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Liberty + Leadership Podcast – Dan McConchie


Dan McConchie ’93, ’95 joins Roger Ream ’76 for an exciting conversation on episode one of the Liberty + Leadership Podcast!

Dan is a two-time TFAS alumnus and current Illinois state senator. He has remained actively involved at TFAS for nearly 30 years. He served on the TFAS Board of Regents for six years and is a long-time supporter of the programs.

Dan has represented Illinois’ 26th District since 2016 and prior to his leadership position, Dan served as a Caucus budget negotiator, advocating for responsible state spending and lower taxes. Dan staunchly supports policies and legislation that promote job growth and a smaller, smarter government. He currently serves on the Senate Executive and Redistricting committees. Listen in as we discuss his TFAS experience, where he met his wife, his time in the military, his career in politics and the event that forever changed his life.

TFAS has reached more than 46,000 students and professionals through academic programs, fellowships and seminars. Representing more than 140 countries, TFAS alumni are courageous leaders throughout the world forging careers in politics, government, public policy, business, philanthropy, law and the media.

Join TFAS President Roger Ream ’76 as he reconnects with these outstanding alumni to share experiences, swap career stories, and find out what makes their leadership journey unique. With prominent congressmen, judges and journalists among the mix, each episode is sure to excite your interest in what makes TFAS special.

If you have a comment or question for the show, please email podcast@TFAS.org.

View future episodes and subscribe at TFAS.org/podcast.

Episode Transcript

The transcript below is lightly edited for clarity. 

Roger Ream [00:00:23] Hello and welcome. I’m Roger Ream and this is the Liberty + Leadership Podcast, a conversation with TFAS alumni who are making a real impact in politics, public policy, government, business, philanthropy, law and the media. Today, we have an amazing guest joining me, Illinois Senate Republican leader and TFAS alumnus Dan McConchie. Dan has represented Illinois’s 26th District since 2016, and prior to his leadership position, Dan served as a caucus budget negotiator, advocating for responsible state spending and lower taxes. Boy, that must be a thankless job in Illinois, Dan. Dan has staunchly supported policies and legislation that promote job growth and a smaller, smarter government and currently serves on the Senate executive and redistricting committees. Dan has quite an interesting background. He joined the Army National Guard on his 17th birthday, has a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Central Bible College, graduated magna cum laude with a master’s degree in Christian thought and an emphasis on bioethics from Trinity International Divinity School. He spent two years as an adjunct professor at Trinity International University teaching graduate level bioethics and public policy. I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Dan McConchie for over 30 years, and I’m excited to discuss with him some of the lessons of liberty and leadership he has learned over the years. Dan, thank you for joining me and welcome to the show.

Dan McConchie [00:02:08] Great to be on with you, Roger. Thanks for the opportunity.

Roger Ream [00:02:11] Well, Dan, you often tell the story of how you found a brochure when you were in college and you almost threw it away. Could you remind me of that story today?

Dan McConchie [00:02:22] I was on the student newspaper as the news editor and came in to the office one day. We had a series of mail slots that the mail would come in for the features editor, news editor and so forth. And I pulled the mail out and The Fund for American Studies had sent an invitation to apply for the degree, the programs in Washington, D.C. And I looked at it and I was like, wow, this this really looks amazing. I had not been to Washington since I was on a middle school trip, a middle school choir trip, actually. We went and sang outside the Washington Monument. I mean, it’s a big thing. But beyond that, I hadn’t had any real opportunity to be there. I had an interest in politics, generally speaking. I had actually taken a group of students from my college to a rally for George H.W. Bush back in 1992 on a school bus all the way from Springfield, Missouri, to St. Louis. And so I was interested in it, in the opportunity to go to Washington, attend classes at the time, which were at Georgetown, and do an internship. And I turned it over and I looked at the back and I saw the price, which was about $2500. And for me, I was paying for college entirely on my own, largely through student loans. I knew that was something I couldn’t afford. And I was standing over the trash can and I went to throw it away. And just as it kind of got right, right about to let it go, at the bottom, I saw it said “scholarships available.” And I thought, you know, it doesn’t hurt to apply. So I applied and got a scholarship and went to the Institute on Political Journalism in 1993 and just had a fantastic experience there. It really did change my life and orientation in a way that I’m not sure anything else quite has.

Roger Ream [00:04:16] Now, today, you and your wife are funding scholarships for students to come to our program, so you’re giving back very generously, and we appreciate that. You went a few years later to a program we organize still in the Czech Republic, in Prague. I’d love to hear a little bit about what that experience was like, because when you went, you know, those students had just a few years earlier come out from under communism. So it must have been a fascinating experience.

Dan McConchie [00:04:45] No, absolutely. You know, I had not been to Europe before and had the opportunity of going. And so I went and there was about, I think about 109 of us, 108 or 109, 110, something like that. Nine of us were Americans, but the rest were from every country from the former Soviet bloc, including Soviet – Russia itself. You know, I remember one night being at a pub and I’m at a table and there were two Russians, a Georgian, a Serbian and two of us Americans, and we were talking about basketball, so it was just a fantastic experience. One of the more interesting things that I had never thought of before having gone there was just how ubiquitous the English language is worldwide, but still was among the former communist bloc. And I remember us going around and me and one of the other Americans were kind of commenting that it was sort of unfair that we only knew English, and between us, and if we talked, everyone could understand what we said. But the Romanians and the others could – they could drop into their own native tongue and talk about us. We had no idea what it was that they were saying. But, yeah, the stories of these kids who had grown up under communism, many of them without a lot of opportunity just dreamed of freedom or the ability to travel, but never sure that that was ever going to come, was an amazing thing to experience firsthand.

Roger Ream [00:06:24] Yeah, I went over there first in 1992 when we were looking to start a program, and it was just an interesting time because there was such a thirst among young people to learn about the United States, to do American studies, to come study in the U.S. And it’s different today, of course. We still do the program, and I think it’s a powerful program today, but the students today don’t have that direct experience with communism. And so they come with a different mindset. But I think you and I were blessed to be over there so soon after the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed and be with students who really enabled us to really appreciate what we had and how blessed we were to grow up in America.

Dan McConchie [00:07:14] Well, to hear stories, you know, there was one student who told me the story about how her parents – she remembered how her parents, they would tell political jokes at the table in their own house, but they would always whisper when they did it, just out of reflex. That is something that so many of us don’t know or understand today, we don’t have that kind of experience. That’s something that is often lost and sometimes is lost even between siblings in the same household. So I’ve even observed that as well. You have a few years apart in age and you’ll have someone who grew up, became a teenager under communism, and a younger sibling who was just in elementary school and their outlook on the world and understanding of the impacts of totalitarianism and the negative impacts, I should say, can be completely different.

Roger Ream [00:08:17] Yeah, I’ll just mention as an aside, this year we have four or five students coming to our program in Prague from Ukraine. And that’ll be something. I got an email from one a few weeks ago saying, “I’ve submitted my application, but I’m having trouble getting my professor to write a letter of recommendation. I’m currently in a bomb shelter in Kharkiv. Could you accept my application without the recommendation letter?” I got back to her and said, “You’re accepted and you have a full scholarship.” So, yeah, our donors have been generous in contributing to a Ukrainian scholarship fund this year. So that’s why we are accepting any Ukrainian who applies. Now, correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t you meet your wife at our program in Prague?

Dan McConchie [00:09:03] I did. I mentioned having been in a pub with several different people from different nationalities, and it was actually on that night sitting at that table in which, at one point, I looked up. So we were in a dormitory that’s kind of in a suburb of Prague. Prague is a very old city with a very compact downtown. Charles University, where the institute is held, didn’t have housing or anything associated with it, didn’t have a large footprint there. Students would have to travel in from kind of a suburban area. They would get onto the train and go in. So we stayed in one of these dormitories and they had a neighborhood pub there. And I’m not sure the folks in the neighborhood actually appreciated all these different kids coming into their pub, right? But we did that. We’re sitting in the corner and each of us having beers, which, it was great at the time – you know, mid-nineties, beer was a quarter for half a liter, which was amazing for us. We were used to spending $5 in America for a beer. But the door opened to this pub and in walked about a dozen girls from the program from Bulgaria and Romania. They all came and ended up sitting next to us and we ended up having extensive discussions. We ended up moving around some, and at one point I ended up sitting next to a young lady from Bulgaria. I’m somebody who is very aware of my surroundings and what’s going on around me, but at one point we looked up and everyone at the table was gone. They had gotten up and paid their bill and left and left us there. So I kind of took charge of the situation and walked her back to the dormitory afterward. We kept hanging out over those three weeks in Prague and parted as friends. But, you know, one thing led to another and a year later, we actually got married and we’re still married 25, 26, almost 26 years now, and we have two girls. It’s been an amazing experience, not just knowing somebody, but being married to someone who grew up in that kind of environment. I mentioned the difference that can exist between kids in the same family and their understanding of having grown up under socialism. And I’ve seen that between my wife and her younger sister. Her younger sister is about six and a half years younger, and as a result the younger sister is open to considering some ideology – ideological perspectives that my wife thoroughly repudiates because of her experience with them as a teenager that my sister-in-law did not experience in the same way. So I’ve had an up close front seat in being able to observe that phenomenon.

Roger Ream [00:12:05] Yeah. Your story reminds me of another couple that met at our program and have been married for many years, both Americans in this case, but he likes to refer to our program as the world’s most expensive dating service.

Dan McConchie [00:12:20] I’m sure there’s more expensive ones out there.

Roger Ream [00:12:24] Yeah there are, but we’ve had quite a few of those kinds of connections made at our program that have led to lasting marriages. So we don’t object to that. Now, you joined the Army National Guard on your 17th birthday, I think, and served for nine years in the infantry, in the military police. What factored in your decision to enlist? And thank you also for your service, Dan.

Dan McConchie [00:12:48] No, I appreciate that. So I grew up in a very rural part of Indiana. My mom grew up among cornfields. My grandfather was not a farmer. He actually worked at an area manufacturing plant, a Pfizer plant, but they grew up in a house a quarter mile off the road, down a lane and with cornfields all the way around. My dad grew up on the Illinois side of the border, and he actually grew up in a farming family. It was very typical for him to get up at 5 a.m. during planting season, go plant until it was time to get on the school bus, take the school bus to school, stay for football practice, come back and go back into the field. So hard work was something that was always impressed upon me and my brothers to do. Then also the opportunity of being able to give back and participate. So my grandfather, who worked at that factory, had actually served in World War II. He was relatively late – I think he was 34 years old when the war started and America got involved. He married my grandmother and two weeks later shipped off to Italy for four years, and then came back and was introduced for the first time to my aunt, whom he had never met, you know, who was born while he’s away. So that service, giving back, hard work and being committed in a sacrificial manner is something that my family has always, always had.

Roger Ream [00:14:23] And now, Dan, you eventually finish school and have worked in public policy and national advocacy organizations, served as vice president of Americans United for Life. What drew you to that organization? I know you had an academic background in ethics and bioethics, but could you talk a little bit about that?

Dan McConchie [00:14:44] Yeah. So I was always interested, ever since the program. Really when I was in the Institute on Political Journalism there in Washington, D.C., for those six weeks, I got to do some really interesting advocacy work. I did an internship with an advocacy group, and I got to go on to Capitol Hill and participate in hearings and go into government agencies and force diplomats, or the employees there, to print off several hundred pages of their grants that they had done. And then we would take them back and comb through them for questionable ways of federal spending and then give that information over to legislators. This was right before Republicans took over the House in 1994. I remember visiting with Dick Armey and giving him that material. I was always interested in that, and being involved in an organization that defended the sanctity of human life from the beginning to the very end was something that I was very interested in. The emphasis of that organization was to focus on the work that was done at the state level. While there is a great deal of attention that is given for natural reasons to Congress and to what’s going on in Washington, D.C., the vast majority of the laws that govern our everyday lives are done at the state and local level, and it’s something that can easily be overlooked by people. You can make a great difference. The organization I worked in did work all across the country, and one of the really interesting experiences about that is if I had a bad day in New Jersey, the next day I could have a good day in Missouri and a great day the day after that in Oklahoma. So you always had the opportunity of making a difference because of all these different laboratories of democracy that exist across the country.

Roger Ream [00:16:42] Yeah. And that’s hitting on a point right now that’s very timely because this pending Supreme Court decision is likely to be an issue that will be moved back to the states, and that’s where the battlegrounds will be on that particular issue. But could you talk a little bit about the event in 2007 that dramatically changed your life on a sunny day when you went off for what you expected to be just an enjoyable ride on your motorcycle and were the victim of a hit and run?

Dan McConchie [00:17:13] Yeah. So I was going over to help a friend move. It was on a Friday. I had taken the day off and it was a gorgeous June day. I got on my bike and I actually thought maybe I should take the car to be able to put some stuff in it. And I thought, “Oh, no, he’s got a moving truck. It’s beautiful out, I’ll take the bike.” I took the bike, and I was driving through an intersection about 10 minutes from my house when a car turned on a red light, came straight into my lane and pushed me and my motorcycle into oncoming traffic. I actually don’t remember the accident at all, but I did wake up two weeks later to find out I had a spinal cord injury, no feeling or function left in my legs. So that required about a year of healing and physical therapy in order to be able to function again. A lot of modifications to the house. I’m in a wheelchair permanently. It makes life really interesting, right? You know, living in a place like Chicago and the area here, despite the fact that we’ve had the ADA since 1990, there are still places and things that are not accessible to me. One of the most interesting things – being an elected official and running for office means a lot of what you’re supposed to is go out to meet people and go door to door. But I would say 99 and a half percent of the doors in my district, I cannot reach the front door. There’s some form of step or obstacle in order to get up. So in order for me to be able to go out and meet voters where they live, I have to have help to go and do that. There’s a series of challenges that exists. One of the things that I learned when I was in the infantry was this motto: adapt and overcome. That was something, because when you go into a firefight, the first thing that happens when the bullets start to fire, you go in with a plan, but the bullets start flying. Your plans immediately force you to have to change and adjust. Your responsibility is to adapt to the situation that’s thrown at you and still work to overcome the obstacle that you’ve been assigned to take. That’s something that I just made a life motto and something that I’ve done in this case here.

Roger Ream [00:19:33] That’s a great motto, a great way to live. And it was forced on you in some sense. How do you apply that in your role as a legislator, this adapt and overcome mentality?

Dan McConchie [00:19:46] It’s rare that a piece of legislation that you introduce becomes law, but then even when it does become law, it is rare that it becomes law either in its ideal form or in the manner in which you desire. I can think of examples even from this year. We had the COVID pandemic, was obviously a serious situation that we had. One of the things that upset many people was the fact that our governor here not only shut down businesses and picked between winners and losers, but would prevent people from being able to go in and visit their loved ones at long term care or in hospitals and these types of situations. We had countless people die alone. I had a constituent who did die alone, a man at around 90 years of age who spent 18 days in a hospital. This was earlier this year. I mean, this is a year and a half into the pandemic, and he spent 18 days in the hospital. During that time, he was allowed one visitor for 10 minutes and he died alone. It was such a tragic event, and the family wanted closure, so we worked very hard to come up with a bill that was a compromise. We introduced this bill. We get it through the Senate without any problem, it gets over to the House, and suddenly we had one special interest come out. We’ve got to have changes to this, otherwise we’re going to oppose the bill. And it was going to become a problem. So we make a change, and then we had actually the administration come out wanting another change. And this is a bill that would make sure that this never happens again. So we had to make these tweaks and some compromises that I’m not sure were either necessary or needed, but at the end of the day, you adapt to the situation. We were able to get the bill across the finish line. Now it’s sitting on the governor’s desk and we’ll see what he does with it.

Roger Ream [00:21:44] Yeah, well, that’s a great example of adapting, which is a regular thing you have to do in politics. Talk, if you would, a little bit about your faith and how that might play a role in your work as a state senator and a Republican leader, if at all.

Dan McConchie [00:22:01] Yeah. So I’m a Christian. I grew up within that faith community. I have met people from many, many different backgrounds: Jewish, Muslim, other brands of Christianity. I have some Buddhist friends and so forth, as well as people that have no kind of faith at all. One of the things that I would say about having a faith commitment is that it reminds you that the world is not all about you. It’s very easy when you think about it – when you had kids, and many of your viewers have had children or maybe have had siblings or family dealing with infants – for that child, the world is all about them. It’s as they grow up that they learn there’s other people that are important and other perspectives that are important. I think there’s nothing better than having a faith perspective to remember that there is something beyond us, that it’s not all about human beings, that helps to keep you grounded in what it is that you’re pursuing in the issues and so forth that you’re advancing. I think that is really helpful to making sure that the kind of ideas and legislation that you’re putting forward at the end of the day is really about the people and about what’s in the best interest for them. And I think having a faith commitment of some sort really does assist in maintaining the right perspective.

Roger Ream [00:23:46] Now, Dan. We’re a nonpartisan organization, of course, educational in our mission. But I am curious, as a Republican leader in Illinois, do you have a strategy or do you see a light that leads you toward someday seeing the land of Lincoln? Having a majority of Republicans in the legislature? Are Republicans able to make more of an impact on policy there? Because we all know Illinois’s reputation of corrupt politics. You’ve had a number of your recent governors end up in prison. Illinois is suffering from terrible crime and other problems in the school systems and all. You’ve probably got a whole list of policy proposals that could address those things. But, you know, it’s difficult when you’re a minority party that doesn’t – I don’t think you even have the ability to override a veto. So what is the strategy, or what are your prospects for the future?

Dan McConchie [00:24:46] Sure. Well, one of the things that I tell anybody who wants to have good government in place: you’ve got to have good people involved in that. And as you mentioned, we have a history of corrupt politics. We have governors – four of our last eight governors have been seen in orange jumpsuits, and they’ve been from both parties. One of the things that I would say, though, is that democracy works best when you have good people in government and active participation of people in both parties. And when you have these longstanding majorities that the Democrats have had here in the state, it leads to an imbalance where you end up with people who don’t have – they aren’t subject to gerrymandering of districts and redistricting, things like that – who don’t really feel subject to the voters. And when you have that, you end up with corruption. And I’ll refer to that as illegal as well as legal corruption – there are certain forms of legal corruption that exist where people are just simply acting in their own best interests to get themselves reelected, and it may be contrary to the desires of the majority of people in the state. That is why I think it’s important that we make gains in order to get within shot at this – and yeah, I’m very hopeful that one day we’ll have a majority of Republicans here in Illinois, and I do believe that is possible to obtain. I’m also interested in what I would refer to as a functional policy majority. That’s when you have Republicans being able to team up with Democrats. We have enough of us and enough moderate Democrats who are willing to block the kind of extremism within their own party and vice versa. You can have extremism even within the Republican Party, but you are able to create those functional majorities that help put good legislation through, even when the extremes in one side or the other don’t want to support that.

Roger Ream [00:27:05] Well, I’m tempted to ask you if there was a particular thinker or individual who’s had a strong influence on you in your life or a book you’ve read, but I might phrase it differently and just say, if you had the choice to have dinner with any one person, living or dead, and to pick their brain and learn from them over dinner, who would you select, do you think?

Dan McConchie [00:27:28] Oh, that’s a great question. I think probably the one person I would pick actually is living, which is Newt Gingrich. Newt Gingrich – you know, a lot of people don’t know his background. He first ran for Congress in 1974. He lost. Ran again in ’76. He lost. Finally won in 1978. And then when Ronald Reagan won and Republicans won a majority in the Senate in 1980, he really began to have a dream of having Republicans have a majority in the House, which had not happened since 1954. He began to work to secure that goal. He really worked from the 1982 cycle for the next 12 years until he was finally able to make it a reality in 1994. At that point, when he was able to finally take the majority,  Republicans had been in the minority for 40 years. I have a book here on my shelf that was written and released early in 1994, and the title is “Congress’s Permanent Minority?” I mean, even in the same year that Newt Gingrich took back the majority in 1994, there were still political prognosticators who thought that maybe Republicans could never come back. But that is really the advantage of the two party system – the fact of you end up with the two parties adjusting to the middle as the middle moves in a country, those two parties adjust to grab those issues. We saw it in 1992, in which you had Ross Perot get 17% or 19% of the vote between Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush. Within one cycle, all of the issues that Ross Perot had run on were taken up by those other parties. They recognize we’re missing some important things here. I think Newt Gingrich has been key. Plus, he’s so intelligent. I have a friend who was on his staff, and he said, “We would always cringe whenever Newt spoke, we would stand in the back of the room because Newt’s brain worked so fast that he would get up there and he would always speak without notes, and he would come up with new ideas.” And right there in front of 500 people, he would say, “So next we’re going to do….” And he would announce, and the staff would be like, “We would have to take notes and be like, oh, suddenly we have to go do these new things.” But he was so brilliant at that kind of strategy, which I think is vitally important in maintaining the Contract with America. They helped to really cement the Republican Party as the party of ideas and what those ideas were. I think in the current era we’ve moved somewhat away from the concept of the Republican Party being about ideas. It may be more about personality, and I think that we need to regain that.

Roger Ream [00:30:28] Again, I can’t hesitate to also mention that we have another generation of McConchie’s now who have done our program with one of your daughters having done our high school program. Could you talk a little bit about that?

Dan McConchie [00:30:46] Yeah. So she was very interested in the idea of economics. When you had brought up the high school program and you had merged with the organization to be able to do that, I said, “Hey, it’s just a week, you get to fly to Boston and do this program.” She was obviously very interested in the idea of being trusted enough to be able to go and fly on her own out to the East Coast, so she went and did that program. In fact, it was because of those – she did two of those – because of those programs in economics, she actually went and decided to get a degree in economics and data analytics from Purdue. She’s actually graduating this spring with that degree, has a job with a major Fortune 20 company. It’s going to be starting off doing cybersecurity for them. It’s been very fascinating to be able to watch her take a little bit after her parents in this regard and grow and then also make it her own.

Roger Ream [00:31:49] Well, that’s wonderful. I bet she loves Purdue. I know there is, well some of the people listening may not know, but their president, Mitch Daniels, who’s just been outstanding, is a former member of our Board of Trustees and good friend of our organization. So I’m sure she had a good experience there.

Dan McConchie [00:32:05] Well, Mitch Daniels has run that school in a manner that we wish all universities across the country would be run. Not only has he really stood firm on behalf of free speech when so many universities have caved to the ideas that we need to limit speech because some people might be offended by it. He’s taken a completely opposite tact. In fact, he’s been president now, I believe, for 11 years. When he first came in, the in-state tuition at Purdue was $9,992. 11 years later, the in-state tuition is $9,992. He has kept it flat, and with inflation, I think has led to a functionally a 30% reduction in the real cost for students of Indiana who are going to that school. And so he’s just been a fantastic leader, standing up for what’s right, doing what the students want. They have record-breaking enrollment. My daughter got the president’s scholarship, so we’re so very proud of her and everything that she’s been able to do in going to a school that’s been led in such a great way.

Roger Ream [00:33:17] Well, we we share your sense of pride in her. She is a TFAS alumna now and we’ll be looking forward to following her career. You know, Dan, last fall, our board did a strategic plan, a new strategic plan for our organization, and it was an interesting process. The trustees reviewed our vision for the organization, our mission statement, and we only made one minor change to that mission statement that’s been the same one we’ve had since we were founded in 1967. As you know, it’s a mission to develop leaders. And what we did is we added the word courageous to it – to develop courageous leaders, because we thought that today, more so than in the past even, it really takes courage to be a leader who wants to stand up and speak out for American values, for limited government, the rule of law, our free enterprise system. And in so many ways you’ve demonstrated courage, and I think we’ve seen that today. It was courage not to throw that brochure away and to say, well, maybe I’ll apply for that scholarship. Certainly it took courage in 1995 to get on a plane and fly to Prague and attend that program. And of course, courage, this adapt and overcome attitude you had after your accident in 2007. And then to be a leader now in the legislature has to be courageous. So we admire all that you’re doing in that regard. You know, you’re someone we’re very proud of who has taken what he learned at our programs and elsewhere in life and really turned it into working to help make sure that all Americans have the opportunity for human flourishing. So we want to thank you for what you do. Before we end, I always like to wrap up these conversations with a question, and that is, if you could give a piece of leadership advice to our students, as I know you’ve done with your own daughters, what would that advice be that you could share in terms of becoming honorable leaders and courageous leaders?

Dan McConchie [00:35:19] One of the things I would say is that you really do have to know yourself, and know what it is that you stand for and believe in. And that takes some work to do. You need to study the issues. You need to go out there and talk with people. You need to be willing to embrace conversation with those people on the other side of you and hear their perspectives and be willing to set aside your own viewpoints. Be willing to be proved wrong. If you are willing and able to do that, what you will find at the end of the day is that – you know, one of the things I’ve said about myself is I would rather be right than win. And what I meant by that is I would rather change my perspective on something and have the right perspective be proven wrong and change my mind and be on the right side of something than to run like a bulldog that just keeps pounding until you win. If you’re willing to do that, at the end of the day you’ll be respected by your peers, by your friends and foes alike. You’ll be respected by those people that you are standing up for. It is sometimes a lonely path to be willing to do that. You’ll take a lot of criticism and such, but at the end of the day, pursue what’s right and just. And if you pursue that, even if it means you lose an election, or you lose that job opportunity, at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. And if you do what’s right, I believe, and part of it’s based on my faith that if I do what’s right and a door closes as a result of doing that, another door will open up and another opportunity will come along. So that’s the way in which I structure my life and encourage others to do the same.

Roger Ream [00:37:31] That’s superb. Very early on, someone gave me some advice or gave me an observation about politics, which I’ve always thought of when I look at your career. And that is that a politician has to always remember that winning is the means to an end. It’s not the end in and of itself. The goal isn’t to win the office, and then you’ve accomplished your mission. You’re running for office, you’re hoping you win for a purpose, to accomplish something. And I appreciate that focus you’ve always had as someone serving in office. So thank you for your service, not only as a member of a political office, but your service in the Army National Guard as well. It’s very relevant this Memorial Day. Thank you so much for sharing your time with us today. I know you’re a very busy man, and I think this has been a very enlightening and interesting conversation. So I wish you the very best and and look forward to your continued involvement with The Fund for American Studies.


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This week, another exceptional TFAS alumna joins us on the Liberty + Leadership Podcast: Diana Simpson, 2009 TFAS alumna and attorney.

Gary and Aldona Robbins Scholarship Established for Economic Education

The Gary and Aldona Robbins Scholarship at TFAS was established in 2024 to honor the work of a husband and wife who together made outstanding contributions to the field of economic policy. Upon Aldona’s passing in May, TFAS regent and friend of Aldona,…

Maintaining Our Republic: Mitch Daniels Delivers Annual Neal B. Freeman Lecture

The 2024 cohort of D.C. Academic Internship Program participants welcomed former Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels at George Mason University for this year’s annual Neal B. Freeman All-Student Lecture on June 11.