Addressing the Orange County New Majority in Newport Beach, California, former Republican Vice Presidential candidate and current Congressman Paul Ryan announced that he was launching a comprehensive program to provide needed help to America’s inner-cities through privately funded and operated programs. Working closely with Robert L. Woodson, Sr., founder and President of the Center for Neighborhood Enterprise which currently operates in 35 inner city areas, Mr. Ryan outlined a plan in which he was going to implement the policies that he has been promoting.
“The Republican Party believes in the ability of anyone to raise themselves up, it believes in equality of opportunity not in a guaranteed equality of outcome regardless of effort. We believe that through free market principles everyone in America has the opportunity to succeed. We do not believe that big government is the solution to our problems and we do not believe that big government programs and hand outs can raise people out of poverty,” Ryan explained as he outlined his plan. “We need to reinvigorate those grass-roots connections that have atrophied and do that in a way that helps rebuild communities.”
The plan outlined by Mr. Ryan and Mr. Woodson has previously been successfully implemented on a micro level in Los Angeles, Indianapolis and Trenton, New Jersey. “We need to go out and listen to people and really hear what they need,” continued Ryan. “We have to figure out the best way to help people lift themselves out of poverty and that has to start with listening to them tell us what they really need.”
Robert L. Woodson, Sr.
Recalling the days when Jack Kemp was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, Mr. Woodson fondly told of the days when Mr. Kemp would visit inner-city neighborhoods. “Many times when Mr. Kemp went into the projects, it was the first time in years that any politician had come in to listen to the people. Time after time folks would express how they didn’t want to be completely dependent on the government, but they couldn’t see a way out. Mr. Kemp listened to them and he was always welcomed back.”
“The Democrats have portrayed Republicans as the greedy party of the rich that only care about the 1% and they have sold that message well even though it is not true. We have used facts and truths to rebut that story, but not successfully enough – many people, especially those in need, view us as not caring about them. We have to change that through actions as well as words,” Mr. Ryan said. “What we do when we go into these communities cannot be about getting votes or winning elections, that would be a program doomed from the start. This truly has to be about giving real hope to people by creating an environment where they can succeed and be a part of a better and safer community.”
I was pleasantly surprised to see that Paul Ryan’s demeanor away from the cameras and media was just as intelligent and yet down to earth as it was in the camera’s eye. I had a quiet moment with him and he has that rare ability to make you feel like you are the only one in the room and that listening to what you have to say is the most important thing in the world to him. I have met a lot of politicians and only Bill Clinton came close to having the same ability to make you feel special. The difference is that with Paul Ryan I had the feeling that I was looking at the real man and not just a man who had developed this special ability.
During the brief few minutes that I had with Mr. Ryan I asked him why the Republicans’ response to the budget impasse and sequester had been so weak. Since I was talking to him before his remarks to the larger audience I expected him to either deflect the question or tell me that he would talk about it during his remarks. Instead, he looked me in the eye and spoke for several moments about how the Party has had to wait for the right time and that time was now. “If we as a party don’t stand strong now and create the kind of budget cuts that are needed then none of us will have done our jobs,” he said to me.
I would consider both Ronald Reagan and Marco Rubio to be the best public speakers that I have personally seen, but I would be hard pressed to name another American politician that I felt was as genuine as Paul Ryan. His program with Mr. Woodson is a daunting one and is sure to test his resolve. “America has fought the was on poverty for the past 50 years and so far we have lost,” Ryan said. If Mr. Ryan is able to pull off just a small part of what he plans to try to do, we will all be better off regardless of what happens in future elections.