Response to Speaker Ryan

A few weeks ago I took the time to write Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan about my concerns regarding increasing partisanship in politics. I received a response from his office today. My response and his office’s email are below:

Dear Speaker Ryan,

Thank you for your response regarding the unceasing partisanship in today’s politics. I agree that we should be working on ideas from both sides of the aisle and would ask you to consider changing one aspect of your observations.

As the superintendent of our local school district, I too am faced with stakeholders who have different and sometimes competing ideas. Mind you mine are of a far more local and smaller stage than yours, but similar in respect to having to try to find ways to move forward rather than allow inertia to overtake us.

In my role I recognize that other folks often bring good ideas to the table as well. Perhaps ideas that I had not thought of myself. This is what, until this point, has made our country great. The ability to remake and remold ourselves to take advantage of better ideas is essential to our nation if we desire to be among the foremost nations in the world. Right now, it seems, we mainly hold our place there due to our military might and not because we lead the world in expanding and exploring new ideas. History shows that might alone does not keep countries on top.

We became greater by knocking down barriers to women, to folks with different or with no religions, to immigrants (from whom we nearly all owe our presence here), to different races, and we can shock the world again by opening our pool of ideas to those with varying sexual preferences and orientations. We have never become less great by expanding access and safety to those who are different than ourselves.

Where I would have you consider changing your language then is in the idea that we must have a “battle” of ideas to see who wins as this can only lead to one side or another being declared victor. By its very nature the term means that one side must be winners while the other side must be losers. Real, lasting, and transformative American leadership will require leaders who seek to hear and then make use of the “best” ideas and not only the ideas that come from their “side.”

America became a better nation by including and by eliminating barriers via exclusion and not by seeking to have one group of Americans triumph over another. History is replete with horrible examples of what happens when societies become divided against themselves. Americans and American leaders should seek to make certain such dangerous divisions do not happen here. This will require that no one side ever to be, mainly, the party of “no” and it will require that no one group of Americans be declared winners with the rest of Americans being dealt with as losers. Ideas, creativity, and freedom to not thrive in such an environment.

I am happy to have received your response to my email to you. While I know that it is unlikely that you have the time to read every email you must get, I do hope that your aides who assist you have received emails similar to mine and will share the thoughts and tenor that I have put forth here. I hope then that you will any such similar thoughts in your role as the Speaker of the House. It is my idea that in your role you are the Speaker of the House of Representatives for all Americans and not just for any specific group. After all, it is the idea of a United States and not a Divided States that drove our success and made American democracy a model for the world.

Sincerely,

Lou Steigerwald
Norway, Michigan

On Apr 9, 2016, at 8:18 AM, Speaker Paul Ryan <Connect@messages.speaker.gov> wrote:

It bothers me too.
paul ryan speaker of the house
What Really Bothers Me About Politics These Days:
April 9, 2016 | Paul Ryan | http://spkrryan.us/1YfaV56

I get it. You are probably sick and tired of hearing politicians battle over insults rather than ideas, and I agree.

Imagine, for a moment, if politics was actually about uniting Americans, not dividing us. That’s the kind of America that House Republicans are working towards. It’s a confident America, where people are empowered to reach their full potential.

I’d like to explain more. Will you take 43 seconds to watch the video below?

Click to watch the 43-second video
Watch on YouTube | Facebook | Twitter | Transcript

“What really bothers me the most about politics these days is this notion of identity politics: that we’re going to win an election by dividing people, rather than inspiring people on our common humanity and our common ideals and our common culture on the things that should unify us. We all want to be prosperous. We all want to be healthy. We want everybody to succeed. We want people to reach their potential in their lives.

“Now, liberals and conservatives are going to disagree with one another on that. No problem. That’s what this is all about.

“So let’s have a battle of ideas. Let’s have a contest of whose ideas are better and why our ideas are better.”

Related Videos:

Speaker Ryan: “We Need to Raise Our Game”
A Confident America
Full Speech: The State of American Politics
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