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Hometown crowd wishes Ryan well on his way to RNC

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Frank Schultz
August 28, 2012

— Paul Ryan was seconds from exiting the Craig High School gym Monday when a reporter asked him what it was like to be a rock star in his hometown.

"It's—it's," he stammered, putting his hand over his heart.

"I don't have words for it," he said.

Ryan had just finished speaking to a crowd of hometown well-wishers who filled the gym and poured out their love for him and his politics. It was his first Janesville appearance since Mitt Romney chose him as his running mate Aug. 11.

Signs taped to the walls of the gym welcomed him home. "Ryan is our rock star," one said.

"He is a rock star," enthused Colin Murdy, a Parker High School student, speaking before the program started.

"I can't wait till he comes out. I'm anticipating some pretty raucous cheers," Murdy said.

Sure enough, the cheers were loud, hearty and sincere, even though campaign workers had rehearsed the bleacher sections behind the speaker's platform.

An organizer said 2,000 tickets were given out for the event.

Ryan spoke with his wife, Janna, their three children, his mother and Janna's father, among others, behind him.

Among the warm-up speakers was Rep. Joe Knilans.

"Paul is Janesville," Knilans said. "Paul is one of us. He's a Cougar. He's the one in the Packer hat in the supermarket when you're walking down the aisle."

The crowd loudly agreed as Knilans wrapped up: "Paul is the person to lead this great nation back to the shining city on the hill!"

Tobin Ryan introduced his younger brother, speaking of the small-town values Paul grew up with.

"It's Janesville; it's this community; it's Wisconsin; it's all of you who produced Paul Ryan," Tobin said.

Ryan spoke of his family's history and connecting it to the American Dream.

This is a defining moment for the country, and voters Nov. 6 will choose something more than a president for the next four years, Ryan said.

"We are picking the pathway for America for a generation," he said.

Ryan said President Barack Obama has delivered a nation of debt, doubt and decline, while the Romney/Ryan ticket offers a way to get America back on track and back to work.

The crowed showed its appreciation for a series of comments pointed at Obama, such as when Ryan was describing Romney:

"And by the way, when people are successful in business, that's a good thing!"

Ryan also referred to Obama's 2008 comment about people clinging to guns and religion, calling himself a guy who goes to St. John Vianney Church, "right over there," and whose tree stand is "about 6 miles in that direction."

Ryan was about to launch into his stump speech, talking about cutting spending and steering the country back on course, when he stopped.

"Everywhere I look, I see all these familiar faces," he said. "It's very moving."

Someone called out, "We love you!"

"I love you, too," he responded.

The crowd loved everything Ryan said, including: "Our rights come from nature and God and not from government."

One part of Ryan's speech did not go according to the script. A woman started shouting something, apparently in opposition to Ryan, although most of the crowd could not hear her words.

One witness said another woman grabbed the protesting woman's shirt from behind, shaking her. The crowd began chanting "USA!"

Ryan stopped speaking and waited for the disturbance to end.

Police quickly escorted two women, who appeared to be together, from the gym. Both were from out of town, said Sgt. Brian Donohoue of the Janesville Police Department. An aide said Ryan spent much more than the usual amount of time shaking hands and greeting friends after the speech. He signed autographs, chatted and hugged people he recognized as six Secret Service agents followed his every move.

Janna spent even more time than her husband greeting well-wishers and signing autographs.

Lisa Hughes Bayley was one of those who followed Ryan as he made his way around the gym, and she was rewarded with a handshake. She seemed moved.

"I believe in the future, and I believe he can make a difference for us," Bayley said.

"He lives near a nursing home, and I'm a nurse, and I'm concerned for the care of the elderly, and I know he's on top of that," Bayley added.

Among the crowd was Declan Boran-Ragotzy, a 2010 Craig graduate who would not say whom he would vote for, saying that should remain private.

"I think it's wonderful a Janesville native is getting such accolades from the U.S.A., and I think he'll be able to do a lot for the U.S. as a whole," Boran-Ragotzy said.

Janna Ryan also took a moment to answer the same question posed to her husband. She hadn't heard his response.

"I bet there are no words for what he's feeling, right?" she said.

VOICES IN THE CROWD

Attendees on Monday said they enjoyed hearing Paul Ryan speak, and many said they were inspired by his words. Here are what a few had to say:

"He was wonderful. His brother (Tobin Ryan) was wonderful. I was very glad to be here and see it. I know our party is the one to win. (Republican presidential candidate Mitt) Romney has run businesses and has been successful. (President Barack Obama) has just been popular and not successful."—Brenda Johnson, Beloit

"I think no matter what your party affiliation, you should be proud of Janesville."—Mary Richards, Janesville

"I want to go into politics and business, just like him (Ryan). He is the best example we have out there right now."—Matt Boster, 18, Wind Lake, Racine County



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