I can’t tell you how awesome it is to have an old friend be the vice presidential nominee for the United States. Two weeks ago Paul Ryan and I yucked it up at a campaign rally (read “Paul Ryan: Yep, He’s the Real Deal”), and I’m so proud of his and Mitt Romney’s focus on the campaign trail. I’ve fielded a ton of questions from friends who want to know more of our background, and this post attempts to fill in some gaps as well as give my wholehearted plug for the Congressman and Mitt Romney.
I discovered Paul Ryan was a U.S. Congressman in about 2002. I had been on the phone with a customer from Wisconsin. She had mentioned “Paul Ryan” as a strong supporter in the debate club she was starting, and then she mentioned Ryan was from Janesville.
I was visualizing an old gruff Congressman, not my old classmate. Nawww…couldn’t be. “I’m from Janesville,” I said. “Does Paul go by P.D.?”
“Why, yes!” she said. “His close friends call him P.D.”
That’s when I started following Paul Ryan, from a distance anyway. I tried to get a hold of him once to have him write a foreword to one of my yearly debate sourcebooks, but I got this unusual – yet oddly refreshing – automated answer: “I’m sorry, but I was elected to represent the people in my district. If you do not live in my district, I am simply too busy to respond to your request.” I remember being (1) disappointed that I wouldn’t be able to connect, but (2) impressed that he took his job as representative so seriously.
So, for the past dozen years, I’ve been following his politics from afar. Paul Ryan is a pro-growth, pro-entrepreneur, pro-business leader. He values life, family and community. I cannot think of a better candidate for the Republican ticket.
I must be honest. I hadn’t spoken with Paul for about 25 years. We graduated from a little Catholic school in Janesville, Wisconsin. It was a small class, everyone friends with everyone, and our Class of ’84 (that’s 8th grade graduation) was a particularly nice one. We sat together in classes, played kickball on the playground, was on one of the best basketball teams St. Mary’s ever had – nearly won state that year. Our class trip was a bus trip to Washington, D.C., one that I like to think aspired the both of us to strong political convictions.
My family moved to Minnesota in the middle of my 9th grade year. I fell out of touch with Paul and most of my classmates. I graduated, went through college to become a teacher, fell in love with Wendy, and the rest is a rich family history. Paul Ryan took the opportunity to run (and win) a US House Seat. I took the opportunity to move my family to Colorado, work for Focus on the Family, and eventually become full-time self-employed.
There are two peculiarities over the past couple decades that I find most interesting. Paul was an intern for Bill Bennett, one of my most influential role models back in my teaching days. I loved teaching, but I was agitated by the system and its hierarchy (and I suspect I agitated it, too). Bill Bennett’s bestselling The De-valuing of America was a most marked-up and highlighted volume during my teaching tenure. In fact, when I worked for Focus on the Family, I had the opportunity to interview Bill Bennett and wrote an article about K12, his educational venture. Isn’t it interesting how both Paul and I found the works of Bill Bennett so meaningful?
The second is about as cool a peculiarity as I can ask for. I don’t wear my conservatism on my sleeve; I believe wholeheartedly that a conservative outlook on life and in public policy is better for people. Because my convictions run so deep, I am a hawk when it comes to political compromise, and Paul Ryan does not compromise. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching him grow as a political favorite among conservatives, and today I am absolutely loving Paul Ryan’s speeches, his vision, and his bold stands on tough issues that face our nation today. There are very few candidates in the political landscape that I could stump for without some sort of reservation. Ryan is one that can can – without hesitation.
Who knows? I may not give enough credit to our Catholic upbringing. Maybe those nuns at St. Mary’s knocked some logic into us. It is definitely interesting how similar our political outlook is so similar today.
What I Know Today
I keep up with politics (doesn’t everyone?). Like I said, there is rarely a political position that Ryan takes that bothers me. Especially after Obama’s election. The dreamy-eye hope and change promises were disturbing to me in ’08. I’m sorry if you fell for it back then, but the verdict – in my opinion – has been evident for a while: we need new leadership in Washington.
Paul became the bulldog of the House of Representatives, and I was so incredibly proud of Paul’s tough stands in the House. They weren’t popular, but Paul Ryan pressed on with grace and conviction:
- Paul put together the Road to Prosperity, a Republican model for sound economic stability. (Check it out here — My daughter Lydia ran a flat-tax plan her Junior year in debate based on Ryan’s plan.)
- Paul confronted Barack Obama at a roundtable with democrats, a bold stance that galvanized resistance early on. (See Youtube Video here)
- Paul handled himself beautifully with the press throughout the Obama years, always an impressive display of calm, collected reason.
Here’s a video that I came across not too long ago. Hadn’t seen it since he recorded it the night of the passage of Obamacare. Like Ryan, I was very concerned about the passage of the 2,000+ page legislation granting government control of 2/3 of our economy. He probably had an aide hold up a camera in front of the Capitol and filmed these impromptu thoughts:
This video impresses me for two reasons. First, he is right on the money. He knew exactly what was going on. There’s a lot of smoke and mirrors in Washington politics, and Paul Ryan – though he had no political sway at the time – didn’t hesitate to speak up. Second, he was prophetic! All of what he recorded in the dead of night has become a stark reality for those of us today.
So, that’s how I stand with Paul Ryan, and a little bit of background on our history.