At the age of eight, Thomas George Koos knew he wanted to run for President of the United States. An intelligent child, he figured out that in 2000 he would be old enough to run for President.
27 years later in 2000, Koos fulfilled his childhood dream: he applied in New Hampshire, putting down $1000 and kicking off his first presidential campaign.
Now at the age of 54, Koos is a water rights activist in the thick of his third Democratic presidential run.
An associate director at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences Koos resides in California where he owns an Airbnb tucked in the beautiful California Redwoods. San Francisco Business Times listed this Airbnb as the most popular place in San Mateo County and Onlyinyourstate.com featured it on their travel blog.
A son of immigrants from Hungary, Koos’s deep appreciation for self-expression, and the ability to speak freely in America has led to Presidential campaigns centered on public engagement.
“People come to me and talk about politics and recognize that they can speak freely and without judgment, because I am really there to listen,” Koos says in a phone interview “I want to feel educated and listen to other people’s needs.”
Koos says he has never taken a dollar for his campaign, due to his main form of campaigning being one on one conversations with family, friends, and his community. At times he likes to push himself out of his comfort zone, introducing himself as a presidential candidate.
“I listen to countless interviews, even one on one interviews, I am trying to evolve not only as a candidate but as a citizen,” says Koos, “ How can I be a better engaged and informed citizen and the political context for me is education not academic, education for enlightening new policies new ideas.”
Koos’s civic engagement goes well beyond his presidential campaign, he runs a local water company and believes that his job is to ensure that his neighbors have clean water. With a masters in Hydrology from the University of California Davis, Koos is an expert in water sciences.
Koos’s childhood best friend Welt William, a high school teacher in Sonoma, Calif., believes that water rights play an influential role in Koos’s campaign stances.
“California has so many ecology issues and so many issues around waters specifically,” says William, “I think he has embroiled in it and the constant fight is, the people versus the bureaucracy kind of thing.”
Being an associate director Koos has seen firsthand how students prioritize climate change, “I feel like my generation and older we have a little bit of guilt,” says Koos “ and whether it be high defects, climate change, and environmental impact, the crux of it will be borne by your generation and the next.”
Koos was a Democratic candidate in the 2000 and 2008 elections and attended the New Hampshire primaries where he participated in interviews and student forums. However, this year due to a busy schedule, he will not be able to attend the New Hampshire primaries.
This year Koos has taken a step away from social media not wanting to engage with its toxic culture. His campaign website, which has blog posts on all his political stances, was last updated in 2008.
Temple University Political Science Professor Michael Sances states the increasing importance of social media in the political arena “According to government data, between the 2014 midterm and the 2018 midterm election official campaign spending on online ads increased by about 2500%.” says Sances “So, campaigns clearly think it makes a big difference.”
“I am a one-man operation,” says Koos “This is just a side interest of mine, everyone has different motivations for doing this and mine it’s really just to engage with others, the campaign is not.”
Throughout the years Koos has seen a shift in the political playing field, he believes Bernie’s once radically progressive views have now been adopted into all the candidates’ campaigns. He also believes this political evolution has also strayed from reflecting the middle, as party polarization has become more prevalent.
Despite the mounting nonpartisanship, Koos believes that most Americans still want the same things: that we are treated with respect, that our kids be educated, that immigrants get care and that our elderly be treated with dignity. The polarization lies in how we accomplish these common goals.
Koos fears the polarized discourse might only worsen in the next four years, but this does not mean he will engage any less with politics.
“I think to be on the sidelines is to be absent and that is not the way I want to approach the elections this year. I feel like I do need to be engaged,” Koos says.
A sentiment that his best friend William says Koos has since they were kids: “I think he had a lot of confidence. When he had an idea [he went] like all through on it, I think the running for president is a part of that,” he says, “He likes to stir the pot, but he likes to right problems that he sees out there, and I really appreciate that looking at his platform, he’s not doing this just because it’s a joke, he’s doing this because he’s really interested in getting his vision out there.”
Koos’s parents would tell him their stories of when they made it to Ellis Island, he now takes pride in his citizenship and dedicates himself to paying it forward. After the loss of both his parents Koos started a scholarship fund at the local community college for student DREAMERS.
“I am surrounded by young bright people, they are our future, their interests, their concerns are evolving so quickly and I want to know how can I assist you,” Koos says, “Leave a legacy in my own small way, as a better place, a better local community, a better nation.”
Correction: An earlier version of this article misstated the title of Thomas G. Koos. He is a staff member at Stanford University’s School of Earth, Energy, and Environmental Sciences, not a professor.
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