You may have seen this photograph recently in the Cincinnati Enquirer or on someone’s Facebook page. It was taken several weeks ago on Speaker John Boehner’s private balcony at the Capitol building. Here’s the story.
John Boehner has been a Member of Congress since January of 1991. I’ve been a Congressman since January of 1995 (except for what I call my two year involuntary sabbatical in 2009 and 2010.) And Brad Wenstrup and Trey Radel were just sworn in this past January.
Here’s what the four of us have in common (other than being Republicans, conservatives, debonair – well, the other guys fit that third category maybe.) Each of us graduated from one of the four GCL South high schools. Speaker John Boehner graduated from Moeller in 1968. I graduated from La Salle in 1971. Brad Wenstrup graduated from St. X in 1976. And the young wipper-snapper of the bunch, Trey Radel, graduated from Elder in 1994. Trey’s father, Skip Radel, owns and operates the Radel Funeral Homes in Cincinnati. Before attending Elder, Trey was a student at Our Lady of Lourdes School in Western Hills, and interestingly, was attending school at Lourdes the same time our daughter Erica was there, but he was a few years ahead of her, so we weren’t aware of Trey at the time. (It’s a small world.) Trey later moved to Florida, got into broadcasting, and more recently politics, and we now serve together in Congress.
Since the four of us attended high schools with a rich tradition of rivalries (mostly athletics), and since one of us is Speaker of the House, we thought it would be kind of cool to get together for a GCL photo. You’ll also note that in the photo we are each wearing a tie with the colors of our respective high schools. (Is this great stuff or what?)
Anyway, let me take just a few moments to reminisce.
I really got my start in politics at La Salle, when I ran for, and got elected to, student council. Some buddies and I got some cardboard donated from a local paper company, and made campaign posters. We came up with a bunch of slogans, one in particular I remember was “Make it a habit, vote for Chabot!” (No wonder it later took me three tries to get elected to Cincinnati City Council.) We put the posters at all the prime locations at the end of the hallways throughout the school, and I was the highest vote getter of the six candidates who ran. (I’ve always been a big believer in signs, big ones, and that’s true to this day. That’s probably pretty obvious by the important role yard signs have played in my campaigns over the years.)
Following high school, I had the good fortune to be recruited to play college football by none other than Lou Holtz, who was the head coach at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. During my years at William and Mary, a national political crisis was unfolding which would draw me in the direction of politics – Watergate. Even though a lot of young people were inclined to conclude “Why would anyone want to get involved in politics; they’re all a bunch of crooks?” Watergate had just the opposite effect on me. I thought we needed people in politics who were honest, and just wanted to serve their communities and the country, and I decided that’s what I wanted to do.
One thing a lot of people don’t know about me, is that after I voted for Richard Nixon for President in 1972 before he became embroiled in the Watergate scandal (I was 19 years old), I voted for Jimmy Carter four years later. Why? Because at the time, I felt Jimmy Carter’s opponent, President Gerald Ford, was wrong to have pardoned Richard Nixon for his activities in the Watergate scandal. So I voted for Jimmy Carter for President. Worst political decision I ever made. He was a terrible President. Of course four years later I came to my senses again, and voted for Ronald Reagan.
I did bring up the fact that I had voted for a Democrat, Jimmy Carter, for President some years later – during President Clinton’s impeachment trial, in my argument to the United States Senate. (Apparently, it didn’t persuade too many Senators because the Senate voted 50-50 not to remove him from office.) Anyway, Jimmy Carter was the first, last, and only Democrat I’ve ever voted for for President. (Did I mention he was a terrible President?)
Another thing not too many people remember (or quite frankly probably care about one way or the other) is that when I first ran for City Council in 1979, I ran as an Independent, not as a Republican or a Democrat. However, it became pretty clear to me that to have much of a chance for success in politics, it was necessary to join one team or the other. Having knocked on so many doors, and talked to so many people about so many issues during my first run for office, it gave me the opportunity to realize that my political philosophy was most in tune with the Republican Party philosophy of less government, lower taxes, personal responsibility, and more freedom. What do you know? I was a Republican! And I’ve never turned back.
Well, thank you for letting me reminisce a little. And thanks for giving me the opportunity to fight for that conservative philosophy at the local level, and at the congressional level, for about three decades now. See you next week.