Matt's blog

Thoughts on technology, startups and making the world a better place. Occasional detours to fatherhood and half-baked makers projects.

For the 140 character version, follow me on twitter.

Remembering Greg

10 years ago, the world lost an incredible human being, and I lost one of my best friends. 

It was our senior year and we were on spring break in a tiny beach town in southern Costa Rica. The rain had stopped falling, so we decided it was the perfect time to finally jump in the ocean. Unfortunately, no one told us about the vicious riptide. Despite the valiant efforts of some local surfers, we lost Greg to that riptide.  

Around this time every year, I tend to ask myself some impossible questions: What would Greg make of this?  What would he be doing? What would he think about what I’m doing?

Trying to answer some of those questions has pushed me to be who I am today. 

The thing that makes describing Greg so hard is that he refused to fit neatly into any single box. He was the guy who could charm the socks off of powerful politicians, take off his the suit, put on his bandanna, and lead the charge to get arrested while protesting Home Depot’s support of clear cutting. He was dorky enough to love Model UN in High School, and rowdy enough to figure out how to sneak in the booze. He’d stay up all night either partying or plotting our next campaign, then wake up in time for an early breakfast and get better grades than most of us. He was completely inspiring and totally maddening.

Probably the best way to remember Greg is in his own words. Below is an email I found from our junior year.

[Context: Greg took a semester off our junior year (fall 2000) to run 3 state senate campaigns in Iowa (yep, even though he’d never run 1 before, he decided to start with 3). Halfway through the campaign cycle, he fell in love with Ralph Nadar. So, he decided to drop everything and run Nadar’s Iowa campaign—a decision he didn’t bother to ask the Nadar campaign about first. This is an email he wrote a group of us telling us about that decision, along with his conversation with a prominent journalist (Yepsen) in Des Moines]

Subject: Righteous Anger

told my boss joe bolkcom i wanted to resign to help nadar, he said no stay you made a commitment to us. i said you’re right, i’ll stay until you give me permission to leave. then i called david yepsen and told him i work for the senate Democrats and I think ralph nadar will win iowa. then i was fired. they can take me off the payroll, but they can’t make me quit. one of my 3 candidates has agreed to accept my help, the other 2 are still deciding. the democratic party is telling them they have to choose between me or them, nadar or gore, can’t have both. i’m maintaining that they can. if they say they will accept my help i will provide it free of charge through the election. i don’t need the money, my hosts will get me food and shelter. i started this job for clean water in iowa and i will finish this job for clean water in iowa without pay. i’m working for an idea and money does not control me. i think that’s a news story. i’ll tell yepsen when the time is right. that should help jump start our campaign. we stopped menards with civil disobiedence, let’s see them stop civil obedience. feeling very free, for all the right reasons, greg