Steven J. Horner: Rebel With a Cause
Here’s one of Las Vegas’ most active progressives fighting for our rights and values and what he believes in. Meet Mr. Steven J. Horner.
MEET STEVEN J. HORNER
“All politics is local,” is a common truism meaning that what we do with our lives within our local communities often produces the most tangible results.
Steven Horner, a retiree living in Las Vegas, best personifies this spirit of local politics. He’s busier than most people half his age, often tirelessly putting in 60 to 70 hours per week on any of his pet projects and political activities. He’s a champion of public education, always his favorite topic to discuss. Any day or any night, Horner is likely to be seen participating in a public march, organizing a meeting, volunteering on a project, or directly lobbying an elected official. Horner is a 27/7/365 activist who lives, breaths, and preaches his philosophy of life — which is justice and opportunity for all.
I first met Horner at a local political meeting right after the 2016 presidential election. Stunned by the electoral disaster, Horner was quick to launch into action. Always prepared to act and not just whine and complain, he began organizing yet another generation of activists eager to engage in a new battle and channel a wayward shock of political defeat into something constructive and meaningful.
Horner is the chairman of a local Democratic Party organization, a responsibility which only scratches the surface of a weekly routine that includes ceaseless political activities. He attends local public hearings, where he often speaks about important issues. He travels to the state capital (at his own expense) to meet with legislators. He works with volunteers and other activists determined to fight for common values.
Whatever your politics, one has to genuinely admire Horner’s intense personal commitment and boundless energy.
Steven J. Horner was born on July 17th, 1951 in Salt Lake City, Utah. He was the first of four children born to Jack and Ruthanne Horner. When he was young, the Horner family moved and he grew up in McGill, Nevada — a small mining town run by Kennecott Copper Corporation.
Later, Horner attended a boarding school in Mt. Pleasant, Utah — Wasatch Academy. This experience was “one of the truest influences in my life,” he says. Indeed, this strict educational indoctrination at a church school triggered the first of many impulses over a lifetime to #resist. Horner’s revolutionary spirit first sprouted during a time of sweeping political and social change across America. Horner’s questioning of the establishment resulted in his expulsion from school during his junior year. He questioned the rules set forth by the governing church, which was not a popular thing to do in Utah at the time. Horner was branded as a troublemaker — a label he would eventually come to embrace as someone not willing to sit by idly in the face of ignorance and unfairness.
Horner did not graduate until later in life, a shocking revelation given his intense devotion to public education and broad knowledge of so many different subjects. Horner later moved to Silver City, New Mexico, where he met his wife while working at a semi-professional theatre.
In 1971, Horner moved to Las Vegas. “I did many little jobs, drove a truck, worked as a bartender, and a cook,” he says. Shawn, his first child was born a year later. Later, he had a second child, aptly named Hope.
Many who know Horner now might be taken back by his decision to enlist in the U.S. Army in 1973 — just as the Vietnam War was coming to an end. He served and was even stationed in Italy for a time. Despite a growing family and active military service, there was still a deep void in Horner’s life. He knew that he had to go back to school and complete his education.
And so, after years in the Army, Horner returned home to Las Vegas. In 1979, he began to pursue a B.A. in Theatre Arts. However, he’d take another personal detour which lasted ten long years. Behind the scenes, there was a darker cloud overhead that had begun to profoundly impact his daily routine, and not in a good way.
Horner recognized that he’d become an alcoholic. In fact, the 1980s were something of a blur, until Horner finally woke up one morning convinced he had to make some serious changes in his life. His sobriety began on June 12, 1990 (Horner still remembers the exact date). Sober and feeling alive again, he returned to UNLV and completed his BA in 1992. Three years later, Horner — the rebellious youngster who had once been expelled from a church institution and dropped out of high school and later even college — was awarded an MEd in Special Education.
Horner went on to become a teacher in the Clark County Public Schools where he’s spent the balance of his time teaching and working as an advocate for teachers. Horner insists he “retired” in 2014, but now remains busier than ever.
What are some of the things you stand for?
My passions are public education (specifically K-12, but also includes all public education i.e., Headstart and all public colleges) and workers’ rights, especially to collective bargaining protection. I also advocate for universal healthcare, public lands, clean and renewable energy. The exploitation of any minority is something that I do engage in as well, no matter the reason no person should be treated as inferior. Overall, I will stand with people above the churches and corporations that currently seem to control many of our world`s governments.
What are some of the things you stand against?
Corporate greed and the destruction of the public education system. Beyond that, the narcissistic attitude gives some individuals the sense that somehow elitism is acceptable. Money is a necessary evil in our current lives, however, I will stand against and will fight the greed that leads to this behavior. To deny any living being the basic needs of life is cruel and undeniably the most reprehensible attitude displayed by anyone. And that I will always stand against this no after what the opposition.
What living person do you admire the most, and why?
I hate to be cliché, I have many living heroes for many reasons, but Hank Aaron is the man that I can always look to for inspiration. From 1957 when I listened to a game-winning home run in a World Series game to the night I watch on TV he hit number 715, he was a man that did with class and no self-bravado. No matter the death threats hate mail, rejection by Bowie Kuhn and MLB he went out each day and did the job he was given and always gave it his best effort. I will never know what it is like to be an African American and that kind of hate, but I do know that when faced with so much hate and so many obstacles here was a man that truly held his head high and rose above it all to just do his job in the Deep South.
What historical figure do you admire the most, and why?
Those that died in a cause of helping the working people to have a voice, these individuals were often nameless and lived in poverty. Because those individuals stood their ground and died for their brothers and sisters to have a better life is something I think about every day. I grew up in a mining town and saw the benefits of those that stood up. From the Railroad massacres in the 1800s to the mining deaths as recent as the last decade, I recognize the worker, not the union boss, as the true hero in the strife for those that work every day to keep food on the table and a roof over the heads of their family.
What living person do you despise?
The Donald Trumps of the world — those willing to lie, cheat, and exploit to gain a place of power to further the lying, cheating, and exploitation. Donald Trump is the most visible, but I have seen these people in all places, union leadership, principal of a school, elected officials, any place that there is an illusion of power over other people.
If money were not an object, what profession would you choose?
I was and would again be a teacher. I am sorry I ever left the profession.
What is it about yourself that you are most proud of?
What is it about yourself that you’d like to change?
I would like to be a stronger leader, both with my grandchildren and my fellow people — I feel at times like I have failed them.
What’s the most exciting thing you’ve ever done?
I can’t think of a specific single event. Every time I advocated for a teacher that was being bullied or exploited I felt excited and as if this was a mission. We didn’t always win but we gave it the best fight and those on the other side knew they had to work hard to gain a victory, but on those occasions we prevailed I felt as if the world had gained a victory.
What’s the most unusual time and place you’ve ever visited?
The Presidential Inauguration in 2012. I have never been comfortable in large crowds but to watch a President that I voted for, with my grandson and wife being sworn in was a very unusual albeit exciting time. But not one I would like to repeat.
Name a place you’ve never visited where you still want to go.
The Death Camps of Nazi Germany… man’s inhumanity to his fellow beings is something I have a difficult time understanding and I continue to search places that represent that inhumanity. From Little Big Horn to Andersonville, to the Japanese internment camp in Twin Falls and Delta, I search for the reason and hope to learn how to bring forward the idea that this can never happen again.
Favorite book, favorite movie, and favorite musician.
Favorite (Fiction) book and movie are the same — To Kill a Mockingbird.
Non Fiction is — Das Kapital
Favorite musicians: Tchaikovsky and Andrew Lloyd Weber
What upsets you the most?
Politicians that vote against the will of the people that elect them, then tell the electorate that they just don’t understand. That kind of arrogance is what makes politics unappealing to the masses.
What bores you?
Reality television is truly the dumbing down of the people, followed closely but self-gratifying people.
Do you believe in an afterlife and why do you believe it so?
Okay, metaphysics also bores me. No, I personally do not believe in the afterlife or a mythical deity. I do believe that each day if you get up and do your best, someone will remember you and tell someone else what kind of daily hero you were, and through the oral history, that memory will be forever.
Finally, I understand you have another passion that might strike some as strange given your background. Why is golf your hobby?
I realize that it is probably the one sport that symbolizes everything I despise, but I find competition a waste of time unless it is against me. I also find it amazing that a sport that perfection cannot be achieved is something to which I can relate. Each swing is something that I try to repeat but find each is different. It is also a time that I can find some reflection time. It is the sport of the rich, but sometimes the poor can find solace in the imperfection that is golf.