The 54th Speaker of the House Paul Davis Ryan is named after his father, Paul Murray Ryan, but their time together was sadly cut short after just 15 years. His father's death in 1986 marked a large shift in his family's life, forcing Ryan to reconsider the direction of his career from a young age. According to the Los Angeles Times, Ryan grew up as the son of a prominent Wisconsin family that practiced law. His father was a notable attorney and his grandfather was a federal state prosecutor. The emotional hardships poured in at the age of 15 after his father died. The traumatic experience helped shape the way he chose to live his life from that point forward.
In 2012, NPR's Terry Gross interviewed journalist Ryan Lizza, who predicted that Paul Ryan would surpass Mitt Romney's influence to become the face of the Republican party. As a precursor to her question for Lizza, Gross mentions the death of Ryan's father. Lizza explains how the childhood experience is linked to Ryan's current career in politics.
I mean, after his father died, he told me he made a conscious decision that he was going to take school more seriously. He became more of a social animal.
Upon receiving his father's Social Security, his focus on academics became much stronger and he used the finances to pay his way through college. But the significance of Paul Ryan's relationship with his father is not solely defined by his death. Ryan said that while growing up, he wasn't particularly close to his father, especially during the last two years of his life. In a 2014 interview with the Associated Press, he said that his father struggled with alcoholism, an addiction that affected the entire family.
"While he certainly tried to fight it, my dad's addiction eventually won out," he writes. "Over time, it made him more distant, irritable and stressed. Before I lost him to a heart attack, whiskey had washed away some of the best parts of the man I knew ... I grew up real fast."
In a 2014 episode of Meet the Press, Ryan explained that he and his siblings initially repressed the feelings associated with the event but clung to hope nevertheless.
It was a big part of a challenge we experienced, like lots of families. And there's a good story at the end of this, which is, you can overcome these things, you can overcome these scars that occur.
Now, Ryan prioritizes his role as a father to three children, exercises regularly, and abstains from hard liquor.