Ari Givner was born and raised in Miami to a Cuban-Colombian Jewish family. After high school, he spent a year in Israel at Bar Ilan University’s Israel Experience Program. He currently lives in the Foggy Bottom neighborhood of DC, and is working as a user-experience designer at Eagle Technologies, though he will soon be moving on to a job as a product designer at Cvent.
You have visited 10 countries in the past five years. What structure or landmark impressed you the most?
One of the most impressive landmarks that I’ve seen is the Great Synagogue of Florence. There are tons of giant, elaborate, awe-inspiring churches across Europe and the world, but not many synagogues fit that description. The synagogue in Florence is one of the few that does. It is beautiful both inside and outside, and I very highly recommend that anyone visiting Italy check it out.
Why should people travel?
Before you visit a place, your conception of it is two-dimensional. You think of it in terms of the stereotypes you’re familiar with from TV and pop culture. But when you visit, you see how rich and complex and beautiful the place really is.
Before I studied in Madrid for a year, I didn’t know what to expect from Spain besides bull fights and siestas. Only once I had spent some time there did I begin to appreciate Spain in a real, in-depth way.
What do you like about your community?
There definitely isn’t a lack of interesting people around: I know people working for members of Congress, international political consulting groups, and prominent think tanks; others are working in cybersecurity, and in tech more broadly, trying to address major societal needs.
Dogs or cats?
Dogs for sure. My family back in Florida has a shih tzu. Not the brightest dog, but he’s ours and we love him. I don’t think that anyone can really argue that dogs aren’t way more personable than cats.
Describe yourself in one word.
Reflective. I spend a lot of time thinking about deeper questions underlying life and our conceptions of ourselves. Recently, I’ve been musing about how democracy can be sustained in spite of human biases and tribalistic tendencies being exacerbated by an increasingly balkanized media landscape.
So, you know, just the kinds of things everyone else thinks about.
Who is your favorite artist?
Tough question. If we’re including comedians as artists (and I think we should), I’m going to say Bo Burnham. I love good satire, particularly when it’s in song form, and he has some incredible satirical songs that I have listened to an obscene number of times.
What do you like to do in your free time?
I read way too much political news and analysis: a lot of the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, and a handful of other publications. I also like to go rock climbing. There’s a great indoor rock climbing place in Crystal City, Virginia, called Earth Treks that I’ve been going to sporadically over the last year. It’s a little expensive, but I really enjoy it.
What is your hidden talent?
I do a pretty good Donald Duck impression. I have the sound of the voice down, but it’s hard to articulate actual words — but maybe I’m doing it right then, because Donald Duck is usually barely understandable, right?
Interviewed by Rachel Kohn