Marc Holtzman was born in the blue-collar coal country of northeastern Pennsylvania. One day, when he was a teenager, Marc was flipping through the TV channels and spotted Ronald Reagan giving a speech that inspired him and forever changed his life. Marc says it became his “call to service.”
At the ripe old age of 16, Marc lined up support for the “Reagan for President” campaign, and due to his efforts, Reagan won the Republican vote in Marc’s precinct.
Following his freshman year at college in 1979, Marc left college to accept a position with the “Reagan for President Committee,” where he served as an assistant to future U.S. Secretary of Transportation, Drew Lewis. At age 20, Marc returned to Pennsylvania where Ronald Reagan appointed him the youngest Executive Director of a state for the Reagan campaign.
At President Reagan’s insistence, Marc finished college and then returned to Washington to serve as the Executive Director of Citizens for America, a Reagan grassroots organization.
In the late 1980’s, after the Berlin Wall came down, Marc left for Eastern Europe to help those countries make the transition from communism to a free market society.
In the coming years, Marc’s growing venture capital firm dedicated itself to helping these economically depressed countries lead themselves out of the poverty and despair of their former way of life.
Marc Holtzman was one of the first international Investment Bankers in Eastern Europe. Marc helped to develop Poland’s economic transformation, and he also helped create the Warsaw Stock Exchange. For all of his efforts in helping Poland create a successful economy, the President of Poland awarded Marc the Commander’s Cross - the highest commendation that Poland can give to a civilian.
After many successes abroad, Marc adopted the State of Colorado as his new home, and built a house in Garfield County. In 1998, Governor Owens appointed Marc as Colorado’s first Secretary of Technology.
After five years in the Owens’ administration, Holtzman became the President of the University of Denver. Marc helped the University raise millions of dollars, and he led the effort to establish the Rocky Mountain Center for Homeland Security, the first program in the Western United States to offer a Master’s level certification to educate leaders about the future of America’s security. I
Marc Holtzman is committed to serving the public. He's now on the Board of The Carbondale Animal Rescue Shelter and Chairman of the Board of The New Schools Development Corp. He also sits on the Board of The Colorado Institute of Technolgy Educational Foundation and presently he's also on the committee for The El Pomar Foundation Award for Excellence Committee. In 1990 - 1991 Marc had his own private foundation that sent aid to Romanian Orphans.
Marc optimistically looks forward to the future and feels most fortunate to be living in the great State of Colorado.
How did your interest in politics come about? The year was 1976, and I was 16. My mom and dad were Hubert Humphrey liberal Democrats, and they were not particularly interested in politics at the time. Many people of their generation were turned off after Watergate. I was watching television, and I saw Ronald Reagan give a speech in 1976 that changed my life.
Before that, I wasn’t interested in Politics or Public Affairs; I had no particular reason to be watching that program, but Ronald Reagan gave a half hour speech on national TV, and I became so inspired that I called the 800 # and pledged $50. I was working part time selling cameras, so that was a lot of money to me at the time, and I became totally devoted and committed to his vision and his candidacy.
Tell us about your involvement with the Reagan campaign in 1979? I left college in 1979 after my freshman year to go to work on the Reagan campaign. I was one of the early employees hired, and I ended up as the Executive Director of the Reagan campaign in Pennsylvania and was one of the youngest in the country to head up a statewide presidential campaign.
I was 20 years old, and when it was all over, Ronald Reagan took me aside, at the campaign headquarters, it was about a month after the election in 1980 right before Thanksgiving, and he put his arm around my shoulder, I can remember it like yesterday. He said, “Marc, I’m so proud of what you have done, the contribution that you have made, you can come down here to Washington D.C. and do anything you want, but I put the word out that no one is to hire you until you go back and finish your college education.” So I went back and had three years to go, and I finished in two. I was just so eager to be part of all the excitement.
You were very close to Ronald Reagan, what did you appreciate most about him? His optimism, his hopefulness towards the future, his steadfast belief that America’s better days were not behind but ahead. He was one of the kindest and gentlest people that you’d ever want to meet. He almost never had a bad word to say about anyone.
Is Ronald Reagan your hero and mentor? Absolutely! I remember at age 18 when I first had the opportunity to introduce him at a public speech, I can still remember my words, “In a world of so few heroes, I’m glad I found mine.” I’ve never changed that view.
You are known for helping Eastern Europe create a new economy. How did you first become involved? I arrived in Eastern Europe and Russia in early 1989. It was three months before the Berlin Wall fell. Because I had served in government and was involved in politics, I had a vision and a dream of what those countries could become, and where their transformation was headed.
It was extremely exciting and challenging to live there at a time of tumultuous change and economic transformation. I got to see a tenth of the world’s population undergo incredible social, economic, political and cultural transformation. Because I arrived there early enough, it was possible to get to know people that were the emerging leaders of the democratic movements in those countries; in many cases establishing those relationships before those people began to serve.
And after the Berlin Wall fell? Together, with three other partners, I had the chance to build an Investment Banking business from scratch over nine years in Eastern Europe and Russia. It was exciting, it was stimulating, it was at times difficult and frustrating, but always rewarding and satisfying.
The part of it that I found most fulfilling was knowing that we were touching the lives of a lot of people. In some cases, it was helping tens of thousands of people by creating employment opportunities, by making a difference when no one else would. In the Investment Banking business in the Western World, it’s very competitive, and if it’s a good opportunity, there are three people ahead, and two behind who will be there to do it if you don’t. It was very different in Eastern Europe and in Russia in the early 90’s, because we really did have the opportunity to pioneer things in a way that touched lives - that if we hadn’t done them, they wouldn’t have happened.
Every time we look back at a successful transaction, we can see the impact of that success. It was quite a heady experience and a good feeling. We raised capital for companies that otherwise wouldn’t have any access to capital. So when these companies would thrive, and grow and expand, you would see them employing the people, and would get a sense of satisfaction just knowing that if “you hadn’t have helped,” maybe that wouldn’t be happening.
Do the people of Poland and other Central European countries have a good opinion of Americans? Americans are loved in the Central European Nations. They have always looked at Americans as a beacon of hope and as a model of something to emulate. Americans are also very loved in Russia.
You are good friends with the President of Poland, when did the two of you first meet? President Kwasniewski of Poland and I first met in 1993 and we became good friends. We played tennis together, and we shared a lot of the same ideas. He’s a wonderful person. There were so many changes happening in Poland and the other Eastern European countries that getting to know and becoming friends with such a great leader has helped to understand the needs of the region.
You are considered an economic and technological expert, how did you develop such expertise in these areas? I helped lead Colorado’s Technology Economic Development and Recruitment effort during my time as Secretary of Technology serving in Governor Owens’ cabinet. Having served in the private sector, I do have a good sense of what businesses want, and what it takes to attract them here, and what attributes we do have in Colorado that can be positive selling points.
What do you think is the greatest problem this country is facing today? The number one responsibility of our government is to protect our citizens. That means to protect them from harm, to have adequate security, to protect our borders. Secondly, but also critically important, is to help educate our population. It makes such a huge difference when you bring different cultures in the world together, and they become educated about one another.
What concerns keep you up at night? I try to be true and faithful to my health. It’s been an acquired skill to learn to turn things off a bit to have other interests. I love to read, hike, bike; I love the time I get to spend with Kristen, love playing with pets and animals - all of those things.
Family is very important to me and makes my life very fulfilling. It’s been easier for me at 45 than it was at 25 or 35 to put things in perspective, to pace myself, to understand that no matter how important the work you do is, at the end of the day, there are more important things in life, and it starts with ones’ peace and well-being. You have to be physically fit, you have to be rested, you have to have the capacity to clear your mind or otherwise you can’t live up to your true potential. Having said that, it’s not always easy. I find that sometimes running on a treadmill - to the point of physical exhaustion – and proper diet, are very important.
What do you like most about yourself? That’s a tough question. I like that I have the capacity to learn and to grow. I’d like to think that I do. I learn from my own mistakes, and I’m fairly trusting of people and always try to see the good in people. I’m very optimistic and hopeful.
I have heard you referred to as a “gentle soul,” by several people who know you well, how does that fit in with politics? I’m learning that politics is a tough business, but if good people don’t step up to the plate and come forward to participate, then we, the general public, get less than we deserve.
I was once inspired by someone who said that 95 percent of the people who seek elective office are trying to be somebody, and only five percent are trying to do something good to change things, I always strive to be part of that five percent. If you believe in yourself and what you have to offer, and in the overall goodness of people, most of the time the bumps are worth it.
You have been to many countries in the world, if you had to live somewhere other than the U.S., what country would you lives in and why? New Zealand. The people are so kind, and the country is spectacularly beautiful.
What is the best book you have ever read? “Modern Times” by Paul Johnson. He talks about the danger of relativism, and of ignoring past lessons and the importance of absolute standards. It’s the history of the 20th century. Another book I love is a two-volume set by William Manchester on Winston Churchill, it’s called “The Last Lion.” The first volume covers his life from birth to age 58, and it’s called “Visions of Glory.” The second volume covers his years from 1932 to 1940 called “Alone.”
What magazine could you not live without? The Economist. It’s a weekly publication, and it’s not just about economics, it’s about everything; it’s about the arts, it’s about culture, it’s business and finance, and politics, and their editorials are incredible. They even have an interesting obituary of the week, which is always about someone from some obscure part of life that made a big impact on the world.
What do you think is the lowest depth of human misery? Starvation, humiliation, and the human degradation that goes on in the world. But I do believe that there is always hope.
Let’s lighten things up a bit, what three things are always in your refrigerator; in other words, what items couldn’t you live without? Blueberries, chocolate soy pudding and apples.
What are your favorite quotes, sayings or mottos? George Bernard Shaw’s saying: “Some people see things as they are and say why, I see things that never were, and say why not?” That, to me, is the essence of what public service should be about – to see things that aren’t happening and to make them happen. Also, Vince Lombardi’s comment: “Life is a distraction from football”… which I see as an example of what to be careful of, because you never want to get so obsessed with anything that you forget the bigger purpose in life, which is not just to live, but to do things that are worthy of being here.
What is your favorite childhood memory? Being taken by my parent’s for hot fudge ice cream sundaes at a place called Woodlands Dairy in Woodbury, PA and sitting at the soda bar. They were incredible sundaes!
What is the best advice your Mom/Dad ever gave you? My Dad told me at every occasion, tell the truth, remain confident in yourself, believe in yourself, and be optimistic. My Mother helped me develop sensitivity towards people, and she also had great wit and compassion.
What are your favorite hobbies and/or leisure time activities? Biking, Hiking, Skiing, Reading. I love to read history and non-fiction. Also, I love to travel and explore.
What do you love most about living in Colorado? First, it’s the positive, friendly attitude of our people and our frontier spirit; people here are nicer than anywhere I’ve ever lived. The majestic scenery, and the environment are so beautiful and so special, and the “can do” spirit the people have. Most people here are here by choice. Where I grew up, most people lived there for 20 years and still were considered newcomers. This place is so welcoming to newcomers. Colorado is made up of people with more diverse backgrounds than I have ever encountered, and it all comes together in such a culturally rich and positive way.
How do you most want to be remembered? As someone who was always encouraging and inspiring. I hope I can to pass on to those lives I may touch that the only limits in life are the ones we set for ourselves. I believe that with all my heart.
Where do you see yourself ten years from now? Where do you hope you will be? Ten years from now I hope to be a proud and good father, a good husband, and I’d like to have the chance to serve the people of Colorado and look back at that period of time and say that I made a real difference in our future.