ambitions? 


Sean Schrader: 

Well, I think when I first got into this stuff, as you know, a lot of students and fellow youth, it’s all about personal branding. It’s about what looks good on LinkedIn or something like that.


And sure, I mean, everybody thinks in those terms, I think. And for me, though, what I’ve learned in these different experiences, because you’re very right, I mean, to go from working with a group like the Neighborhood Coalition, to be on a local city board, to go all the way up, I mean, you know, and work very closely with a member of Congress and student government, you see very different sides of the coin. And I think what really drives my interest is an ability to make change happen.


I think that that is my biggest thing. I’d like to consider myself a doer more than anything else, more than talking about what needs to happen. And I think that that is the biggest element of this.


And my real motivation is trying to engage people that think the system or those folks don’t work for them or don’t care about them. I think that is one of our biggest challenges today is people feel like they’re left out, that people don’t care about them, that they don’t have a voice, they don’t have any kind of reason to be involved in this work. And I think that’s the exact opposite.


And I tell people all the time, especially students, the biggest thing that can be done is education, I think in the opportunities that are out there. And if you don’t like the opportunities that are out there, I think having the chance to talk to officials, talk to leaders that are in government that are in the education space, nonprofit, whatever the case may be, to find ways to serve is so important. And I think you definitely know this for me and our friendship over the last few years, some have this kind of burn the house down mentality about service or about leadership, that if it’s not working for them, we’re going to turn it down and we’re going to just do something totally different and burn bridges along the way.


I’m the exact opposite. One thing I really am fortunate, I think to say is I have a lot of friends who have very different political ideologies around the county. And that is through friendship and through listening.


I think that’s the biggest thing is listening to other people, having those partnerships. You may not agree. Okay, that’s fine. What can we agree on to move us forward? And that’s so important. 


Joe Hamilton:

 And so with change, as your opportunities become bigger, your expectations become bigger, and you talk about something like reengaging, which, you know, I think civil discourse, you know, it’s sort of squinting one eye and people’s feeling of disconnectedness to their government is an uncivil discourse they have with the government. And it very much feels like an other that they don’t understand that they don’t connect with.


Joe Hamilton:

 So wanting to bridge that gap is very noble, but it is daunting with so many forces, including the people in government, who often just want people to go away and let them do their thing. You know, and so how do you gear up for more opportunities and more expectations to do an even harder job with something as grand as reconnecting the average person to the government in a way that that’s useful? 


Sean Schrader:

 You’re right. Exactly.


And I think what makes it even more challenging now is when you look on social media and you see the rise of things like AI, it is very challenging to delineate what’s true and what’s not. It’s become very, very difficult for anybody. I think when you see news or you see pictures that may be edited, you don’t really know what’s going on in a governmental sense of what’s accurate and what’s not, especially when a lot of people use social media is their number one news source.


And I think we’re all guilty of that. I certainly am to some extent sometimes. And so I think the biggest thing we can be doing is education in educating people.


I have certainly been on the receiving end of hundreds of calls, if not more, from very angry people, very, very angry people that are just so upset with what’s going on, whether it’s how Congress is voting on something, something that has happened in their local government with sidewalk construction taking too long. I mean, it really runs the gambit. And I think the biggest thing is that education piece and saying, OK, here’s your problem.


Here are actionable steps you can be taking to solve it. And it was interesting to me, Joe, I’m fortunate to serve on a few different local boards and with organizations in our community. And there are several that have reported over the years how they will get referrals from different governmental offices, different, different folks that need assistance.


And they’re almost like a dumping ground almost. So you’ll have that office, that governmental office say, well, I don’t want to talk to you anymore on the phone. You’re kind of a headache to me, as you mentioned.


I’m just going to go refer you over to somebody else. But that referral doesn’t help the problem. I mean, you’re just kind of extending the delivery mode of bad news almost.


And so with that, then you’re just making people more frustrated, more angry and more upset. And so then when you’re talking to these people on the phone, they’re just at their wits end because they’ve talked to 20 people on the phone already who have just left them to voicemail or to do something else. And so I think when we can be intentional about our education of the resources that are out there to help people, I think that is a very good step.


I also think what’s very important is the need to advocate for why people should get involved in this work, in volunteer work. Again, as you know, whether it’s in St. Petersburg, in Clearwater, different local municipalities around here, there are all kinds of vacancies on advisory boards all the time. And that is very low-hanging fruit, I think, for ways to get involved.


That allows you, I think, to understand. Because I think a lot of times you’ll have civilians look at the decision-making process in government and say, well, that was a really bad decision or this is a really poor way to do things. OK, that’s very fair, right? Everybody’s got access to an opinion.


But it’s important, I think, to understand where the experts or those staff that are with the city or with education at different places, depending on the type of environment you’re in, to understand where they’re coming from and understand what informs their decision-making process. And so then if you can serve on a board or something like that, that’s really low-hanging fruit to get involved and understand what’s going on. And I think with that, small change happens.


We’ve got a lot of big problems. I don’t think we solve them overnight because they didn’t happen overnight. But those are ways to really make small change.


Joe Hamilton: 

And that spawns two follow-up questions in my head. I think the one I’m going to go for first is the quality of boards and their usefulness. I will say that I almost never join boards when invited because I think that they have a fundamental flaw. The average board has a fundamental flaw in its operating structure in that it’s typically it often attracts single-issue folks. I joined the school board because I’m passionate about XYZ, which sets you up a little bit for failure because you’re just going to be driving that single issue the entire time. And I also think that even in other places where you might work on a mission or a direction or a branding or anything for a general organization, bringing people that are smart together for an hour a month or a couple hours every quarter, A, there’s so many just sort of just social politics, just group dynamics that are at play where you’re just sort of feeling each other out and you’re not really comfortable and you don’t want to offend anybody and you also want your ideas to be heard.


And I always say that boards reduce things to the mean. They just please everybody a little bit and a board never made the iPhone, I guess. It takes a singular sort of vision or a group vision that’s directed and sometimes without compromise to get there. And so I think boards are vital, but I find that I can make more of an impact just doing the things that I’m already doing that are outside of boards. And so then it begs, the problem is that you get to put people on the board and they end up leaving more frustrated than when they join the board because they see, you know, this is supposed to be the place I’m going to make a difference. And I can’t because it’s just, you know, even the politics of the board itself takes up 80% of the energy.


So what are your thoughts on that observation? 


Sean Schrader: 

You’re exactly right. And what makes it even more complicated is when you have things like the Sunshine Lawn place, which make it very, hopefully you hope a lot of people want to say things, you know, publicly, but, you know, you have some times where you want to have conversations which need to be held, which would be probably more appropriate or people would feel more comfortable if you don’t have 10 cameras watching you and knowing it might get on YouTube and there’s a viral clip and all that kind of stuff. And so it’s so easy to happen.


Sean Schrader:

 For me, I think about when I was at USF and in the student government role as governor, I got a lot of different complaints from students all the time, especially about our student center, about some of our dining services, our parking services, maybe not always complaints, sometimes questions, but sometimes definitely concerns. And so I thought, as opposed to me sitting here and serving as one singular voice in working to try and convey all these concerns to the appropriate people that we’re serving in these roles, why not form advisory councils, which then allow these students who are passionate about these things to get involved directly with these bodies, advocate for the changes they want to see, and then see these things happen. And you know, with students, usually if there’s not free food around, that’s a lack of a draw.


And so let alone feeling like their voice isn’t heard. I mean, students explore so many different things all the time, so many opportunities in front of them, they’re not going to, you know, waste time not being intentional in their decision making. And so, for example, I’m very proud of the formation of an advisory board for the university student center that we created last year, that is now still in place today, it is thriving, no pun intended, as far as I can tell.


And that is, I think, the example of different leaders who operate the student center there, that understand the need to have student voices. And those student voices have informed their decision making. For example, they have a big event called the late night breakfast.


You know, at the end of the semester, you get breakfast when you do your final exams and everything to support students. They changed the layout of how they were going to offer this event, one of the biggest signature events they have, they went to the student center advisory board to ask for their input and confirm how they wanted it to go, which then guided their decision making process. And so I think when you arm these boards with enough power, that’s how you can actually make it happen.


I think at a student level, I think you’re right, though, in our community, we do have a lot of boards where it’s just one of these, let’s get around once a month and kind of vent about what’s going on, or let’s hear about different operational changes that are happening. But we’re not really going to ask for your insight into that, we’re just going to tell you about what needs to happen. And I think that has to be some kind of culture shift.


And I think one of the easiest ways to go about making those changes happen is when you seat new board members, I think it has to be left up to the chair, it has to be left up to accompanying staff that advise those boards is to say, what do you want to get out of joining this body? What is a realistic expectation of changes we can make happen while you’re part of this board, whether it’s part of a nonprofit board, part of the city board, whatever the case may be. I think when you set those expectations, not only does it give staff or the CEO or other people a better understanding of what they want from their leaders, it gives the board members value in saying, okay, maybe this idea is not reasonable, but maybe these other things are achievable. And I think that’s the best way to go about it.


Joe Hamilton: 

And if you were setting up boards for an organization that you were starting, what size would that board be? 


Sean Schrader: 

I think if you have too many people, like 20 people, that’s way too many because you’re right. You need to have an intentional piece to this where people feel welcome. They feel safe. I think seven is a great sitting spot because you’ve got likely then a chance to have very diverse thought in diverse representatives and what you’re thinking about representing different backgrounds from a ethnicity standpoint, from a work experience standpoint, all of those different things, which is very important to incorporate lived experiences, all those things. You have the odd number, so you’re likely not going to have cliffhanger decisions. And then I think it’s enough people where you have different viewpoints, but not enough to the point where people wouldn’t feel like they are really stuck and unable to feel comfortable sharing their perspective.


Joe Hamilton: 

That makes sense. And the other thing, the other thought as we were talking earlier is when you talk about engagement, engagement with governments, I think Facebook was a unique community shifter in that it organized people around their peer groups, their friends and family, which a lot of them thought like each other. So 80, 90% thought like you, think like your family, think like your friend group.


Usually they’ll say, for us people, you completely disagree with on everything. And so it’s well known that the silos reinforce that. And so we now have this very siloed community, which has driven a lot more partisanship. And because the world’s more complex, people just find it easier to have an identity and just sort of agree with that identity versus looking at individual issues. So I think that that has plagued what I would call the maybe 40 and over crowd. And obviously Facebook is declining in its efficacy or engagement with people younger than that. So how would you characterize, obviously this is a vague generalization, but I still think it’s worth talking about a 20-year-old relationship with government and a 45 or 50-year-old relationship with government. 


Sean Schrader: 

As you mentioned, I think social media has played a monumental role in how people perceive things, not only do you have this thing going on now where people just are always looking at social media, I think constantly is their news source. You also have an issue, I think, where everybody’s an expert in everything.


Like I think back a few months ago with that submarine incident that happened, you get online and all of a sudden people that have never seen a submarine before are somehow now an expert in what’s going on with these kinds of things. And you see that with so many things, whether it’s with COVID, all of these different challenges that have happened over the last few years. And I think what also has happened with COVID now is you have a real rise in mental health challenges, especially among youth with things like social anxiety, the rise of social media where people can sit behind a screen, they don’t need to interact person to person.


I think that has really caused an increase in social anxiety where people don’t feel as comfortable being in person, talking person to person. And that is very concerning, I think, as we think about how we move forward as a society, especially bridging different gaps of people. And so my thought has been, especially engaging youth and in helping to engage older populations as well, is that you have to meet people where they are.


That’s just what it is. And there’s only so much you can do. If youth who are very concerned about social anxiety don’t want to get involved in person, I don’t think they will.


I think you have to offer those types of virtual opportunities. I think the same can be said for older populations as well. If they feel like they’re not going to be comfortable, if they feel like they can’t have a real value proposition in joining different things, I don’t think they will.


And so I think it’s one of those where you have to be very intentional in meeting people where they’re at. I’m always a big fan of person to person, like what we’re doing here. I always enjoy the small talk.


But for people that don’t feel like they can do those things, I think that having those virtual opportunities available, it’s important. I don’t think you get as much out of it. I think there’s a real challenge in misreading what people have said in terms of their tone and things like that.


But if it’s what moves us forward, then I think that’s what moves us forward. I think that’s one of those things that has to be taken under consideration. 


Joe Hamilton: 

And then are you saying that the social anxiety is more severe in the 20-year-old demographic than I mean, the 40-year-olds obviously grew up, 50-year-olds we’ll call it, grew up pre-internet, and so they had a mix and they still went through COVID and they still are on Zoom, but maybe not such a foundational level as some of the younger folks who have grown up completely with social and then went through COVID. So are you seeing that as a more pointed problem for the younger generation?


Sean Schrader:  I am, yes. Especially people that were in high school, maybe now in college or began kind of college when they had social media growing up. Now to have those virtual environments available to them, I think when you’ve just been accustomed to that for so long, then these person-to-person environments are less likely to happen.


Or a lot of times now with courses, you still have the ability to take some online. And so then it just really, to a large extent, is able to negate any types of in-person opportunities, let alone networking. I mean, just talking to other students in class.


And so I think that’s a real challenge. And so then if you aren’t seeing those folks in that generation in-person settings, maybe you do find, like you said, the 50-year-olds maybe back out and open, especially if they don’t understand social media or technology as much as maybe younger generations do. But I think it then creates that challenge in being able to bring those groups together.


And I think one of the biggest things I try to advocate for among students is the importance of mentorship, right? A lot of students today I think are frustrated with the job market. They’re frustrated with, okay, well, maybe I have an undergraduate degree. I don’t want an internship out of the gate.


I want to get straight into a job. And you know, of course, that there are very unique complexities in hiring today and those types of things. COVID’s played a huge role in that.


So I think when you have the ability to have that mentor-mentee relationship, that can make things much easier in terms of knowing how to be intentional in your work experiences and get the kind of jobs you want. But when people have those challenges of social anxiety and other things, I think it makes it a lot harder to have those types of relationships. 


Joe Hamilton:

 You mentioned, and this is something, again, I feel like a more discussing  issues with you than asking you questions, but I’m very curious as to your thoughts. But you mentioned the viral YouTube clip a couple of minutes ago as well. And I find that to be a nefarious problem as well. I think that building things in the community as you do is very important.


It’s a sacred act, right? I think holding people in power accountable is a sacred act as well and important. It’s hard to do, right? But I think now we have an imbalance where very, very, even individuals can cause undue damage by simply asking questions or saying things. And the imbalance is that the people doing the work are held to a standard, but the people asking the questions and posting those videos and making accusations, even inferred or direct, are not held to those same standards, right? Because it’s sort of a blanket of, well, I’m just doing what’s good for the community. I’m just making sure that the money is being spent, I’m just, you know, but the reality is, is they’re not. They’re weaponizing that, not all the time, but sometimes they’re weaponizing that. And so you end up in this world where for all the work you’ve put in, one slip of the tongue repeated a million times could undo years of good stuff that you’ve done.


And that’s got to be a weight. Is it a weight? 


Sean Schrader: 

It is. And I think what makes it even worse, like you said, is when that one slip of the tongue, when that one item that somebody’s voted on is taken out of context with the rest of it.


And then you have a lot of folks that aren’t aware of anything that’s going on with this particular person or this community or anything. They see that one thing and then that’s their perception. And then it’s very hard to change that perception. And so then you’ll see people maybe on Twitter or X, excuse me, when it’s posted, you know, they will have, you know, a clip, a viral clip, a vote or something or something that someone has said. And then you’ll have people in the comments go back and forth and educate people. But then you’ll see a lot of times people don’t want to be educated.


I mean, they just want to debate and they want to fight. And so I think with those types of folks, unfortunately, I don’t really know if they are looking to get something out of it. My gut tells me they’re not, you know, they’re just looking to fight. They’re looking to have some kind of conversation that’s going to be very upsetting to them. They’re looking for relevance. They are.


Right. Right. A lot of relevance.


You’re exactly right. And so I think with those folks, the best thing you can do is try and, you know, be that education piece. But if they’re looking for relevance and they’re looking to grow their own brand and maybe that fire brand is what they want, that’s just something I think you got to live with.


And one of the most challenging things for me, Joe, in this work, over the years has been that formation of having tougher skin and having that self-confidence when you make decisions to say, okay You may take the heat for it, but here’s why I’ve acted in this way. Here’s why I’ve decided on this thing and so when the heat comes if it does you have to be able to defend it


Joe Hamilton:

And there are a couple ways to mount a defense or sort of to protect yourself from being canceled, right? When one is being careful right and just being overly thoughtful and making sure that you’re meticulous about every word you utter but then that takes up a lot of your resources that could be put towards actually doing good work and means you might not do a podcast like this just because in a free-flow conversation for an hour, you know, it can be tough and but then the other piece of that is to be powerful and to be strong enough in your Reputation and your integrity and the quality of work that you can take some hits as well So I guess two-parter one is do you agree?


that the bigger and more interesting things you do that is inevitable that the hits will rise proportionally and Part B. How do you strike the balance between careful and power and handling those hits?


[Speaker 1]

Well, I think that the biggest thing that I’ll answer the second part first I’m a big fan of being a straight shooter about stuff I think we have too much political non-speak almost if you will today that goes on where you say a Big sentence and it really when you translate it and boil it down means a lot of nothing I think that’s part of the frustration people feel is you have these monumental challenges and then people get up and talk about stuff And it’s really not anything Relating to actionable change that’s happening And so when you can communicate with people and get down to the brass tacks of what’s happening I think that’s so important and that’s one thing I always try and think about and going back to the first part of this question about then how you Really get ready for these types of challenges and if you just kind of embrace it as time goes along I found I think that that’s just kind of what happens you have the ability, you know, I’ve been fortunate I mean working what whether it was with the congressmen or USF and kind of having these bigger opportunities You find a lot of people that just are upset and angry and they’re just kind of angry to be angry sometimes about what’s going On if you went right you should have gone left and that kind of thing and so I think again It’s just kind of having that ability to embrace it and to say I would be willing to hear your perspective I’m willing to work with you But if you’re not willing to meet me halfway or at least have a discussion about stuff Then I don’t think we’re going to get anywhere and as you know there’s this kind of culture nowadays where we almost can pull out an iPhone and Play some kind of gotcha game and you stick a camera in somebody’s face or something like that Luckily, not yet.


Maybe I’ll speak it into existence I haven’t had something like that happen, but I I’m not of that kind of mindset I think I’m way more about again the civil discourse being able to talk person to person not debate people on social media about stuff that’s going on and I think that That is again what kind of exacerbates the problem if you feed into that, I mean it just makes it even worse


Joe Hamilton:

Do you feel free to? Really, let your personality flow out there. Do you feel free to make jokes? Do you feel free to? Make observations show your preferences in life, or do you find it that it’s not worth the risk?


Sean Schrader:

It kind of goes both ways. I think I try and understand the context of where we’re in I’m a big fan dad jokes and those aren’t too controversial usually everybody likes as I kind of everybody tells me I’m like an old man and a young guy’s body So I kind of embrace that energy to a large extent even down in my loafer shoes, you know, but I definitely find Trying to be respectful of the environment you’re in is very important I try and do that as much as I can I think that when you show that you’re trying to be respectful and trying to incorporate those different perspectives That may you know perceive things differently than you do.


I think is very important I think that when you do that, it kind of helps to Diminish some kind of feeling that there might be arrogance in a room or stuff like that And so that that’s that’s kind of how I try to approach and I’ll be honest with you I haven’t figured any of it out either. I’m still learning and every environment is a little different you find for sure



Joe Hamilton:

 Yeah, it’s tricky too because That changes the I won’t say the power dynamic and you know, not in the raw sense of you know Who’s but there are when you come in and you immediately your focus is on? Making sure you show your respect which is hugely important and their focus is not their focus is on judging whether you’re worthy of their respect You’ve already shifted the power dynamic in the room, right? And then that makes you know The ideas you present have a different flavor to them that makes your presence have a different flavor to it And that’s the math that you know, I’m always the equation I’m always trying to solve when you know when I go into a place where I . Again I think the straight shooter thing is fantastic I think it’s easier right because then you’re just you and you don’t have to Help you strip away some of the layers of convolution or whatever to have to manage all of that if you’re just raw but at the same time it’s You know as much as you’d like to just fall back on that Even there if people really want it to go direction with you . They’re gonna do it and it goes back to that sort of you know The litmus test is just always on the person being judged versus the judge. Judge you can be completely or the judge or it can be completely Irrational completely one issue completely motivated by a personal thing a mood Something happened to them earlier in the day and you’re just on the wrong side of it and even worse even you know It’s a slight misperception where they’ve you really feel like they make them feel wronged then they’re crusaders, right?


And it’s just like man. It’s just that’s where you know with catalysts our big thing was Positive aspiration right we want to just continue to put places and try to put positive places to put your energy You know a little tangential, but I think that’s a big problem with national social media platforms Is there’s just no place for the energy to go if you’re talking about the Ukraine and the war It’s like what you know two people and you know someone in Peoria, Illinois someone in St. Pete talking about that the only place for that energy to go is in a rhetorical victory of words between the two of them, right? And that’s just nasty.


I mean, there’s just no that just rots people’s brains and makes us So I think giving people an outlet to put their energy that’s aspirational positive I think is the best fix that I found for the the larger problem.


Sean Schrader:


Well, I agree completely I think people having to remain grounded in themselves is very important as well For example a student ran for a position on the Tampa campus student government role.They were not elected and so they got connected to me through some folks And so we met a little while back. They were looking for advice I told them my advice and $5 to get you some coffee. So I’d be careful how much you use it, but they told me when we sat down they said Sean, you know I’m very surprised that you would take the time to meet with me I mean you’ve done a lot of different things you’ve been sold as this guy that’s done a lot It seems like you wouldn’t want to give me the time of day and I really thought about I said, you know That is one of the biggest reasons why we have these challenges today is this ego perception where it’s like well I’ve done these things so I’m better than you and I don’t think that could be any more wrong I think everybody’s got value in what they do. Every single person has value You don’t have to you know Give a big speech or you know write these things for your work to have value and I think when we’re intentional and Understanding everybody’s got purpose. Everybody’s got something They’ve got to live by and everybody’s got their right to an opinion and a perspective I think that helps to you know Inform our our decision because as you know as you climb these ladders and do these things It’s very easy to have Ego when you have staff that help you with things when you get recognized in different ways you give different interviews But I think again, that’s one of our big challenges remaining grounded in that and understanding that as easy as it was to come up It’s just as easy if not easier to fall back down and being grounded in that perspective is so important


Joe Hamilton:


And unfortunately the the world framework doesn’t say doesn’t make people feel like everyone’s equal because literally the entire You know social interaction framework has a measurement to it. How many followers do you have?


How many likes do your posts get? It’s it’s down to the granular person Completely a hierarchy of you know of stats that show who has theoretical more theoretical value than other people That’s a another tough thing to combat So, you know, I’m definitely coming back around to social media being something that needs some work. It does It really does for sure Let’s talk a little about the future So first, let’s hit the the actual things you’re going to do and then let’s let’s talk about the you know The more the deeper goals behind them.


So what’s what’s next? You’ve graduated. You’ve got your MBA now What was your MBA in just a general general business administration?


Yeah, so what’s what’s next?


Sean Schrader:

Well one regret I have from my undergrad and really with an MBA can’t do a lot of his study broad Last spring I was incredibly lucky to represent USF and go to the United Nations Annual Economic Social Council forum as well as the World Bank Youth Summit and I went into these things thinking You know what’s going on in Tampa Bay, Florida is probably a very great interest to all these different counterparts around the world And Joe, I got to tell you that was one of the most Humbling experiences I’ve had because you walk into these environments and you have people that say well, yeah, that’s great We’ve also got all these different things going on in our communities. And so those Situations really led me to think there’s got to be a way to increase my global perspective and my global understanding I think that’s so important as we’ve talked about with that social media piece. Some people don’t value experience I do I think lived experience is very very important and my hope is this upcoming fall to spend a little time abroad just for a school year would kind of be the hope in doing some kind of work whether it be English teaching Cultural competency those types of things for folks in another part of the world, whether it be in Asia in the United Kingdom We’re still waiting to hear back on a few things To kind of get them equipped to be successful with the same kind of thing.


I think that’s very important I think in a short-term environment like that that would kind of go maybe August to May something around that lens That would give me a really good understanding of different perspective.


Joe Hamilton:

You said school year. Does that mean this is now? Just school year as a framework or you actually now going for another degree No, no, no used to be school years a framework.


Sean Schrader:

So probably August to May that kind of thing And then I hope to be back here in Pinellas County. I am very appreciative of my Grandparents who were in the military and the work they did is You know service I was very lucky a few years ago as a part of a shadowing Experience with USF to go down and shadow the Public Defender’s Office. That is probably some of the most thankless work I’ve ever seen it’s very admirable what those folks do and I want to replicate that in some way helping people maybe that don’t understand the Complexities of law, of course, you know, sometimes people break the law intentionally but I believe there are people out there from what I saw the break the law just because they don’t know otherwise they’re in their Dire straits and so being a JAG officer a judge advocate general I feel would be an incredible way to give back in service to help those in need and You know help serve our country in a way and so that would probably mean a little more school Law school is the final route and then hopefully service here in our community to some extent.


Joe Hamilton:

That’s wonderful.. Well, it sounds like you have a few great years ahead of you, and you’ve given yourself a good Launch pad and a good trajectory with all the things you’ve done so far. I think your biggest challenge is going to be bringing back the five-page resume. You know, everybody wants to be the one-page resume now, but you look now, right?


Sean Schrader:

Google doc. I try my memories not as good as it used to be. So I save different things that happen there. This will be right on there. I promise when it goes live, you know.


Joe Hamilton:

I’ve enjoyed the conversation, you know, it’s been fun to watch you operate and we talked a little just ahead of time that a common belief that the wrong people get into politics and so it’s you know, I think you’ll end up there eventually obviously you talk There’s a law. I mean, come on. I’ve got big money on you being president.


So But you know, it’s it’s you know there is a purity to what you do and I think because it’s rare to find people who have this purity that just are doing all the right things and following the traditional path to politics that You should mow through the the lesser lesser folks that are in there for the wrong reasons and go right up to the top Well, thank you Joe.


Sean Schrader:

I appreciate I gotta tell you I mean I have so enjoyed following the work that you do with the catalyst for so many years. Giving people values we’ve talked about purpose recognition Understanding is so important, especially here within our own community St. Petersburg in the Tampa Bay region more broadly and you fill a gap that is so needed in not only showcasing and highlighting the very unique groups of individuals that do very unique things in our community But also in informing others about the big topics big challenges big opportunities to make a difference and so thank you, thank you for everything you do.


Joe Hamilton:

You’re welcome in a positive aspirational way.


Sean Schrader:

Yes, exactly.


Joe Hamilton:

Exactly Sean Schrader.. Good to see you. Thanks, Joe


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