12 April 2018

Note From Norm: So Paul Ryan

Speaker Paul Ryan announced that he intends to retire from Congress at the end of his term.

In his announcement he made it clear that after 20 years in Congress it was time for him to go back home to Janesville, Wisconsin where he was born, where he lives and where he and his wife have built their home and family.

The protégé of Jack Kemp has done his duty to his constituents, to his state and to his country.

The resulting chorus surrounding Ryan’s announcement is what was to be expected in many ways.

Democrats chortled, political analysts prognosticated, and many Republicans wrung their hands.

This former 23-year-old aide to one of the Republican Party’s most charismatic leaders who was gone far too soon had risen from relative obscurity to being two mere heartbeats away from being President of the United States of America.

Yet, none of this has ever appealed to Ryan.

He is, by and large, a policy geek.

From his early years as Jack Kemp’s trusted aide at “Empower America” to his announcement that he would retire, Ryan’s passion has been the nuts and bolts of policy.

His determination to remain at the forefront of policy in the House of Representatives as Chair of the Ways and Means Committee was at the heels of his feet that kept him, at first, from being dragged into the race for Speaker of the House.

It was only after far too many hands reached out to him to drag him into that job that he finally relented.  Not out of hubris or desire or passion for the job.

But, out of a sense of duty to his country, Congress and his Caucus.

In entirely that order.

There would be of course a long list of accomplishments one could write about when it relates to Paul Ryan.  From his passionate understanding of every aspect of the nation’s budget, to his heartfelt commitment to putting forward a governing agenda for his Caucus in 2016 to the most recent passage of the widest sweeping tax cut and reform law in nearly 40 years.

If one chooses, however, to focus on the public service career of Paul Ryan it isn’t about the list of accomplishments one would be best served in understanding, it would be the basic essence of what Paul Ryan believes about America.

This, too, would be the Jack Kemp in Paul Ryan.

Jack Kemp, like Ronald Reagan, never doubted the future of America.

So passionate were they both for the need for America that they never stopped fighting for it.

Those who doubted their sincerity couldn’t help but be impression by their passion for what they said, what they did and how they live their life.

There was no lack of authenticity in Jack Kemp.  He oozed it. When I joined the Republican Party as an urban Mayor in 1996, it was with Jack Kemp by my side.

His compassionate conservatism; his commitment to a path that lifted folks out of poverty; his championing the cause of working men and women were my inspirations.

They are a legacy Paul Ryan carried on and enhanced in his life of public service.

In looking at the long public service career of a still-young 48-year old Paul Ryan one must be overtly partisan or ideological to challenge the truth that he believes in an America that has a better future than its already great past and present.

That innate essence of Paul Ryan is largely the reason Mitt Romney chose him to be his running mate.

Romney, like Ryan, have never doubted the reality that America’s best days are still ahead of us.

Today, we live in an echo chamber of social media, non-stop information and a soap-box platform for every person who is capable of securing their 15 minutes of fame telling us that the American Experiment is over, and it was a failure.

Those voices are amplified because what they say and what they accuse America of being is so counterintuitive to what it has been, and always will be, about.


Not perfection.

America never has been, and never will be, perfect.

It is a true reflection of our exceptionalism that we understand that no matter how great America is, we can always be better.

Paul Ryan epitomizes that expectation of the America he has served for nearly all of his adult life in public service.

I found a quote from Ryan after he reluctantly agreed to be the Speaker of the House that I believe underscores much about the nexus between that love for America, that passion for policy and his understanding of what was being asked of him to lead Congress had finally converged at a central point in his life:

“I often talk about the need for a vision. I’m not sure I ever said what I meant. We solve problems here—yes. We create a lot of them too. But at bottom, we vindicate a way of life. We show by our work that free people can govern themselves. They can solve their own problems. They can make their own decisions. They can deliberate, collaborate, and get the job done. We show self-government is not only more efficient and more effective; it is more fulfilling. In fact, we show it is that struggle, that hard work, the very achievement itself that makes us free.”

As one writer once wrote of Ryan, “So Jack Kemp.”

As this author writes, “So Paul Ryan.”