tv House Speaker Ryan Farewell Address at Library of Congress CSPAN December 25, 2018 2:55pm-3:41pm EST
because we would like access to republicans and got good access to the democrats. two, you don't have any editorial control over this. they said that is fine but we don't want you to focus on that. no, you can't ask us to do that because we are not going to concentrate on it. but again, we cannot shy away from it. with a productup that we feel both people on the journalism site and the people who watch the senate can say they did not give a big wet kiss of the senate but you have to watch it and say they did not do a hatchet job either. >> executive producer on c-span's original production "the senate: conflict and compromise," sunday night at 8:00 eastern on c-span's q&a. ryanuse speaker paul delivered his farewell address at the library of congress. he was introduced by congressman trey gowdy, who was also retiring from congress.
[applause] rep. gowdy: thank you. paul ryan has been speaker of the house, vice presidential candidate, chairman of the budget committee, chairman of the ways and means committee. he's the smartest kid in the room whether it's tax, budget, healthcare, entitlement reform, but those are not the things that i will remember most or remember most dearly about him. paul was my favorite member of congress before i ever got to congress. when i was trying to make the transition from a courtroom to a congressional candidate, i would read his road maps to recovery. i would read his speeches. i would watch his interviews. he was smart. he was persuasive.
he was contrasting but not in an overtly confrontational way. he didn't need note cards during a debate. he didn't need staff to whisper the answer in his ear. he was, to me, as a candidate for congress, exactly what our party and our country needed, which was a smart, persuasive, contrasting person who understood and knew the issues. so i got to congress in 2011 and i made it my mission i was going to meet paul ryan. so after orientation and we're sworn in, i went by his office in longworth. no appointment. just showed up. sat by his receptionist. said i'm not going to leave until i get to meet paul ryan. if you're ever thinking about running for congress, don't do that. so we came out and the very
first thing i said was, mr. ryan, i would like your autograph. and he was awkward and shocked and embarrassed. if you're ever thinking about being a member of congress don't ask a colleague for his or her autograph either. but he gave it to me and then he took me in the office and he said, look. we're peers. we're colleagues. we're equals. we don't ask each other for autographs. i'll tell you what else you don't do. you don't ask your colleagues to call your tea party groups in 2011 who are mad at you because you continue to vote for continuing resolutions. you don't ask your colleagues to do that. and i didn't ask. he volunteered. i was catching a lot of grief back home. when you're surrounded by mick mulvaney and jeff duncan you're
going to catch grief if you vote for c.r.'s. and i was sharing with paul, i don't know how to handle this. they're telling me, don't vote for anymore c.r.'s. paul said, i'll call them. give me their numbers. i'll call them. and the chairman of the budget committee called other people's problems and he said, this is not ideological. it is strategic. and to paul, it is never personal. it is always policy. from then on, i saw paul most often in the gym. how you lift weights for eight years and still have such little muscles is amazing to me. [laughter] but if you think about it kevin mccarthy has worked out for eight years and done cardio and he still --.
[laughter] if you're looking for paul ryan in the mornings between 6:00 and 7:00 a.m., you will find him in the gym leading republicans and democrats in a workout. one morning in 2012, i stopped him and i said, paul, do you think you would ever consider running for speaker of the house? you ever think you would be our speaker of the house? he put his hands on my shoulders and he said, trey, i love you guys. but i don't love you enough to be the speaker. he was right. 2012 had something else in store for him. mitt romney picked one of us, a house guy, an ideas guy to be his vice-presidential candidate. and, you know, being picked to be a heart beat away from the leader of the free world could change people. it could. but for those of you who
remember paul's trip back to capitol hill during his candidacy, he had not changed one bit. the same policy centric, modest, doesn't want to be the center of attention guy that he always was. and the election didn't go his way. so he suffered disappointment on a national scale. and that can change people, too. but it didn't. he came back to the house of representatives. he was the chairman of the budget committee. he was going to be the chairman of the ways and means committee. and then he got that and that was his dream job. ways and means chairman paul d. ryan. and then boehner left. and then kevin withdrew. and we were a wreck. to the outside world we needed a
speaker. to those of us in the conference, we needed a lot more than that. we needed someone who was unifying. we needed someone who could bridge the chasm among the different factions that had arisen in our conference. we needed a first-ballot candidate. and we found him. the challenge was convincing that person to run for speaker. most people think of the speaker of the house as being in second line for president and with the incredibly difficult job of staying away during the state of staying awake during the state of the union. to the members being the speaker is much more than that. the speaker is the leader. it's where you take your problems. it is where you take your incredibly good ideas if only your colleagues were wise enough to see your genius.
the speaker referees fights. he shoulders the blame. he deflects the praise. he explains the inexplicable to the national media. he travels nonstop. to help colleagues, some of whom have incredibly short memories. being the speaker is hard, which is why so few people run for it and even fewer yet are qualified. and i know the phrase reluctant politician seems oxymoronic. i get the joke. except sometimes it's true. sometimes there is someone like a paul ryan and i can tell you without fear of contradiction paul ryan did not want to be the speaker of the house. he supported kevin mccarthy with every ounce of his fiber. but we needed someone unifying and we needed somebody universally respected. and we needed someone
sacrificial enough to give up his dream job for no one's dream job. paul has too much grace and too much class to say this, but i do not. i wonder sometimes if we did him a favor when we drafted him to be our speaker. he's a policy guy. always has been. he's not a bare-knuckles political fighter. his bias is toward fairness. his bias is towards working with people. i wonder sometimes if we did him a favor. paul, i will tell you this. you may not have loved us enough to be the speaker of the house , but i am glad you loved the
country enough to be the speaker of the house. and my sadness is not that you are leaving. my sadness is i don't know how many paul ryans there are behind you and how many young men and women like you would choose to enter the current political environment for public service. so you were right when we met eight years ago. we are peers. we are colleagues. we became friends. but, paul, you are wrong about one thing. we are not equals. you don't have an equal. people like you don't come along very often. and when they do, they don't come with your humility.
when our founding fathers decided to engage in this experiment, this intersection of virtue, knowledge, and freedom, it's people like you that they had in mind. and if i had one draft choice, if we were starting this experiment to lasso human nature through government, if i had one pick, as a modern day founding father or mother, it would be you, paul. of all the people i know in politics it would be you. so you leave as you began, my favorite member of congress. i'm not alone. on behalf of a grateful congress and a grateful country, thank you for your service and the humility with which you have discharged it. ladies and gentlemen, the speaker of the house, paul d. ryan. representative ryan: thanks,
man. thank you. thank you, everybody. thank you. hey, bob. please. please. thank you, trey. thank you for being a great colleague and even better friend and, most importantly, thank you for combing your hair today, trey. this version is a good one. thank you. everybody is laughing because you know exactly what i'm talking about. don't you? i want to thank -- i see all my friends and colleagues here. i want to thank you all for joining me here today.
i want to thank our librarian of congress, dr. hayden, for having us here in this beautiful hall. thank you very much. i remember meeting your mom right here on this stage not too long ago. you know, anytime i come here, i can't help but think back to this pivotal time in my life. it was the summer of 2012. i was about to speak at a local chamber of commerce group when i got this phone call right up there in the reading room which is where many of us members of congress go to. the phone call was from beth meyers from the romney campaign. at this point, you know, i knew i was being vetted for vice president, but i hadn't heard anything. i didn't know how serious this was. i didn't think they'd pick a guy from the house anyway. so beth starts to walk me through how i would need to fly up to boston incognito. she goes through all these logistics of what is about to occur.
and it just starts occurring to me, that my life, my family's life is about to change dramatically. that call was right outside that door there. we hang up. i go up to the reading room and give that speech. then i realize i've got to go vote on the floor. it was the last votes before the august recess. so at this very moment when i want to be alone with my thoughts, i walked right into a swarm of colleagues and reporters just keeping mum. it's one of those inflection points. you just remember certain crossroads in your life. this building, that moment. it reminds me right now that your plan, your direction can change in an instant. i've had a number of improbable turns in my life. i don't know what's next. but before i go, i am grateful to have a chance to share a few thoughts and to say good-bye.
i am grateful to say good-bye to you, to this job, and to this incredible institution we call the house of representatives. a long time ago, i came here to capitol hill as an intern for one semester in college. the plan was pretty simple. one semester here in washington. learn something. that's it. since then, i have been surrounded by some incredible people. the mentors who helped set me on the right path. jack kemp, bill bennett, bob woodson. the intellectual giants who guided me in the things i wanted to pursue. the people of southern wisconsin who gave me the chance to work for them. the staff who always made me better. the president and the vice president for being my partners in government. the colleagues who became life long friends.
and, of course, my family. this whole thing started as a family affair. my mom, my brother tobin, my sister-in-law, they ran my first campaign. my mom was my scheduler. and so no one would turn down your mom when she calls to ask you to go speak to their group. it was a great setup. but it ends with family, too. i would not have been able to serve as speaker were it not for the sacrifices that jana, liza, charlie, and sam made. being a husband and a dad is everything to me. so we have come a long way together in this improbable journey. so from the bottom of my heart, thank you. thank you, all. thank you. you know, over the years and
especially lately, i've always thought about this. i've been thinking to myself whether my dad would be proud of me. would he be proud of what i'm doing, what i did? i lost him at a young age, before he really had a chance to shape my path in life. i don't know what he thought i would make of myself. i was too young. but this was certainly not my plan. not even close. all i keep thinking is every time i go back to this is, what a country. i mean, what a country. where someone of an unassuming, midwest upbringing gets the chance to be a part of all of this. what a country. you can pursue whatever your passion is wherever it takes you. i mean, that's the american idea, isn't it? the condition of your birth isn't your destiny. your struggle isn't your destiny. it's part of your journey.
it's all laid out right there in the first words of the constitution, the first principles, even. a mission to achieve a more perfect union. we are conditioned to recognize that we are imperfect, but we are called to do better. so we revere these beautiful founding principles -- liberty, free enterprise, consent of the governed, free enterprise, and then we work to apply them to the problems of the day. we build up the country's fundamental resilience, the antibodies that protect us from whatever is going to come our way. that's how we advance the american idea. that's how we build a more confident america. as trey said, as all my colleagues here know, i never wanted to become speaker. i was just a policy guy. i like to think i still am. but what i realize now is you don't really become speaker. at least i don't see it that way.
i don't see power as something you take for yourself. it's not a prize to claim or a trophy to raise. you accept a temporary trust to be a steward of the greatest legislative body in the world. and it is an awesome thing. again, just recently the people have spoken. and soon the house will become the care of a new majority in what i know will be a spirited republican minority. i wish the next leaders well. but it is precisely because this is so momentary, because you are here for a small part of history that you are inspired to do big things. and on this score, we have achieved a great deal. we have much to be proud of. three years ago when we last gathered in this hall, we began a great journey to set our nation on a better path. to move our economy from stagnation to growth.
to restore our military might. and we have kept our promises. this house is the most productive we have had in at least a generation. to date, we have passed 1,175 bills, more than half with bipartisan support. and because it is my duty as speaker, you know, to say this, nearly 750 of those bills are still stuck in the united states senate. but the rest of them made it into law. that's an enormous achievement. now, we have taken on some of the biggest challenges of our time. we have made a great and lasting difference in the trajectory of this country. we began an historic rebuilding of our military and our national defense. we enacted new, tough sanctions on some of our biggest foes. we ushered in a new career
technical education system, something so many of us have been talking about for so long. record regulatory reform to help small businesses. a long sought expansion of domestic energy production to be followed by america's new energy dominance. to stem the tide of opioid addiction, the most significant effort against a single drug crisis in congressional history. criminal justice reform to give more people a chance at redemption, making its way through. we're doing this all the way up to the end. a landmark crackdown on human trafficking that is already yielding results and saving lives. a v.a. with real accountability. and, finally, better care for our veterans. and after years of doubt, years of the cynics saying that it could not be done, we achieved the first major overhaul of our tax code in 31 years.
it, because i know i have a lot. i see kevin back there. he has thought about this a lot. we went from the worst tax code in the industrialized world to one of the most competitive. it is something i worked on literally my entire adult life and something that will improve the lives of people for a long time to come. it is one of those elusive generational reforms. it's why we do this. now, certainly, one congress cannot solve all that ails us. not every outcome has been perfect. but that's our great system at work. i'm darned proud of what we've achieved together to make this a stronger and more prosperous country. you know, my mentor jack kemp, he once said, the central task of any political party is to offer people superior ideas of government. i see it as even more than a task or an obligation. i see it as a labor of love. yes, you can make a career out
of criticism. you can deal from that deck all day long. many people do. i certainly don't begrudge them that. it seems like an easy living. but well done is always, always a better pursuit than well said. isn't it? in this business, you catch slings and arrows. it is a price that i have been happy to pay. because nothing is as fulfilling as pursuing an idea that will truly make a difference in people's lives and seeing it through from start to finish. to me, that is the ultimate proving ground of politics. it is the great manifestation of this experiment in self-government. i got to tell you, the more you get into it, when you choose to truly engage in the process rather than merely endure it, the more you come to see that even our most complex problems are solvable. i got to say, i leave here as
convinced i was at the start that we face no challenge that can't be overcome by putting pen to paper on good, sound policy, by addressing head-on the problems of the day. the state of politics, though, is another question. and, frankly, that's one i don't have an answer for. we have a good sense of what our politics should look like. a great clash of ideas. a civil, passionate discourse through which we debate and resolve our differences. our system of government doesn't just allow for that. our system depends on that. one side may win. one side may lose. we dust ourselves off and then we start anew knowing that each one fought in pursuit of their honest ideals. but today, too often, genuine disagreement quickly gives way to intense distrust. we spend far more time trying to
convict one another rather than trying to develop our own convictions. being against someone has more currency than being for anything. and each of us has found ourselves operating on the wrong side of this equation from time to time. and all of this gets amplified by technology with an incentive structure that preys on people's fears, and anger, outrage has become a brand. and as with anything that gets marketed, it gets scaled up. it becomes more industrialized, more cold, more unfeeling. and that's the thing. for all the noise, there is actually less passion, less energy. we sort of default to lazy litmus test and shopworn denunciations. it's just emotional pablum fed through a trough of outrage. it is exhausting.
it saps meaning from our politics. and it discourages good people from pursuing public service. the symptoms of it are in our face all the time and the roots run deep into our culture and our society today. and all of this pulls on the threads of our common humanity in what could be our unraveling, but nothing, nothing says it has to be this way. we all struggle. we are all fighting some battle in our lives. so why do we insist fighting one another so bitterly? this kind of politics seeks to tear us down from there. so key question -- how do we get back to aspiration and inclusion?
we start with humility and seek to build on that? i don't know the answer to that. what i offer is something to keep in mind as we try to navigate through this moment. our culture is meant to be shaped not by our political institutions, but by the mediating institutions of civil society, of our communities. these are the places we come together and people of different backgrounds, p.t.a. meetings, it's where we buildup our social capital and our currency of how we live with one another. rediscovering that human connection is one lane on the road back to inclusion as the guiding influences of public life. as i said, the drivers of our broken politics are more obvious than the solutions. and so this is a challenges i hope to spend wrestling with in my next chapter. as i look ahead to the next
future, this much i know -- our problems are solveable. that is to say our problems are solveable if our politics will allow it. there are three big ones in particular that i think we can tackle in the years ahead as a country. there are challenges that have vexed this country for many years. and as i leave, i recognize so much more work has to be done. if we get them right, we can be certain that this will be another great century for our country. you all know finding solutions to help people lift themselves out of poverty is a personal mission for me and many others. i think we have made a real progress in a relatively short period of time. 40 years ago, when our nation marked the 50th anniversary of the war on poverty, we exposed
hard truths for all the billions spent, we barely moved the needle, but we have begun to break this. new opportunity zones which are part of tax reform will bring more investment into distressed communities. social impact bonds will push it towards community leaders, whether helping the homeless or reducing recidivism. programs and case management approach, they will help. we have a long way to go. but this is what i find to be so dynamic about free enterprise. it is not just about creating jobs. it's about but restoring the job but meaning of work. it's not getting people off of the sidelines but getting people on the path of life. and i firmly believe that solving our poverty challenges once and for all will require
not just a great undertaking, but a great rethinking of how we help the most vulnerable among us and it begins with the best results come within communities. where solutions are targeted to people's needs. this battle will be won and bob, thank you for showing me that. we have great advocates in our party like tim scott, but i challenge my party, do not let this drift from your consciousness. every life matters and every person deserves a chance to succeed. let us keep advancing ideas. this is great work and we can achieve this. second, i believe that we can be the generation that saves our entitlement programs. frankly, we need to be.
and i acknowledge plainly that my ambitions for entitlement reforms have outpaced the political reality, and this is the greatest unfinished business. you know, we all know what needs to be done. strong economic growth which we have and entitlement reform to address the long-term drivers of our debt. our revenue is about to return to its 50-year average. what continues to plague us is a mandatory spending system that is out of balance and unsustainable. this was the case when i came here 25 years ago and is the case today. not too long ago few were willing to recognize the scope of this problem. our government wasn't even inclined to examine our fiscal picture. it didn't work that way. we had to change the debate before we could begin to change people's minds.
i'm proud every year i was budget chairman we passed in the house a roadmap for paying that debt. and this congress, we came within one vote of real health care entitlement reform. think about that. federal health care spending, it remains the principal driver of entitlement spending. our bill would have reformed two of our major health care programs to make them sustainable and meet the health care needs of our country. so we have come a long way and we are closer than people realize. and ultimately, solving this problem will require political will than exists today, and i regret that. but when the time comes to do this, and it will, because it must, the path ahead will be based on the framework to solve this problem.
we can get there. we really can tackle this problem before it tackles us. here's the third challenge that i think we will have to address. we have to fix our broken immigration system. right now we are again locked into another short-term battle. no matter what the outcome is in the coming days, the larger problem will remain. the system is in need of serious reform and every potential is at stake. but the right mix is there. border security and interior enforcement for starters, but modernization of our visa system so it makes sense. so that anyone who wants to play by the rules and work hard and be part of our american fabric can contribute. that includes the dreamers, those who came here and the
ultimately the undocumented population. in order to fix the system, you have to reset the system. in order to truly enforce the law, you have to get the people right with the law. again, we came closer in this congress than people realize. and next year, the supreme court will make a ruling and then both parties can and should go back to the table. getting this right is an economic and moral imperative. if we do these three things, make progress on poverty, fix our immigration system, and confront this debt crisis, we can make this another great century for our country. look, i recognize these challenges are ones we haven't made much progress on in recent years.
i got to tell you, we have it in ourselves to solve them. a good friend of mine recently commented to me that amid the frenzy, he has more faith in our system of government than ever before. as he put it, bad ideas get killed. and good ideas, they just take time. our problems are solvable if our politics will allow it. i know it. i have seen it. in a confident america, we don't slug our shoulders and don't pass the buck. we roll up our sleeves and get on with our work. a confident america leads the world, too, not with bluster, but with steadied, principled action. remember, history has a way of repeating itself.
the democratic capitalist model faces a test. much of our day-to-day attention is focused on radical islamist. i urge leaders in both parties to devote more time that china poses to the west. china offers an alternative of an authoritarian model. and the sense i get from when i have been traveling overseas, our allies wonder whether we are still in the game or not when we show our way of doing things still has juice, that we can do the most good for the most people, liberty gets ground. when we get complacent, we risk countries go in the direction of auto cats. a competent america stands up to its challengers by leading in addition to rebuilding our military and giving our military the tools it needs.
this congress has worked to strengthen our ties with our allies, particularly through the nato and good security cooperation goes hand in hand with strong economic ties. we need to pursue good free trade agreements that opens up the markets. from is a lot that needs to continue. we don't want our competitors shutting us out. and a confident america exercises clear moral leadership. we need to work together to promote global humanitarian and be the voice for the voiceless. our economy is strong. our military might is second to none, and clear leadership american in the world makes clear both of those things. so for each of the challenges i have discussed here today, there are people of goodwill in both
parties who are ready and willing to take action. everyone does not need to agree on everything and we don't need to disagree on everything. all you need is enough people of good faith willing to take up a good idea. that's a good start. so what comes next? well, we are going to have a lot of new faces around congress next year. i hear a lot of good things from that fresh-faced guy from utah. here's my advice. this place is full of wonders and opportunity. but do your best to stay grounded. the way i think of it, either you change things or things change you, you have to keep your sense of self. you have to work hard around here and stand for who you are.
insist on it. it's what i have been praying about, to keep myself of self. i knew when i took this job i would become a polarizing figure. it just comes with the territory. but the one thing i leave most proud of, i like to think i'm the same person now as when i arrived. still never forget that excitement that brought you here. remember how awestruck the first time you stepped on the house interior. keep that feeling. especially when the experts tell you you need to tack this way or that way. hone your abilities to advance ideas. sit down with people that know something more than you do. invest in the process. you are going to hit road blocks. but timing is everything. so you have to get it right. you have to be prepared. you may not get too many shots at it. so you have to be ready when the
moment for action demands action. and focus on good relationships with your colleagues. get to know people on the other side of the aisle. get to know a human side of serving with people. build personal relationships so it is just not transactions. you want real relationships. having real relationships, that will help you overcome pitfalls and build trust. i see a lot of relationships right in front of me. and most of you when you give your word, you have to keep your word, it's important. give your word, only though, if you can keep it. keep a balanced temperament, sense of gratitude, which brings me to this. to everything, there is a season, and for me this season of service is coming to a close. i have had the chance to do something that i love so much for so long, to do my small part to advance the american idea.
and i leave as i came here, an optimist to the core. nothing is impossible if you are willing to go out and fight for it. if nothing else, i ask you to remember one thing -- we are each part of a larger story, a greater cause. and what we have here is a miracle. it really is. and this miracle has made us the most free and the most prosperous nation on earth ever. cherish that. marvel at that. always dream big. always raise your gaze. for just as remarkable as what we have achieved is the capacity to do still. here's to the people, to the people's house and the possibilities. thank you for everything. god bless america.
united states senate, a uniquely american institution, legislating and carrying out constitutional duty since 1989. -- 1789. on january two, c-span takes you inside the senate, learning about the body and its workings. we will look at the history of conflict and compromise with original entries. >> arguing about things and kicking them around and having great debates is a thoroughly american thing. >> key moments in history and unprecedented access. allowing us to bring cameras into the senate chambers during the session. follow the evolution of the senate into the modern era, from advice and consent to the role
in impeachment proceedings, and investigations. -- conflict and compromise -- a c-span original production, exploring the history, tradition, and roles of this uniquely american institution. 2,mieres wednesday, january at 8:00 eastern and pacific on c-span. and go online at www.c-span.org /senate. view farewell speeches from long serving members, and take a tour inside the senate chamber, the old senate chamber, and other exclusive locations. next, a conversation with mcraven,william the former commander who oversaw the mission to kill osama bin laden. he joined a panel in dallas.
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