Ryan honed conservative economic views at Miami U.

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staff, Gazette
Saturday, August 11, 2012

— Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan has said he found himself at Miami University of Ohio, where a professor Saturday recalled Ryan as a thoughtful student anxious to learn more while he honed his economic and political beliefs.

Economics professor Rich Hart said Ryan was not only a "smart-as-a-whip" student who easily mastered challenging economic theory coursework, but also one who was intellectually curious. Ryan often visited his office not to talk about grades or exams, but to discuss the ideas of economists such as Milton Friedman and Frederick Hayek, and the writings of Ayn Rand.

"That (curiosity) was the first thing that stood out," Hart said. "That is an increasingly rare among college students anymore."

"The core beliefs were already there. He was kind of reinforcing them," said Hart, who said he and Ryan had similar beliefs in individual freedom and "a very limited" role for government. Ryan, now 42, studied economics and political science at Miami and earned his bachelor's degree in 1992. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney announced Ryan as his running mate Saturday.

Hart called himself "a political animal" and said he and Ryan spent hours talking politics as well as economics. During a commencement speech in Oxford in 2009, Ryan cited Hart's mentoring for helping challenge him to "stretch my mind." Ryan said his time at Miami, soon after his father's death, allowed him to develop a direction for himself and a love for economics and public policy.

"It was here at Miami where I was able to find myself," said Ryan, part of a line of Miami-educated political leaders that includes former President Benjamin Harrison. Harrison's 1892 running mate, Whitelaw Reid, was also a Miami alumnus.

While a student, Ryan put up yard signs and did other volunteer work for the congressional campaign of John Boehner, the West Chester Republican who's now speaker of the House. He also worked summers as an Oscar Mayer salesman, once driving the Wienermobile. He joined the Delta Tau Delta fraternity, which lists him among other prominent Miami chapter graduates such as Richard Farmer, founder of Mason, Ohio-based uniform maker Cintas Corp., and Fox News' Bill Hemmer.

In his speech, he urged the graduating students to reject "survival strategies" and the conformism "of the right or the left."

"America is a nation of dreamers, of innovators; we are a nation of winners," Ryan said.

Opening his speech, he also took note of criticism in the student newspaper for not having more-prominent speakers at the school's bicentennial. He and fellow alumnus Rep. Steve Driehaus, who would turn out to be a one-term Democratic congressman, were the speakers.

"You might have settled for somebody who didn't even attend Miami and has held office for an even shorter period of time, like President Obama or somebody," Ryan joked.

Ohio Democratic Party chairman Chris Redfern described Ryan on Saturday as having been mentored by Ohio Gov. John Kasich, a former congressman, and said Ryan "would take us back to the policies that crashed our economy."

For his part, Kasich called Ryan "a great pick," and added in statement: "That he's a graduate of one of Ohio's great universities Miami University doesn't hurt either."

Last updated: 5:11 pm Tuesday, August 27, 2013

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