The Governor Speaks
At the beginning of our telephone conversation, when I said to the former governor of Ohio and 2016 presidential candidate John Kasich that my most impressive memory of him was in the mid-1990s, when he teamed up with then Speaker of the House of Representatives Newt Gingrich as the face of the Republican Contract With America, he demurred, noting “that was a hundred years ago. We were, however, successful in the end.”
He and Gingrich then went on to draft and ultimately pass the Balanced Budget Amendment, but Kasich suggested that he had done many more important things since. Having gone on from U.S. Representative and heading up the Congressional Budget Committee, to become a successful two-term governor of Ohio, Mr. Kasich is right of course. But getting the Balanced Budget Amendment passed and indeed balancing the federal budget in the mid- to late-’90s stands out as a superhuman feat and one that continues to overshadow any proceeding success of every Congress since.
The engaging and politically astute Mr. Kasich’s latest book, It’s Up To Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change, was released on Thursday, October 17, and one of his first speaking engagements of his upcoming book tour is a stop at Campbell Hall on the UCSB campus Wednesday, October 23.
Q. Governor Kasich, you’ve written a number of books (Two Paths: America Divided or United, Every Other Monday: Twenty Years of Life, Lunch, Faith, and Friendship, Stand For Something, Courage Is Contagious, and others). All have done reasonably well, including becoming New York Times best sellers. What is the purpose of your latest book?
A. The purpose of this book, I guess is to say, “Look, stop thinking about things far away from you and start to think about how you can help. Start thinking a little bigger than yourself. Slow down, get out of your silo, think about your eternal destiny. This book is non-political and is sort of a prescription for finding meaning in life.
You use quotes from Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. in the front of the book, and though I’ve only read the first two chapters – “Start a Movement,” and “Be the Change Where You Live,” I have to say it reads somewhat spiritual. Is that what you had in mind when you wrote it?
Well, in some respects, it is spiritual. That wasn’t my intent, but if you take it that way, I’m all for it. However you want to describe it is good for me as long as you read it.
How would you describe it?
People have said the book is “provocative,” but I’ve never thought of my book as being provocative. It makes you think about yourself. It’s a way of getting inside your head to get at things that are personal to you. And I like that.
I’d describe it as a philosophy book. Most people who hear my name would think the book is about politics and it really is not. It’s about life: I purposely did not write another book about religion. I’ve already written one. This one is about one’s eternal destiny.
You ran for president in 2016 and for awhile I believe you toyed with the idea of running in 2020. You are a known political quantity. With discussions about impeachment and the upcoming presidential campaigns taking hold, I imagine many questions from your UCSB audience are likely to be political. How do you plan to deal with those, since you’re here to discuss a book that isn’t political?
I’ve been speaking all over the country for the past ten months and sometimes the questions are like that and that’s not where I want them to be. People are going to ask me what I’m going to do politically in the future, but I don’t have a clue. That’s where my life is right now. I want the focus to be on [the audience]. I want them to know that they are special.
These are volatile times. It seems to me that a guy like you will have insights that most people won’t have and it would be valuable to hear from you.
I’ve done a lot on CNN and I’m on all the time. I don’t have any more to add to what I’ve already said.
I’m a FOX viewer, so I haven’t heard from you lately.
I’m a CNN [correspondent], so if you want to know how I feel about current affairs you need to get out of your silo [which is another chapter in his book].
Do you wish you were still in the game?
I’m in the game. I’m very much in the game. Just because I’m not at my desk and writing a law doesn’t mean I’m not in the game. I think it’s a misnomer. I liked being governor and got a lot done, though I became less effective in my last year because people got tired of me. Which is normal. I’ve written books. I communicate. I’ve got a million followers on Twitter. I put stuff on Instagram. I think I’m in the game more than a bunch of Congressmen you’ve never heard of.
I guess I meant the election game…
…I don’t live for the election game. I live for policies and public positions on things.
Back in ’94, ’95, ’96, people thought of you then as…
Ninety-four, ninety-five, ninety-six? That was a hundred years ago. I don’t live in the past.
You went from what most people considered a pretty rock-ribbed conservative to a fairly liberal governor and that was quite a transition…
…No, no, no, absolutely not. I didn’t become a liberal governor; I just thought everybody ought to be treated fairly and if one group was going to prosper, then every group should prosper. Is it liberal to say that everybody should have access to health care? I don’t think so. Is it liberal to say that people who are in the minority should get the same as others? That’s not liberal. The party has moved away from me. I don’t even recognize the party anymore. To say that I went “liberal,” I’d say, no, I’d gone to common sense and if I sat down with you, you would not find reason to disagree with me. Should we pay attention to infant mortality? Absolutely. Should we get involved in the opioid crisis and take decisive action? Absolutely. When we cut taxes for rich people should we create incentives for poor people? To me, that’s not liberal; that’s just common sense.
What’s the best thing you’ve ever done in your life, outside of meeting and marrying your wife and having a family?
The most meaningful thing I’ve ever done? I’ll take a pass. I’m not ready to sum up my life in one sentence.
Okay, then the most satisfying thing you’ve ever done?
I’m satisfied with my life most of the time. I’m just trying to be true to myself. We’re all failures but the more I’m true to myself, the better I feel. I’m very happy. I’m a very satisfied guy. I live a full life. I’ve been very blessed.
Why should I buy your book?
It’s a book that everybody ought to read because it will allow them to examine their own life and to figure out how to live a life that’s a little bigger than themselves, which is what everybody wants to do.
John Kasich’s lecture is sponsored by Monica and Timothy Babich and is part of the UCSB Arts & Lectures series; tickets ($20; $10 for students) are available through www.artsandlectures.ucsb.edu or call 805-893-3535 for more information.
A) Author, former U.S. Congressman, former Ohio Governor John Kasich to speak at UCSB Campbell Hall Wednesday, October 23, beginning at 7:30 pm
B) (NO CAPTION REQUIRED)