John Kasich on Principles & Values
Former Republican Representative (OH-12); 2000 candidate for President
The son of a mailman, John grew up in a blue collar neighborhood in McKee's Rocks, Pennsylvania, just outside of Pittsburgh. Like many Americans his values were shaped by a childhood rooted in faith, family, community and common sense.
Where do you go when the water rises?
It's a central question, don't you think? How we answer it says a great deal about our faith in ourselves. In one another. In God. And where we look for that answer says a lot, too. I've been thinking about this kind of stuff for many years. I think about it, and I talk it through. In fact, some of the people around me recognize that my faith and my search for meaning are such huge aspects of my life that they've been on me to write about them.
I'd belonged to a pretty serious Bible study group for the past 20 or so years. Here was a chance to shine light on one value in particular--faith. I could take on these big, grand, imposing topics such as God and the scriptures and make them a little more accessible, a little more real.
Faith, that's what it comes down to. The lessons of the Bible. The insights we draw from one another. In our group, we look to the stories of the Bible as a kind of road map for how to live.
I'm afraid I don't find God in ritual and worship. He's with me wherever I happen to be. I go to church because that's what you do. I find God in the stories of the Bible, in the random acts of kindness I see every day, in the choices I make and the ways I interact.
I find God every other Monday, over lunch with my Bible study guys. We meet every two weeks, to go through these motions in a semistructured way, but I try to do a little bit of it every day. Fifteen minutes--that's the timer I set aside for prayer and reflection, day in and day out.
His faith made a big impression, because it was the first time I'd seen such conviction on full display. I'd heard about this type of thing. I'd read about it. And here it was, in all its splendor & glory. Here was this man, with a great mind, finding peace and comfort and surety in knowing that his pain was merely a trial he was meant to endure. And knowing full well that he would endure it. It opened my eyes, and the scales fell from them. It was shocking. Amazing. And ultimately transformative.
Still, that kind of faith was elusive to me then. I drifted away from religion as a young adult. Then I looked up one day, and there was a huge hole in my life where God & religion had been
I wanted to know if this "God thing" was real. For several years, some of my Washington friends had been trying to get me to attend their weekly Bible study reform group, and I'd always resisted. The last thing I wanted was to sit in a chapel with a group of politicians talking about God, because I worried we'd say one thing in there and then go back out and do the exact opposite. But when I returned to Washington after my parents' death and tried to cobble my life back together, I started to look on this group as a possible lifeline. I was devastated, shattered, and desperate for any tether.
Lately, what we've come up with is this: when you live a life of faith, it can be a liberating thing. Faith is a freeing principle. We tend to think of these memorable, transformative characters in the Bible as having special powers, but we don't really know that. We just know that they were men and women of great faith. And we also know this: faith enables you to hold on loosely without letting go.
Faith reminds us that the first innings of this ball game will be played out here on earth, but we'll finish the game in the next life. We can go at it with some perspective, knowing that the whole game doesn't play out here.
With Ted, when he tells you he's getting back to basics, he mean all the way back to basics. He even wrote them down for me on a sheet of paper I ne keep tacked above my desk at home for ready reference.
Here's what he wrote:
"There is firm evidence that the universe had a beginning, therefore it had a cause.
We do have sufficient evidence regarding God as the foundation for faith. We don't have proof, we have evidence.
If God does not exist, life is futile. If God does exist. Then life is meaningful.
Faith is a choice.
Objective moral values have existed since Creation."
Here--no surprise--Ted told me to go back to my very basic beliefs, so that's what I did.
A couple of the guys pointed out that I used to complain about my role at Fox News, where I hosted a Saturday night program called "Heartland with John Kasich."
One member said, "That was always such a big thing with you, John. Did you win the rating? Were you #1?"
"You're right," I said, knowing I was beat. "It just killed me to lose to someone else. But that's not really envy. That's more like whining. I never once woken up in the morning and found myself wishing I was one of those other guys on the air. That's never been the case."
"That's just semantics, John," another member weighed in. "Whining is just a symptom of envy."
"That could be," I agreed. "But I'm not in any way, shape, or form trying to put myself up there as perfect."
St Augustine maintains that each of us has a special gift, and that it falls to each and every one of us to unwrap those gifts and share them with the rest of the world. I like that image a whole lot, because I look at gifts like I look at stars. Have you ever seen an ugly star? I never have. They're all just magnificent. You look through the telescope and see that some of them are red and some of them are blue. And every last one seems just about as special and magnificent as a thing can be, but none of them are quite the same.
That, to me, is a true gift. We find them in the heavens, and we find them here on earth. We find them in our friends & family, and we find them in ourselves. And, significantly, we find them in our leaders.
And just what did I do? I talked. And the President listened. He asked a couple of questions, and I offered what I hoped weren't perfunctory answers. As I spoke I allowed myself to think I was making some kind of difference. It became clear as I talked that he was taking the opportunity to gauge the mood on college campuses, just 7 months removed from the shootings at Kent State, but I didn't dwell on his agenda. What mattered to me was the opportunity.
The good news is that meeting lasted about 20 minutes. The bad news is I would go on to spend 18 years in Congress, and if you add up all the time I spent alone in the Oval Office with various presidents you'll see if doesn't come close to those 20 minutes. I guess I peaked out at the age of 18. That's when I should have retired.
Election night was pure pandemonium. Before the election, the local newspapers had some flattering things to say about my campaign & about my potential, but none of the pundits figured I could pull it off. In fact, they all thought I would lose by a significant margin. The O'Shaughnessy name was too tough to beat, they all said. As it played out, though, the election wasn't even close. I ended up with better than 56% of the vote, a giant margin in a contest like this--and a stunning victory. Took the entire state by surprise to where some folks started calling it the biggest upset in the history of the Ohio legislature.
At one point a presumably well-informed woman asked me what would happen If John Kerry won. They very thought was anathema to this concerned woman. So I looked at her and calmly said, "The country will be fine."
"What do you mean?" she shot back, aghast.
"Well," I said, "the Republicans would still control the House and the Senate. The bench would slowly become more liberal."
The woman looked at me like I had just given her permissio to breathe a long sigh. "You mean it won't be the end of America as we know it?" she said.
"No, ma'am," I assured her. "America will survive."
Then she thanked me profusely, and I realized she might have been over the top but she wasn't alone.
Politicians have to ask themselves how they want to be remembered. What do we want that snapshot to be?
My parents were in their late sixties, in perfect health, looking ahead to a long, fulfilling retirement, when a drunk driver crashed into their car as they were leaving a Burger King in August 1987.
My father had been killed. My mother was still alive when I got to the hospital, but I never got to tell her I loved her. When she died I sat for a while with my parents' pastor.
He said, "John, you've got t decide right now if you want to build a relationship with God. You have a window of opportunity now, you're open to it, but in time that window will close. This pain will ease and you'll go back to the rest of your life."
Right there, I knew he was right. And from that moment forward, I changed. Fully and truly. I was determined to build a real relationship with God, if He could stand for me as a strength & a direction. The REAL relationship was key. I wanted real, not learned. Not rote. Not dogma.
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