My heart goes out to Speaker Ryan. So much speculation, pontification, bloviation, and fortune-telling in the wake of his retirement announcement that the simple humanity of the situation is getting lost in the mix. Here is the beating heart of his announcement:
It’s almost hard to believe, but I have been a member of Congress for almost two decades. This is my twentieth year in Congress. My kids weren’t even born when I was first elected. Our oldest was 13 years old when I became speaker. Now all three of our kids are teenagers. One thing I have learned about teenagers is their idea of an ideal weekend is not necessarily to spend all of their time with their parents. What I realize is if I am here for one more term, my kids will only have ever known me as a weekend dad. I just can’t let that happen.
Why can we not just take that at face value and be happy for the man?
I spent Easter in the home of a former member of the US House of Representatives. We went to church, we supped. We played croquet. (The only political comment of the entire day came when one of my shots broke to the left.) He loved his children and spoiled and doted on his grandchildren. It was a marvelous day to celebrate the Lord’s resurrection. My wife and I reveled in it, enjoying immensely the familial bond and the absolute normalcy of the day.
We tend to think of people in positions like Speaker Ryan’s as if they are characters in a story, not real people. That is understandable since most of us only experience such people in media. But they are very real, very human people. Their job necessitates a media presence, but they are much more than that. They are not even primarily media creatures, it is simply something they have to do and endure.
I have never met Speaker Ryan. My best chances were when he was Mitt Romney’s running mate, but alas it never worked out. I regret that. But this I know, if Mitt Romney chose him as a running mate, Speaker Ryan is indeed a family-first man.
When I reached about the same age as Speaker Ryan’s oldest, my father purposefully curtailed his business career to attend to me. I never knew until well into adulthood the number of meetings he walked out of in Manhattan on a Friday morning to catch a flight back to Indiana to be at my football or basketball game on Friday night. Good people do that sort of thing.
I applaud Speaker Ryan’s decision, it only heightens my opinion of him personally and adds luster his tremendous accomplishments in the Congress.
It is my prayer that in this hyper-partisan political environment we can take a minute and appreciate what this man is really doing. I think we would all be better off for it.