There is no question. Change is coming to the 1st Congressional District. Change can be scary. It can also be healthy. It is certainly inevitable.
The recent decision of House Speaker Paul Ryan not to seek re-election in November caused me pause. Of course, like many people who follow politics, the inclination to speculate on any number of topics related to Ryan’s decision kept my mind busy for days.
But recently, after exhausting the most realistic what-if scenarios, I began thinking about what anyone in public service gives to the organization they serve.
From local service and civic groups to local and state government, right on up the line, people serve to make a difference. Yes, sometimes their own point of view blinds them from those of others. Still, I believe nearly everyone entering such a role has good intentions.
So, while I know there are those who listened tearfully to the news that this would be Ryan’s last term and at the same time those who danced in the streets for joy, I offer some words of thanks. In this case, the words are directed to the outgoing speaker. However, the sentiments may be largely true for anyone ending a time of public service.
Speaker Ryan, for staying in the position of public servant as long as you did while the constituents you serve polarized around you, thank you.
Thank you for sitting down with charities and the needy as you did when exploring welfare reforms, even though you largely received no credit for doing so. Thank you for being accessible to your hometown media throughout your rise to national prominence, even though the areas you serve were much larger than Janesville.
Thank you for having a heart that believes in the best in people. Your beliefs must have helped guide your tax reform plan (even though, personally, I am not convinced that goodness is deep enough to flow economic benefits from wealthy board rooms to the front-line employees in many cases).
Thank you for your commitment to God and family even when the road got difficult. Thank you for your willingness to serve in the capacity of the nation’s vice president and, when the nation selected a different candidate, your gracious acceptance of those results.
Thank you for not lowering yourself to the vulgar, obscene, vile, rude and unkind vitriol that permeates social media and viewing both the supporters and those critical of your work with respect.
Thank you for the times you brought the national spotlight on Janesville—always reflecting your hometown in a positive light.
Thank you for the respect of the office you hold and for giving your constituents honest notice of your decision not to seek re-election, instead of pursuing a sham election just to retain a Republican seat in Congress.
And finally, some words of thanks to your family for sharing you with the American people: for their understanding when family moments may have happened without you in their midst, for their resolve and resilience when jeers and insults were lobbed in their direction when they had nothing to do with political policy. Thank you for their sacrifice in giving up a typical Wisconsin family life to allow you to serve the country.
As change is ushered across the 1st District this November, I also wish to extend a heartfelt thanks to those candidates on both sides of the aisle who stand ready to take the baton of leadership—and all the praise and criticism that will go with it— and stand to serve the greatest nation in the world.