Alyssa Alhadeff was 14 and played soccer.
Scott Beigel was 35 and taught geography.
Martin Duque Anguiano was 14 and funny.
Nicholas Dworet was 17 and a great swimmer.
Aaron Feis was 37 and coached football.
Jaime Guttenberg was 14 and wanted to be an occupational therapist.
Chris Hixon was 49 and coached wrestling.
Luke Hoyer was 15 and had a contagious smile.
Cara Loughran was 14 and loved to dance.
Gina Montalto was 14 and a talented artist.
Joaquin Oliver was 17 and loved hip-hop music.
Alaina Petty was 14 and loved volunteering.
Meadow Pollack was 18 and getting ready to go to college.
Helena Ramsay was 17 and was kind-hearted and witty.
Alex Schachter was 14 and played trombone.
Carmen Schentrup was 16 and a National Merit semifinalist.
Peter Wang was 15 and he couldn’t wait for Chinese New Year.
In a matter of minutes last Wednesday, Feb. 14, these 17 students, teachers and coaches died after a 19-year-old former student opened fire with a semi-automatic AR-15 assault rifle at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.
On Friday, Feb. 16, as the nation mourned, and as funerals and memorial services continued to be held in Broward County, House Speaker Paul Ryan flew to south Florida.
Ryan was on a mission.
But it was not the mission of a statesman, a leader or a public servant.
He was not traveling to comfort or to inspire or to serve the common good.
Ryan was in south Florida to do the only thing he is good at: raising big-money campaign contributions from special-interest donors who want to buy influence with the government.
What kind of people? The kind who gather at the Ritz Carlton in Key Biscayne for the National Republican Congressional Committee’s 2018 “Winter Meeting.” According to the NRCC’s website, invitations to this year’s Winter Meeting went to participants in “The Congressional Forum” — a “$15,000 PAC donor program, made up of business, trade association and law firm PACs who are vital to the NRCC."
The NRCC says: “Congressional Forum Members are kept up to date with the latest political news, are invited to events featuring Republican Members and Leadership and are invited to attend three major donor retreats with Republican Members each year.”
“Leadership” like House Speaker Paul Ryan, the Republican from Janesville whose boundless ambition — and fundraising skills — have taken him to the upper echelons of Republican power.
There’s no telling if anyone associated with the National Rifle Association attended Ryan’s Key Biscayne event. But that group has been very generous to Ryan over the years: According to a study by the D.C. bureau of the McClatchy newspaper group, the speaker has collected $61,401 from the NRA.
In fairness to all involved, that’s just a tiny measure of the full benefit Ryan has gotten from the NRA and other groups that lobby against the realistic regulations that might prevent mass shootings like the one that took place just a few miles away from where the speaker found himself on Friday. Indeed, it can fairly be said that Paul Ryan owes his speakership to the NRA, its affiliates and allies — as they have been prime funders and supporters of Republican contenders in the tight races that forged the House’s GOP majority.
People are catching on to Ryan’s duplicity, however.
When the Wisconsin Republican came to Florida, he was confronted by a teacher who had spent the day comforting children who were shaken by the news of the Parkland school shooting. According to the Miami Herald, Maria Thorne, a fifth-grade teacher at iPrep Academy, noticed a motorcade passing through Key Biscayne.
“Thorne, 49, heard a rumor that the motorcade might belong to Ryan, so she took a friend into the Ritz to investigate. She said men with lanyards at the entrance of a private area confirmed that it was a fundraiser for Ryan,” reported the Herald. “Thorne said she found Ryan in the middle of the room — ‘I shook his hand and everything,’ she said — and introduced herself as a teacher and Key Biscayner. ‘Nice,’ the Republican congressman replied. ‘Nice?’ Thorne said. ‘You’re here celebrating the death of 17 children.’”
Ryan reportedly responded that he “didn’t want to talk politics” and Thorne and her friend were ushered out of the room.
As usual, Ryan was lying.
He was in Key Biscayne to talk politics. He just didn’t want to talk with anyone who disagreed with the NRA — or who cared about the gun violence that just two days before Ryan’s arrival had taken the lives of 17 teachers, students and coaches.
This is the kind of man Paul Ryan is.
He raises money from powerful interests and he does their bidding.
When his service to those interests leaves a school filled with bodies, Ryan doesn’t want to talk about it — except to dismiss any policy response that might not meet with the approval of the NRA.
As long as Ryan is in charge, there will be no meaningful effort to end gun violence. There will just be more fundraising — and more deference to those have bought the speaker of the House’s silence.
Until Ryan is out of the speakership, and his kind are out of power, the killing will continue unabated. There will be more lists of dead children and their teachers — because Paul Ryan will always choose money over doing the right thing.
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