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WASHINGTON — For nearly 20 years, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, has given speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives and on Thursday he gave his final speech from the podium.

Ryan was elected to Congress in 1998 to represent Wisconsin’s 1st District, which includes Racine County, and he reflected on that time as a freshman 28-year-old congressman.

“I remember being awestruck walking down that center aisle, that feeling just never goes away,” Ryan said, gesturing where he walked in to the House chambers. “I still feel it when I walk onto the floor each and every time. I’m immensely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for their trust and their confidence.”

During his time in office, Ryan said he preferred not to call the people he represents his constituents but rather “my employers.”

“It’s the way I’ve always thought of this and I think it’s important that we as members understand that we work for the people, not the other way around,” Ryan said. “That we are in this to make a difference for them. We work every day to keep that obligation.”

Ryan thanked his staff and credits them for “any success that we have had is really, in my case, due to our humble and our hard working staff.”

“I was a staffer here before I got elected as a member. I started as an intern in the mail room,” Ryan said and listed the numerous jobs he had before being elected. “I figured I knew everything about these jobs, all the long hours and all of the sacrifices but nothing can truly prepare you for having people willing to help you in such a big undertaking on the front line.”

National profile raised

During the 2012 presidential election, Ryan ran as the Republican vice presidential candidate with Mitt Romney, but the duo ended up losing to incumbent President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden.

However, in that loss, Ryan became more of a national figure in the Republican Party and became Speaker of the House after John Boehner stepped down in 2015.

Ryan is arguably the most successful politician in Wisconsin history and he recognized the sacrifices his constituents made when he was elevated to the position.

“Since becoming Speaker of the House, which is not something we’re used to in Wisconsin (I’m the only one who has done that), I appreciate the indulgence of the people who I work for,” Ryan said. “Who indulged the fact that I had other responsibilities. When I took on these additional responsibility, the people of our staff really stepped up and really helped serve our constituents so they could continue to enjoy those flawless constituent services.”

Ryan closed the speech, which lasted about five minutes, thanking the people in the district.

“I am absolutely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for entrusting me as their representative,” Ryan said. “Thank you and I yield.”

And with that, he stepped away from the podium and the few people still left on the floor stood and applauded.

“I am absolutely grateful to the people of southern Wisconsin for entrusting me as their representative,” House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin

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Ricardo Torres covers federal, state and Racine County politics along with the Village of Mount Pleasant. He bleeds Wisconsin sports teams.

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