In an age in which 24-hour cable news, blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and talk radio have made the news cycle both incessant and insatiable, Paul Ryan’s life -- and his family’s -- will never be the same now that Mitt Romney has chosen him to be his running mate.
The white-hot spotlight -- and its glare -- will be on him and his past, but Ryan seems grounded and steady enough to withstand the coming storm, mainly because of the two people who have influenced him the most -- his late father and the late Jack Kemp. He is as focused on his physical well-being as he is about the country’s fiscal health because of the influences of his late dad and Kemp, respectively.
As a teenager, Ryan found his father dead of a heart attack in his bed, and this event transformed his life. His grandfather and great grandfather also died in their 50s. Aware of this, Ryan became invested in fitness and healthy eating (he swears off sweets such as birthday cakes given to him by staffers or friends) as preventative measures, so he would not meet the same fate as other males in his family.
Ryan is a devotee of the P90X exercise program, which he has discussed many times. He has routinely worked out with Democrats as well as Republicans, including former University of Tennessee and Washington Redskins quarterback -- and North Carolina Democrat - Heath Shuler. Ryan is a hunter, fisherman, and general outdoorsman. In a year in which, due to the success of “The Hunger Games” series and the Olympics, archery has increased in popularity, Ryan is also a skilled bow hunter with considerable proficiency at archery. Ryan also likes to engage in noodling, a practice common in the South, where people catch catfish with their bare hands by sticking their arms into catfish holes.
After graduating from Miami University of Ohio (in Oxford, OH) in 1992, Ryan went on to work for Empower America, Jack Kemp and Bill Bennett’s think tank, from 1993 to 1995. Ryan also was Kemp’s speechwriter for a time and went on to become an aide for politicians such as Sam Brownback. Ryan has always expressed his gratitude that Kemp “took a chance” on him out of college.
During this time, Ryan, who is also a devoted Green Bay Packers football fan, worked as a waiter at Tortilla Coast, a popular restaurant frequented by Capitol Hill staffers. He also taught fitness classes at a local fitness club in D.C.
After Kemp encouraged him to run for Congress, Ryan, a Janesville, Wisconsin native, ran in Wisconsin’s first district in 1998 and won, becoming the youngest Congressman at the time, at 28.
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