WASHINGTON, DC -- "If youre going to contribute to the future, then somehow you
have to be involved in leadership," Congressman Jim Ryun (KS) said to the students
attending the 1997 Eagle Forum Collegians Leadership Summit. A former Olympic
runner and now a Congressman, Rep. Ryun is a leader, but he recognizes that
involving others is a key to successful leadership. "Surround yourself with
balcony people -- people who will say, You can do it," said Rep. Ryun, whose two
sons, Drew and Ned, were present to hear his address entitled "The Need for
Leadership in the 90s".
Rep. Ryun, a track star in the 1964, 1968, and 1972 Olympics, explained the
natural progression of his transition from athlete to Congressman. Olympic
experiences in foreign countries heightened his awareness of politics. "I found
that the politics of Japan were very different from what I experienced back in
America, so that was the beginning for me," Rep. Ryun said.
At the 1972 Munich Games, Rep. Ryun fell during a race. "Today they would have
reinstated me," Rep. Ryun said, "but in that day they didnt. That was kind of the
beginning. . . . God used that experience in my life to stimulate my interest in
Rep. Ryuns struggles and injustices as an athlete prepared him for the challenges
he encounters as a Congressman. "Prior to taking up running, I was not able to
make an athletic team," he said, but his high school cross country coach realized
Rep. Ryuns potential and helped him to achieve records.
Although some individuals are born leaders, "Leadership in my life has been part
of a learned quality, and Im still learning," Rep. Ryun said. His high school
track coach showed him the importance of having other people believe in you.
"Youll always have someone say, thats an impossible task. You cant achieve it,"
Ryun said. "Spend time praying and seeking -- look for people who are there to
In Congress, Rep. Ryun found that there is "a tremendous divergence of opinions"
and that "you have an awful lot of things that pull at you." He reminded the
students interested in leadership roles that a successful leader does not work
alone. "Its partly who your support is -- who you surround yourself with -- but
its also a matter of prayer, and its also a matter of looking for good counsel
along the way," Rep. Ryun said.
When Rep. Ryun ran for Congress, his wife, two sons, and two daughters adopted a
"family strategy" of campaigning in pairs. He considers family and faith to be
important factors in the life of a leader. "We know that there are a lot of
issues that relate to the family," Rep. Ryun said. "In Congress were working on
rebuilding this country. Were shaping and molding the future. Families are very
much a part of it."
Religion is very much a part of every decision made by Rep. Ryun. "There isnt
a day that goes by that I dont reflect on the fact that I have a purpose for
being here. I feel like the Lord has made it possible, and I am very grateful,
and yet, I recognize that its an enormous challenge," Rep. Ryun said.
"We believe in this country," Rep. Ryun said. "We believe its a great country,
but its only great if we make the right decisions for the future, for our
children, for you and for your future, and so I would ask for your prayers."
When Rep. Ryun became aChristian, he realized that "part of being a servant is
being able to lead so that you have that attitude of being able to walk in the
other persons shoes, so that when youre asked to make a decision you can see the
broad consequences of it," Rep. Ryun said. "If I really want to help people and
really be a leader, then I need to understand what it is to be a servant because,
before you can serve and really be an effective leader, you have to understand
what others are going through so you can champion those particular issues."
Rep. Ryun believes that God cares about politics because "He loves people, and He
knows that it affects peoples lives and freedoms," Rep Ryun said. "I believe that
God wants people -- Christians if you will, anyone really, involved in politics --
to understand the issues so they have a better understanding of how to influence
Congressmen so that you can affect the direction of this country."
Rep. Ryun urged the collegians to become active in politics. "You need to be
strong and courageous when youre involved in leadership because there are times
that you make a decision that is not popular but you really feel is the right
decision ," he said. "As you take interest in the direction of this country, and
as you let your voice be heard and your vote recorded," Rep. Ryun said, "you will
have an influence on the direction of it."
-- by Denise M. DeLancey