Republicans cast optimistic message on poverty
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Amid a bitter presidential primary season that has often hinged on personal attacks, Republicans on Saturday looked to the ever-optimistic example of one of their party’s economic forebears.
At the Jack Kemp Foundation’s forum on opportunity in Columbia, S.C., several GOP candidates sought to embody the man who steered the party’s message toward growth and optimism and away from lamentations on welfare and the national debt.
They elucidated their plans to tackle poverty and reflected on how their personal stories embodied the party message on opportunity.
“One thing I began to notice is that the person who has the most to do with what happens to you in life, is you,” he said. “It’s not somebody else. It’s not the environment. Once I understood that, poverty didn’t bother me anymore, because I knew I had the ability to change it myself.
“That doesn’t mean we don’t need to help each other escape from it,” he added, stressing that government is not always the answer.
“First time I’ve learned about poverty was from both of my parents. My mom was the product of a single mother, and she’s the oldest child in that family,” he said. “My grandfather was gone, and my grandmother had to take three buses every day to go to work, and my mother had to raise her two younger siblings, and they were abjectly poor.
“And if you got to where you got to as governor, you want to try to make sure you do everything you can to give those young people the opportunity to achieve their dream, whatever that dream is,” he added.
Former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was comparatively light on personal narrative. When asked what sensitized him to the problem of poverty, he said he was inspired by several influential politicians, including Kemp.
“I think, inspired by Jack Kemp in the political realm and meeting Bob Woodson, not as a governor, but a person seeking knowledge and seeking truth in the 1990s, I became sensitized to the fact that poverty is a lot more complex than the smart people in Washington describe it as,” he said.
When protesters interrupted Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Ohio Gov. John Kasich remarked that front-runner Donald Trump’s method of handling protesters is not “in the spirit of Jack Kemp.”
“I saw a crowd booing this woman who was being escorted,” Kasich said. “That’s not the spirit of Jack Kemp. We are people who can tolerate differences and respect people, and this is just nonsense, and that is not the Republican Party.”