Taking Flight with Mario Rodriguez

by Hayley Brown

I’ve never left an interview without moments of reflection. Many of them transpire while on the phone with Fabian since I can count on a call from him approximately three minutes after our departure. I always welcome his bubbling, post-interview enthusiasm because through this podcast, we have learned things that I never want to forget and always feel compelled to share. This blog - that will hopefully become regular - will be my way to fulfill what seems like a duty. I hope you enjoy my reflection from Mario Rodriguez’ interview.

I drove up the parking ramp of the Indianapolis International Airport sensing two distinct feelings. First, the one that we all get when going to an airport, even if you aren’t boarding a plane - the sense of adventure. Second, the eagerness to hear Mario Rodriguez tell his story after experiencing his frank, lively humor at an Orr Fellowship speakers series. Specifically, to feel the full body chills that are onset by his recollection of managing the airport in New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina.

He was unforgettable, and so was my path to the upstairs offices. When I confidently took it again (“Jared, come on. I know where we are going! Just through this door…”) I set off some seriously loud and probably important alarms. Sorry, Jared. 

Have you ever looked up when walking to your security gate at the IND Airport? If you haven’t in your scurry to get to your flight, there’s a walkway the size and shape of a regulation track that wraps around the concession area. If you look out in the distance due East through the floor-to-ceiling windows, you can see the city skyline. That’s the view we overlooked on the East side of the walkway while setting up our video and audio equipment. After the satisfying sizzle of a freshly opened Circle City Kombucha, Mario turned the corner with an upbeat stride and animated smile. It was time to begin.

We started how Fabian always does, by talking about a passion of the guest’s or a shared experience. For Mario, it was his experience at the University of Miami during an undefeated year of football. The conversation drifted through his upbringing, entrance into aviation, national recognitions and journey to Indianapolis. Do you remember how J.K. Rowling would describe Albus Dumbledore as having a “twinkle in his eye”? It must come from years of experience and wisdom because Mario has it too. 

Something that’s difficult to believe once you learn that Mario was appointed by President Barack Obama to the U.S. Department of Transportation Committee for Aviation Consumer Protection is that Mario believes that “it’s better to be lucky than good.” And, he seems to attribute much of his success to luck. If you remember anything from listening to Mario’s interview, it should be that charisma and confidence go a long way. Maybe it’s because it puts you in those lucky situations where you can use your skill to make incredible change. Or in the case for Mario during Hurricane Katrina, to save lives. As someone who only guarantees limitless enthusiasm when walking into a business meeting, I respect that and admire that he’s stayed true to himself over the years and through all of the PR managers who have sat through interviews sweating, hoping that he glances at them before telling a risky story. (You can only imagine how many entertaining tales he has from working in a public facility his whole life.)

To experience Mario yourself, search for Episode 107 wherever you listen to podcasts, or visit our YouTube page to watch the full interview!