Paul Ryan’s speech: A confident America

posted at 1:21 pm on March 23, 2016 by John Sexton

On Wednesday, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave a speech which expanded on some of the comments and criticisms he has made from the sidelines of the 2016 election so far this month. Today’s comments were framed not as a rebuke of a particular candidate or incident but as a reminder of a more optimistic approach to politics and public policy, an approach Ryan summed up with the phrase “a confident America.”

Speaking to a room full of cameras and interns, Ryan opened his speech with a question, “Looking around at what is taking place in politics today, it is so easy to get disheartened. How many of you find yourself just shaking your head at what you see from both sides of the aisle these days?” “Our political discourse, both the kind that we see on TV and the kind that we experience among each other, it did not use to be this bad and it does not have to be this way,” Ryan added.

Ryan then launched into the story of how he met Jack Kemp while working as a waiter and how he later had the chance to work for Kemp. “The thing about Jack was that he was an optimist all the way,” Ryan recalled. “Here was a conservative eager to go to America’s bleakest communities and talk about how free enterprise would lift people out of poverty. These were areas of the country that had not seen a Republican leader in years, if ever.” That experience, Ryan says, led him to focus on public policy as a vocation.

Ryan continued, “People with different ideas, they’re not traitors. They’re not our enemies. They’re our neighbors. They’re our co-workers. They’re our fellow citizens…We all know someone who we love who disagrees with us politically or who votes differently, but in a confident America we are not afraid to disagree with each other.”

Ryan also apologized for some of his own language, specifically his use of the phrase, “makers and takers” to refer to people in poverty. “I stopped talking about it that way and I stopped thinking about it that way, but I didn’t come out to say this to be politically correct. I say this because I was just wrong,” Ryan said.

Ryan has interjected himself into the campaign in a piecemeal fashion several times over the past few weeks. On March 1st he aimed a pointed rebuke at Donald Trump after Trump seemed to hesitate when asked to repudiate the KKK during a television interview with CNN. At the time, Ryan closed his brief comments saying, “I hope this is the last time I need to speak out on this race.” Two weeks later, Ryan once again spoke up about the campaign, this time to a Wisconsin radio station. Ryan’s comments were critical of the violence occurring at political rallies and were once again taken as a rebuke of Donald Trump.

The full speech, including an introduction and a 20 minute Q&A, has now been uploaded to Ryan’s You Tube account:

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