You can almost picture it: John Boehner delivering his weekly press conference alone on a darkened stage, a wireless microphone clipped to his shirt, a slideshow clicker wrapped up in his hand. Filibusters are limited to 20 minutes, black turtlenecks have replaced pinstripe suits, and instead of deficits and Obamacare, the GOP are buzzing about out of the box ideas and disruption.
That’s right—the Republican Party is embracing the TED Talk.
Or they are for this week at least, as House Republicans gather on the Eastern Shore of Maryland for their annual retreat, a gathering that is self-consciously modeling itself on those “Ideas Worth Spreading” that have dominated drone office lunch breaks for the last decade.
The retreat is the brainchild of Cathy McMorris Rodgers, a lawmaker from Eastern Washington and the fourth-ranking Republican in the House who’s already brought some west coast sensibility to her post: Her office walls are painted a multi-colored bright hue more likely to be found in Silicon Valley, and there’s a framed sign in the lobby that reads, “If You Could Do One Thing, What Would It Be?” She’s installed an “Innovation Lounge” in the back of her office suite and converted part of her office into a “GOP Lab” where members or their staff can learn tools like Photoshop or Final Cut pro.
Nate Hodson, a spokesman for McMorris Rodgers, says the conference was looking for “outside the box, TED Talk type speakers so members would be challenged to think about what is possible in the realm of public policy.”
“We wanted people who approach problems in their fields in ways you wouldn’t have thought of,” he adds. “It is just so easy to get trapped in the same ways of thinking because that is the culture here on the Hill.”
To wit, in addition to the usual slate of conservative stalwarts like National Review editor Ramesh Ponnuru, pollster Frank Luntz, and celebrities like football coach Lou Holtz and Army Ranger Sean Parnell, a handful of unusual guests are slated to speak; guests that aren’t usually associated with a political party struggling to shake off its reputation as a hidebound enclave for old white men.
There’s Simon Sinek, a motivational speaker whose Twitter biography simply says, “To run & jump & laugh & cry & love & hope & imagine…to experience as much as I can all for purpose: to inspire,” and whose 2007 TED talk, “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” remains one of the series’ most popular. In fact, that talk begat a bestselling book, Start With Why, that argues, “It doesn’t matter what you do, it matters Why you do it.”
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