Speaking to the 2011 graduates of Catholic University, BoehnerJohn Andrew BoehnerDemocrats eager to fill power vacuum after Pelosi exit Stopping the next insurrection Biden, lawmakers mourn Harry Reid MORE used a tumultuous stretch of his time as a lawmaker to impart several pieces of advice. He described his rapid ascent up the party ranks shortly after being elected, as he joined other younger lawmakers to form the "Gang of Seven" and helped draft the GOP's "Contract with America."
"I came to Congress in 1991, and before long, found myself in the leadership ranks of my party. Being called a ‘rising star’ -- that was heady stuff," he said.
Boehner climbed his way up to become the chair of the House Republican Conference in 1995. But after Republicans lost seats in the 1998 midterm elections, his House colleagues ousted him.
"Now I would love to stand here and tell you I just shrugged it off and moved on, but that wouldn’t be true," he said. "The truth is that I was devastated."
But, he told the graduates, he and his staff used hard work to "earn our way back" into GOP leadership. Boehner became House Majority Leader in 2006, before ultimately becoming House Speaker after the big GOP wins in the 2010 elections.
However, the lawmaker admitted in his speech that even that return to a leadership post required "some soul-searching."
"The morning of the leadership elections in 2006, I went to 7 a.m. mass, and the question kept tugging at me: Am I sure I want to do this? Am I ready?" he said.
Boehner, who is known for his occasional crying, became choked up at several points in the event, frequently when referring to his family.