Dynamic Duo: A Conversation With Jordan Sekulow
For Jordan Sekulow, the fight to ensure freedom and liberty in the U.S. and around the world has been a central part of his life from a very early age. The son of Jay Sekulow, Jordan, 29, now serves as Executive Director of the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), a leading international public interest law firm founded in 1990 and led by his father.
“My work with my dad has developed naturally over the years,” says Jordan. “On radio, I started co-hosting with him, and then filling in as host… between the two of us, the program can almost always be live.” Today, Jordan oversees the ACLJ’s international operations, hosts the Jordan Sekulow Show, and co-hosts the Jay Sekulow Live! radio program and the ACLJ This Week television broadcast with his father. He frequently travels overseas to engage in high-level legal and policy discussions with government officials and also provides national political analysis for U.S. media outlets.
Jordan emphasizes that the growth and development of ACLJ demonstrate the degree to which his family has been engaged in building up the ministry over the years. “Ever since I was a young kid, our family has been deeply and personally involved with the organization,” he recalls. “At home at the kitchen table, we would sit around together and open the mail that came in… I still remember how my mom would go through the letters and donations that people sent; she wrote the organization’s newsletters by hand… yes, that was her handwriting. I thank God for our shared sense of purpose, and for the opportunity we have to dedicate ourselves to this work… ACLJ is a major part of our family dynamic, not the kind of work that you leave at the office. We live it to this day, every day.”
Still, Jordan’s leadership at ACLJ was not inevitable. “My dad wanted us to take advantage of each opportunity and experience things that he was not able to growing up,” said Jordan. So when he finished college, he got involved in politics and pursued other interests which included grassroots campaigning. “My background is different from my dad’s – more political – and I’m grateful he gave me the ability to explore other things,” he said. Midway through law school, Jordan knew he wanted to continue the work of the ACLJ. “I was never pressured into doing this, but I gradually became interested,” he said. “I know my relationship with my dad is unique, and I’m very blessed to have this opportunity to work with him.”
Jordan and his dad agree that it was a natural fit for him to get involved with the organization. “I’ve never had a fear of public speaking, because I’ve been exposed to it all my life,” says Jordan. “I always thought the cameras and a crowd was the norm.” Jordan says that most importantly, he cares about the issues just as much as my dad. “From a young age, he instilled in me the importance of what was at stake, and the power of a single person standing up when they were wronged. My dad was the lawyer ready to help them when they took that stand.” he says. “My dad took my brother Logan and me to as many of his activities as possible… and as he became more well-known, we met more influential people.” These hands-on experiences are what Jordan credits with the confidence he has today, making him comfortable leading meetings with high-ranking government officials – such as his recent visit with the Vice President of Brazil. “While I enjoy taking on more leadership responsibilities, I’m also more than happy to take a back seat to my dad whenever we are together,” said Jordan. “Many opportunities we have are in places and with people neither of us would imagine… I keep learning from my dad and plan to for years to come, as I want to be as effective as possible in my role.” Jordan’s brother Logan, 26, is also involved with ACLJ and helps direct their media and production initiatives.
Jay and Jordan Sekulow’s valuable working relationship is evident in their work, whether on the radio or on the road. “It helps that my dad and I don’t have competing interests, but rather complementary ones, as this enables ACLJ to get involved in more issues,” said Jordan. “We are constantly expanding our efforts, and our supporters appreciate that.” Jordan says that he and his dad stay in constant contact, keeping track of each others’ schedules and exchanging updates frequently. “We don’t have to be face-to-face to work together” he said. “Even on the radio program, where things are live and totally unscripted, we can anticipate where the other person is going and complete each other’s sentences. Often people cannot tell if it is me or my dad talking, and that’s a testament to him and the example he has set for me.”
Jordan admits that his position does not come without complications. “A challenge, one often self-induced, is living up to expectations,” said Jordan. “Not my dad’s expectations, but our supporters’ and my own. Dad sets quite a high bar – one that keeps getting higher – but I keep reminding myself that this isn’t a competition.” There are also times of disagreement. “We sometimes have different ideas on how to approach a particular situation, so we try to talk it through and we genuinely respect each other’s perspective.” Jordan is grateful that his dad encourages him to get outside the comfort zone. “Whether it is meeting with the President of South Sudan in Juba on three days notice or preparing to debate a complicated legal issue on TV, he gives me the encouragement and support I need to stay confident.” No matter what challenges arise, Jordan notes that, “At the end of the day, he’s still my dad, and we try not to let professional issues interfere or overshadow our relationship.”
Jordan helps the ACLJ sort through the many opportunities and interesting-sounding endeavors to determine if and how to get involved. “While we deal primarily with issues of constitutional law in the U.S., much of our work abroad includes situations where people’s lives are at risk and we must decide how best to help,” said Jordan. “My dad has allowed me to go through the process and be a decision-maker in these situations, and through that I have grown personally. He is always there as a guide and resource and we work effectively together, constantly trying to maintain a balance of allowing each person to develop. My dad has a long career ahead of him and I’m just getting started. I know that without the role he has played in my life, I’d never be doing what I do today.” Reflecting on their personal and professional trajectory, Jordan says, “We’ve been able to utilize our father-son relationship to expand and fulfill ACLJ’s mission.”
As we approach Father’s Day, I asked Jordan five questions about his relationship with his father:
RM: What is the most important lesson you have learned from your dad?
JS: I have learned so much from my dad. I grew up watching him prepare for court cases and interviews, and he involved us in the ACLJ from a very young age. Perhaps the biggest thing I’ve learned from my dad is how to be prepared at all times… whether it’s for a big court case or a hostile media interview. My dad always says “Stick to your points, focus on what you are there to get across, and try not to get sidetracked.” We are often trying to communicate complicated legal cases or explain laws, and it’s important to keep going to back to the 3 core points you want people to take away – from interviews, from our radio shows, from meetings, and from court.
RM: What is one thing you think people would be surprised to learn about your dad?
JS: I think people would be surprised to learn that my dad did not plan on doing this his whole life. He did not grow up in the legal or political world. He worked hard as a kid, worked in retail through college – like his father – and made it to law school. He started his career as a tax attorney. He followed God, took an opportunity presented to him – an offer to argue a case at the U.S. Supreme Court – and learned the process of practicing constitutional law along the way. My dad argued his first Supreme Court case in 1987, Board of Airport Commissioners v. Jews for Jesus, and a news reporter described his oral argument style as “rude, aggressive and obnoxious.” But he won that case 9-0, and it was a big victory for free speech and religious liberty. That experience opened his eyes to what was happening to our country in the courts, and he grew tremendously as a result. From that point forward, cases started flooding in and he has stayed busy ever since… a powerful example of following and trusting God!
RM: Your dad seems so intense on television and radio. Can you share any fun anecdotes that shed light on his personality?
My dad is very funny and he tries to keep things light. Everything we work on at ACLJ is serious… we are constantly dealing with tough issues and significant cases, so people think my dad must be in a suit all the time, always focused on work with the same intensity they see or hear in the media. While he is intense about work and can sometimes be intimidating, he knows how to make people feel comfortable. My dad has taught us that it’s important to keep things perspective… you must work hard and get everything done on time, but you can’t always go around with the same intensity that you have on television or radio. A fun example is that my dad enjoys sports and adventures… I’ve learned to play tennis from him, and we enjoy playing golf together. This is humorous, especially since everyone in our family loves to talk: one thing only the three of us do – my dad, my brother Logan, and me – is scuba diving. Just imagine – we’re out on a boat talking the whole time on the ride out to the dive site, and then for two periods of 45 minutes each dive, we aren’t able to talk – something none of us are used to! Quickly after coming up from the dive – with our heads bobbing in the water – the talking starts up again. My dad is the only person I know that can be on a conference call, turn the speakerphone on, put the BlackBerry down beside him, tee up and smash a drive in to the fairway, all while continuing the conversation. It amazes me and everyone else who has a chance to play a round of golf with him!
RM: Any memorable reactions from encounters when people have realized you are Jay Sekulow’s son?
JS: I often represent my dad and the ACLJ at meetings and events, and what people appreciate most is the hard work he does behind the scenes and the way he has personally reached out and helped them. People often tell me, “Your dad is the hardest working person I know.” Our job is to help and it really is astonishing to me to see the amount of people he has assisted during his career. He’s grateful to help because we’ve been blessed with the ability and resources to do so. The amount of work my dad does that people don’t see is amazing – he is often working on 15-16 issues at a time, and the fight for free speech and religious liberty is very personal to him. My dad’s grandfather came to America as a child – a Jewish immigrant from Russia fleeing religious persecution. Now, his grandson has opened an office in Russia to defend religious freedom rights and his great-grandson is overseeing the work there.
RM: Any encouragement or advice you can offer fathers and sons as we approach Father’s Day?
JS: For me, there is nothing better than being able to work with my dad every day. But, I know that isn’t God’s plan for everyone. Fathers, trust God and be a great example for your sons. Even if I didn’t work with my dad, the example he set in his personal and public life – as my dad and as a husband, a brother, and a son – is a major part of the reason I am who I am today. Inspire them, encourage them, and guide them. Do everything you can to instill the right values and a strong faith that can carry them through even the toughest times.
Sons, appreciate what you can learn from your dad every day, in personal life and in the career world. Be thankful that you have a loving father, trust God, and always be open to the advice of your dad – even if you think he doesn’t understand you, most likely he does. He’s experienced the same sort of situations and a whole lot more. Listen carefully, as there is a lot of wisdom being offered to you. Most importantly, love each other!