Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) advocated for millennials voting for the Republican party in the upcoming presidential election in a town hall-style event hosted by the Georgetown Institute for Politics and Public Service in Gaston Hall on Wednesday.
In his address, Ryan made the case for millennials to consider voting Republican by emphasizing the similarities in the beliefs of both groups.
“The America that you want is the America that we want — open, diverse, dynamic,” Ryan said. “It is what I call a confident America, where the condition of your birth does not determine the outcome of your life, where we tackle our problems together so that all of us can thrive.”
Ryan delivered an address titled “Building a Confident America” before answering questions from students sitting on stage, social media and the audience.
Attended by around 600 people, including students, faculty and staff, the event involved initial remarks by Ryan followed by a question-and-answer session moderated by GU Politics Executive Director Mo Elleithee and CNN political commentator Sarah Elizabeth “S.E.” Cupp.
McCourt School of Public Policy Dean Edward B. Montgomery and University President John J. DeGioia delivered opening remarks before GU Politics Student Advisory Board member Kayla Auletto (GRD ’16) introduced Ryan.
Ryan addressed issues such as the overregulation of small businesses, healthcare reform, poverty, prison reform and college debt in his address, and emphasized the similarity between today’s technologically driven world and a conservative view of society.
“These days, with technology, you are used to customizing your everyday life. So why on earth would you want to support a governing philosophy that seeks to take away your right and ability to customize, individualize or decide critical aspects of your life, like your health care or your education?” Ryan said. “You can’t say government is of the people when it is imposing its decisions on the people.”
Ryan said he entered politics when he was offered a job on Capitol Hill after he graduated from Miami University of Ohio because he wanted to better the country.
“I quickly realized that public service was where I could have the biggest impact. You could make a real difference in people’s lives, and at a young age,” Ryan said. “I went into politics because I wanted to solve problems.”
Ryan said his vision for a stronger America includes securing opportunities for the middle class and argued that Republicans place a stronger emphasis on the individual than do Democrats.
“We do not believe we should be governed by our betters, that elites in Washington should make all the big decisions, that they should pick winners and losers — that’s a recipe for a closed economy, for cronyism,” Ryan said. “We want an open economy, where there’s equal opportunity for all, where more people can participate and rise by their talents, where the individual can put their ideas and their aspirations to the test.”
Ryan closed his remarks with an appeal to students to participate in the political process and innovate in the private sector, saying the Republican party needs the help of the younger generation.
“Today I am asking for your help. We need your ideas,” Ryan said. “Because that’s who we are — a country that sees the potential in every human being and does everything we can to bring that potential to life.”
During the question-and-answer session that followed, Ryan responded to questions ranging from his support for the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House to tax reform to the state of the 2016 presidential race.
When asked by Cupp in the question-and-answer session to make a case for millennials to trust politicians, Ryan outlined qualities he believed politicians should emulate.
“First of all, you should want to be competed with and not taken for granted. Second of all, you need to find who is a conditioned person and who is not. Who is telling you want they actually believe,” Ryan said. “You want someone who actually means what they say and says what they mean.”
Georgetown University College Republicans Vice Chair Samantha Granville (COL ’17), who sat in the audience for the event, said she appreciated Ryan’s perspective on modern conservatism.
“I thought the speaker was very engaging and relatable. He answered questions directly and was honest,” Granville said. “I think his views and outlook towards conservatism are the perfect model of where the party needs to go as a whole.”
Former GU College Republicans Chair Amber Athey (COL ’16), who sat on stage with Ryan, said she was excited to see someone she admires speak at an event on campus.
“It was an honor to share the stage with someone I’ve considered a political hero for a while now,” Athey said. “Speaker Ryan took time at the end to shake everyone’s hand on stage and it was nice to know he appreciated us being there.”
Georgetown University College Democrats President Mattie Haag (COL ’18) said though her political views differ from Ryan’s, she respected his proposals and sincerity.
“I respect him a lot as a politician and I respect him coming and having the conversation with us, especially trying to talk to young voters,” Haag said. “I think where he’s coming from and his ideas and his commitment to really finding a solution with real, policy-based solutions to the biggest problems that face us was pretty inspiring.”