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U.S. Speaker John Boehner: Progress Can Only Happen with Common Ground, Congeniality

Drawing on humorous anecdotes and his down-to-earth reputation, former U.S. Speaker John Boehner took the filter off to share his unabashed opinion on everything from President Trump, to social media, marijuana use, and hyper-partisan politics gridlocking progress in Washington during a keynote address and candid conversation Thursday sponsored by Delta Air Lines.

“Coming from a big family, you pick up a couple of life lessons along the way that helped me during my time in Washington. First, you have to deal with every jackass that comes in the door. And secondly, you have to be able to disagree without being disagreeable,” Boehner said.

Boehner, the son of a bartender, one of 12 children, and a staunch Roman Catholic, said he never thought he would run for office, much less rise to the prominence of Speaker of the House. However, he said he was proud of what was accomplished during his 25 years and credited a natural ability to find common ground on both sides of the aisle for progress in areas like government spending and the No Child Left Behind Act.

Following his remarks, Boehner was joined on stage by Devin Scillian, anchor for WDIV-TV 4, to share insight on myriad topics.

Key Takeaways:

On the election of President Trump: “Elections are won and lost based on who shows up to the polls. The two people in the world that were the most shocked on election night 2016 were Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton.”

On trust: “The political process requires the ability to trust one another, work together and find common ground to build coalitions of support on issues to help the American people.”

On hyper-partisan politics: “The right and left do not want their candidates working with the other side fueled by the 24/7 world of partisan news and political commentaries that flood social media.”

On Congress: “Congress is everyone’s favorite whipping boy. During my time, I’ve worked with some of the smartest and some of the dumbest people in Washington. But 95 percent of the people elected to Congress are decent people working tirelessly on the issues that are important to their constituents.”

On President Trump: “He has done some good things. His style is not my style, but he has done some good things for reducing government oversite and regulation.”

“The media and social media spend too much time focusing on the White House. Society is stronger than one person operating the White House. We will live through Trump.”

On America’s foreign policy: “Our allies are thrilled to death that America is leading. No one else is capable of that. Look at what is happening with North Korea’s denuclearization negotiation. President Trump has been on North Korea like white on rice while other presidents historically move on after 30 days.”

On the media: “Never get into a pissing match with a skunk and never get into a fight with someone who buys ink by the barrel.”

On tariffs: “I don’t think President Trump wants to start a trade war. What he is doing is driving people to the negotiating table. He wants to cut a deal.”

On health care: “The Affordable Care Act is a mess but there are things that can be done to improve it. I believe we should empower states to run these exchanges, they can do a lot better job than a Washington bureaucrat.”

On Michigan: “Michigan is a prime example of America’s resilience. Michigan was one of the hardest hit states during the economic recession and has come back in a big way.”