Monday, November 9, 2009

Bob Ney: Out of Bush's Federal Housing Program and into the College Classroom

From time to time I invite elected officials, policy makers, news media, etc. to speak to my political science classes at The University of Akron. From sitting members of Congress to members of the Ohio executive branch, to law enforcement officials, I have already had a number of people visit with my students this semester. Today I had former Congressman Bob Ney visit three of my classes.

When I told colleagues I invited Bob Ney to come to campus to speak to my students, most of them looked at me with blank stares or raised eye brows. Afterall, this is the same Bob Ney that got mixed up in the Jack Abramoff scandal and ended up doing time in a Federal prison in Morgantown, West Virginia. However, since getting out of "Bush's federal housing program" (as Ney often quips) in 2008, he has been trying to resurrect his life and has begun a career as a political analyst for Talk Radio News Service and has his own self-titled talk news show on WVLY AM 1370 which airs out of Wheeling, West Virginia, every weekday from 1-3 p.m.

I had a feeling that he would be a great speaker and that students would benefit from hearing from a person who was at the pinnacle, lost it all, and is trying and put his life back together. Some of the best American stories are those of redemption and Bob Ney's may be one of those. My instincts were right: the students were enthralled by his very American story and were taken with his candidness. Ney talked openly about his fall from grace and took responsibility for his actions. And, his political instincts are as sharp as ever. Ney spoke about current events and challenges facing the president and Congress and did so with a balanced eye. I now understand why Ellen Ratner and Talk Radio News Service took a significant chance on Ney by giving him a job when he left prison. If you want rabid partisanship and red meat, Ney is not your guy. If you want thoughtful analysis and blatant candor absent the filter of oppressive ideology, Ney is your guy.

I am glad my students got the opportunity to hear the former Congressman today and many of my students were as well. In fact, one student raised her hand and asked him to come back. That has never happened with any guest speaker I've had before...

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