From an early age, Nathan Ballard '99 was encouraged to have political discussions with people from all walks of life. Now, political leaders turn to him for advice.
Nathan Ballard ’99 has no question about what he wants to do for the rest of his life.
“I’ve made it my life’s work to serve as an advisor to political leaders who fight to make the world a better place,” he says. “I enjoy the fight, and I’m right at home on the battlefield of campaigns and crisis communications.”
Ballard, who runs a full-service public relations agency, The Press Shop, out of San Francisco and Sacramento, has been spokesman and communications director for the California Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, the California Labor Federation, Mayor Gavin Newsom (San Francisco, 2004-2011), and dozens of political candidates, including presidential candidates Senator John Kerry and General Wesley Clark. Along the way, he also won a major battle to bring the Golden State Warriors to San Francisco and handled the PR for Super Bowl 50.
Reflecting back on his time in law school, Ballard credits his passion for political advocacy to David Faigman’s Constitutional Law class.
“As we started to peel the layers of constitutional law, I realized that our Constitution is a living, breathing document, influenced by precedent but also by the times,” he says. “That, more than any other class, led to my career, which has been interwoven with politics.”
“I enjoy the fight, and I’m right at home on the battlefield of campaigns and crisis communications.”
But going back even further to what he describes as his “free range childhood” and politically active parents who exposed him to people from all walks of life, Ballard may have been primed for his profession long before he entered law school.
“In my crisis communications work, I parachute into a situation that I may know nothing about on day one. But I have to use my people skills and critical thinking skills to get up to speed quickly, face the media, and deal with questions about the toughest topics,” he says. “Being encouraged by my parents to have political discussions with house guests like Cesar Chavez and Jane Fonda when I was a little kid couldn’t have hurt.”
While Ballard believes politics is the most powerful tool we have at our disposal, he also stresses that there are various ways of going about creating change, from direct political action to street activism to art and filmmaking.
In addition to the work he does with political leaders and other high-powered clients, Ballard also serves on the board of The Representation Project, a non-profit organization founded by the First Partner of California, Jennifer Siebel Newsom. The organization’s mission is to use film and media as catalysts for cultural transformation. Its most recent project, The Great American Lie, tackles the subject of income equality in the United States, which Ballard believes is the most pressing issue of our times.
For Ballard, as for most of us, the political is personal as well.
“I have four little kids,” he says, “and I want to make sure that they inherit a world that is more fair and more just.”
GAMECHANGER is the way our students–past and present–see the world. It’s the impact our alumni have on local, national and global policy and law. The ideas and events that come from the minds of UC Law SF students and faculty help transform the world. UC Law SF plans to celebrate its GAMECHANGERS on Thursday, May 9.