Who is Paul Ryan: A Closer Look at Mitt Romney VP Nominee

After months of speculation, debate, and false information, Mitt Romney finally revealed his choice for a vice presidential running mate – the controversial GOP House Representative and Budget Committee Chair, Paul Ryan of Wisconsin.

Ryan has been under intense media scrutiny for his economic policy stances and his plan to overhaul America’s fiscal house -- in his efforts to stop the country from jumping off the fiscal cliff that is rapidly approaching. Though much is known about his recent legislative efforts, little is known about Paul Ryan’s resume or the events that shaped his views. 

Born on January 29, 1970, in Janesville, Wisconsin, Ryan is a 5th generation cheese-head and the same age as President Kennedy when JFK made his successful run for president. 

At the tender age of 16, Paul Ryan found his father’s lifeless body. At only 59-years-old, Paul Ryan Sr. had died from a heart attack. The early and untimely deaths of both his father and grandfather are his primary motivation for his passion for staying healthy and the fitness regimen he maintains today.

After his father’s death, his mother went back to school to train for a job so she could support her family on a reduced single income. This included caring for her Alzheimer’s stricken mother (Ryan’s grandmother), when his grandmother moved in with the family. Rep. Ryan learned the joy and sorrow in caring for our senior family members first hand by helping his grandmother with daily tasks, like brushing her hair, as her Alzheimer’s progressed.

Faced with the unexpected reality of single motherhood, Ryan’s mother also utilized the Social Security Survivor Benefits for Children program on behalf of Paul Ryan, Jr. until he was 18.   Many Ryan detractors claim Ryan himself collected the benefits. Alas, minors cannot apply for the benefits and it’s the surviving parent/guardian who decides to apply for, and accept, the monies provided under the program. The money was tucked away for Rep. Ryan’s college education as Mrs. Ryan made ends meet for the rest of the family.

After graduating from high school, Ryan attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, and pursued a degree in economics and political science. During the summer months, he worked as a YMCA camp counselor to earn money to pay for tuition and other college expenses. He landed a prized junior year internship under the foreign affairs advisor assigned to then Senator Bob Kasten (R-Wis.). 

Ryan earned his bachelors in 1992, then briefly worked as a marketing consultant for a construction company founded by his paternal great-grandfather in 1884 -- and now owned by other family members. 

He eventually returned to Senator Kasten’s office as an entry-level staff economist. The pay for a congressional aid is relatively low and, to support himself, Ryan worked side jobs ranging from waiter to fitness instructor.

After Kasten’s loss to Feingold in 1992, Ryan volunteered his economic services to Empower America, which later merged with Citizens for a Sound Economy to form Freedom Works in 2004 (long after Ryan’s Congressional win in 1998). 

During his career transition in1992 Ryan supported himself as a speechwriter. His speechwriting abilities and volunteer services to Empower America landed Ryan a plum role as a speechwriter for vice presidential candidate Jack Kemp in 1996. After the GOP presidential loss, Ryan then worked as Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-KS) legislative director. 

In 1998, he ran for the Congressional seat that was vacated by incumbent Mark Neumann. He won the election, fortified his position, and has successfully defended his seat against all opponents from numerous party affiliations for over a decade. 

In 2000, he married tax attorney Janna Little. Ryan sleeps in his office 4 days a week and returns to Janesville each weekend to spend time with his wife and three children along with his constituents. 

The events in Ryan’s life have had a definite impact on his policy stances and are a definite contrast to the current administration. Romney’s choice of Paul Ryan for a running mate clearly drew the line in the political sand, and hit the reset button for the campaign. 

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Jeanne Vickery

College educated business professional.

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