April 27, 2016 – House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) spoke to an audience of more than 500 Georgetown students, faculty and staff today about the importance of the Republican Party’s engagement with millennials.
“The America that you want is the America that we want – open, diverse, dynamic,” Ryan said during his opening remarks. “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 joined 36 Georgetown students on stage for a town hall-style event, sponsored by the Georgetown Institute of Politics and Public Service (GU Politics) at the McCourt School of Public Policy, in the university’s historic Gaston Hall.
Mo Elleithee, the institute’s executive director, and S.E. Cupp, CNN contributor and a member of the institute’s advisory board moderated a question-and-answer session with the university community after his opening remarks.
Pandered to and Ignored
As he rolled up his sleeves to take questions from students seated behind him, in the audience and via social media, he admitted that most millennials may feel like the GOP has ignored them throughout the 2016 presidential election year, but also noted that Democrats have mostly pandered to a generation of young people telling them what they want to hear.
“My Democratic friends are good people who love this country,” he said. “The Democrats that we battle with day-to-day and argue with time and again in Congress and everywhere else are good people who love our country. We work together everyday to find common ground, but there are real disagreements.”
Some of the disagreements surfaced when he answered a question on immigration.
Matthew Fried (C’16), a government major from Ashland, Kentucky, asked Ryan why he wouldn’t address immigration reform until November after the presidential elections.
“I think [President Obama] poisoned the well. I know that sounds like a finger pointing exercise. This is a broken system that has to be fixed,” he explained. “We had an opportunity in the last session that we lost for immigration reform. We asked the president ‘Don’t do this divisive unconstitutional executive order,’ that we call executive amnesty,” he said.
Ryan went on to answer questions that tackled issues including the Affordable Care Act, Social Security entitlements and the national debt.
“We don’t think the Affordable Care Act is working … but we owe it to people to show them what we would replace it with,” he said before addressing the potential debt that may be left for future generations.
He pointed to government programs or “entitlements” such as the Affordable Care Act, social security, Medicare and other programs as potential debt increasers.
“If we don’t fix our entitlements from the current path that we are on, you will receive an inferior future. You will receive a mountain of debt that no American generation ever received. It will guarantee your living standards are lower. Our generation better fix this problem now … so your generation can be free and prosperous,” Ryan said.
Visions of Public Service
Ryan is one of many political guests to participate in events hosted by GU Politics. The 2016 Democratic presidential candidates Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) and former Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley each visited during the academic year as well as former GOP presidential candidates Carly Fiorina and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee.
“GU Politics is dedicated to reconnecting young people with the idea that politics is a noble vehicle for public service,” said McCourt School Dean Edward Montgomery in opening remarks. “GU Politics is an integral part of the vision for our school.”
Elleithee says Washington is full of “political operatives sitting around trying to figure out how to talk to young people.”
“Speaker Ryan deserves credit for coming to Georgetown to talk with students – sharing his vision for the future, and more importantly, hearing theirs. I have no doubt that he’ll walk away learning as much from Georgetown students as they will from him,” he said.