I had the privilege of attending the swearing-in of the 112th Congress this week. I came in from Ohio to see our Buckeye favorite son, John Boehner, take in hand the great gavel as speaker of the House. I go back a long way with Speaker Boehner, and it was all joy to see him receive the recognition he so richly merits.
The media loves to tease Speaker Boehner about two things: his tan and his tendency to tear up. President Obama even joined the press ribbing, saying that John Boehner is also a "person of color."
I wish the new speaker many afternoons on the golf course to work on his tan-but only when the people's business has been attended to. As to the waterworks, I wouldn't be the least bit ashamed of tearing up. John Boehner's story is a beautiful one: He's one of 12 kids. His tavern-owner dad had to rely on John to help with the family business. John waited tables, tended bar, swept up, and even earned his keep as a janitor. He has not forgotten where he came from.
The Republican Party needs to remember its own roots in hard work and up-by-the-bootstraps mobility. If Speaker Boehner keeps the new House majority focused on that, he'll be doing a great service to the country and his party.
My advice to the speaker: Any time you get ribbed about tearing up, say you just read the Obama healthcare bill-the one Nancy Pelosi said they had to pass, and only then would Americans learn what was in it. America: Read it and weep!
The most exciting event of the swearing-in day, without a doubt, was Speaker Boehner's uncommon eloquence in his speech. He has long been a dogged political leader. He's been an in-the-trenches foot soldier. But those of us who know him best know there is great depth of character there.
On Wednesday, the whole country witnessed what we have long known. Consider these beautiful words:
"In the Catholic faith, we enter into a season of service by having ashes marked on our foreheads. The ashes remind us that life in all its forms is fragile-our time on this Earth, fleeting. As the ashes are delivered, we hear those humbling words: 'Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.'
"The American people have humbled us. They have refreshed our memories as to just how temporary the privilege to serve is. They have reminded us that everything here is on loan from them. That includes this gavel, which I accept cheerfully and gratefully, knowing I am but its caretaker. After all, this is the people's House. This is their Congress. It's about them, not us. What they want is a government that is honest, accountable, and responsive to their needs. A government that respects individual liberty, honors our heritage, and bows before the public it serves."
Remember you are dust. Bow before the people. These are not empty words. Nor are they empty gestures. They are hallmarks of a new spirit in Congress. They are evidence that the spirit on Capitol Hill these days is a humbled one. Republicans have been given what Sen. Marco Rubio calls "a second chance." Use it well.
Speaker Boehner is right to remind us all that the House of Representatives is "the people's House." It was to the House that President John Quincy Adams returned after being thrashed by Andrew Jackson in his bid for reelection. Adams was asked if it was not a comedown to go from being chief executive to being merely one of dozens of representatives. Not at all, the stiff but upright Adams replied, adding that whenever he could be of service to the people of Massachusetts, he was the one who would be honored.
The first task of the new House GOP majority will be to repeal Obamacare. This also is no empty gesture. Even if the liberal-dominated Senate bats away those repealers, the House members will be showing Americans that they remember their promises-and the Constitution they swore to uphold.
And if the House passes repeal measures and Sen. Harry Reid derails them in the Senate, we should remember the Constitution gives the House the power of the purse-not a penny may be spent without consent of the people's representatives. I hope not a penny will be appropriated by this new House to enforce or enable the unconstitutional takeover of one-sixth of the U.S. economy.
It was a great start. All of us who witnessed it will never forget it. This is my salute to my old friend, Speaker John Boehner. We send you off with the same words Ohioan John Glenn received when he blasted into orbit: Godspeed!