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Sherman Says: House majority leader brings big issues to average people

HAMBURG — A friendly audience of elected officials, civic leaders and high school students made up the bulk of the audience that heard a predictably partisan speech Monday by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor.

Cantor’s lecture, titled “America That Works,” was part of Daemen College’s new Distinguished Leaders Lecture Series.

With former members of Congress Tom Reynolds and Jack Quinn in the audience, Cantor was introduced by Rep. Chris Collins. Western New York’s traditional Republican representation was not lost on the Richmond businessman. “Tom Reynolds was one of my mentors when I was first elected to Congress,” Cantor said, with just a thread of a southern drawl.

His speech was measured and patient, except when he drew his sword against the Affordable Care Act, better known as “Obamacare.”

“The architecture of Obamacare just won’t work,” he said. “Washington has decided for everyone what type of coverage they must have. We Republicans will present a better way, one that is patient-based.”

While Cantor did not offer a timetable nor specific details of an alternative program, he repeated the basic challenges his party has been pushing ever since Obamacare became reality. “We need to bring down the cost [of health care] for real,” he said. “Somehow that has been lost. You can’t have more coverage without adding to its cost.”

Later, he told reporters that a Republican alternative to the embattled program would be more affordable and provide “options that people want.”

Cantor’s views on Obamacare were not the only issues presented. He also talked about employment and education. “Too many families are worried about what type of America their kids will grow up in. The number one issue facing the United States today, on behalf of those kids, is whether or not we can restore an America that works,” he said.

“If you work hard and play by the rules, you can accomplish the American dream. Yet the current economic situation poses a real threat to many people.”

He also described what he called “the new normal” where one in six working age men cannot find work. “We should not accept that,” he said, preaching to the choir of like-minded men and women. He linked unemployment levels to the need for better education, even going so far as to praise recent statements from Gov. Andrew Cuomo in support of charter schools.

Next, Cantor attacked efforts of U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder he said were designed to wipe out scholarship programs for underprivileged youth in Louisiana, thus ending his praise for powerful Democrats. He said the program had been “an enormous success” and allows children to attend good schools.

The employment and education examples he eloquently presented brought him to his ultimate point that House Republicans are “working to expand solutions that work for everyone.”

Flashing back to President Ronald Reagan’s 1981 inaugural address, Cantor endorsed the concept that government should “work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back.”

That mantra is as solid today as when it was first spoken on the shining city on the hill. Cantor clearly believes in a strong two-party system that can succeed through compromise and a shared vision for a stronger nation.

He called it “An America that works for all of us.”

For the high school students in attendance, I hope their hour-long immersion into national politics was inspiring and will lead to more attention to how and why decisions are made in Washington.

It was refreshing to hear a national political figure speak in everyday terms, without emotion and hostility. If Cantor is typical of a retooled Republican Party, the most conservative voices within it will nod in agreement with his outlook on health care. Moderates will like his family-oriented outlook.

And, if his bipartisan message resonates with any of the local elected officials who were in the crowd, we all will be better off.

David Sherman is the managing editor of Bee Group Newspapers and a columnist for the Weekly Independent Newspapers of Western New York, a group of community newspapers with a combined circulation of 286,500 readers. Opinions expressed here are those of the author. He can be reached at

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