HUDSON — Though he spent four decades in politics, former Gov. John Kasich told an audience Thursday that there were other subjects he was more interested in discussing.
"Politics is kind of boring … because it’s a small thing compared to what I want to say to you," said Kasich as he opened his hour-long talk in the Hudson Library and Historical Society’s Flood Family Meeting Room Thursday evening. About 250-300 people were in attendance, filling both in the main room and in a nearby room where the talk was being simulcast.
Kasich, a two-term Ohio governor and an 18-year member of the U.S. Congress, was in Hudson to talk about the messages that appear in his new book, "It’s Up to Us: Ten Little Ways We Can Bring About Big Change."
Kasich spent much of his time sharing stories from his life and offering examples of people taking steps to positively impact the lives of others. A message he conveyed was that historic change is rooted in the actions of ordinary men and women.
"All change comes from the bottom up," said Kasich. "… I’m not running for anything. I’m just trying to be honest with you because I believe this is the antidote for the anger, the hatred, the division that we see in our country. We matter. What we think matters, not somebody else somewhere far away. That means we ourselves have personal power."
He added that each person has "certain gifts that we need to use."
"Those gifts don’t mean we have to climb Mount Everest," noted Kasich. "It can mean smaller things that changes somebody’s world."
Kasich offered anecdotes of everyday people taking action to improve the lives of others. One example: Shoe shiner Albert Lexie donated more than $200,000 worth of tips he received to UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Free Care Fund.
"Did Albert change the world?" asked Kasich. "I think he did."
Rachel Muha, whose son was kidnapped and murdered by gang members when he was attending Franciscan University in Steubenville, is now running a center designed to keep young people from joining gangs.
"She has now affected over a thousand kids," said Kasich. "She takes them after school. They get spiritual training, educational training, and some of the kids who have been in the gang life go and work for her at this center … She’s saving lives … She’s created a miracle."
Kasich encouraged attendees to slow down to sharpen their focus, read or listen to a perspective on an issue that is contrary to their own, and empathize with the challenges faced by their fellow human beings. The former governor said he feels every individual bears a responsibility for ending the conflict that is so prevalent in society today.
"Civility starts with us," said Kasich.
After reading both the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal each day, Kasich said he feels like "I’m reading about two different countries." He urged audience members to "try something else," and added "we’ve got to get out of our silos."
Kasich also discussed the significance of examining an issue from another person’s viewpoint.
"When we put ourselves in somebody else’s shoes, and the Lord has helped me to do that, we begin to have a different perspective [and] more compassion, more connection," he said. "… We become better people."
Kasich noted that making substantial change in society is "hard," citing the examples of the hard-fought battles of the civil rights and women’s suffrage movements. Change happened in the civil rights movement because, Kasich said, the public "demanded change and scared the living daylights out of the politicians."
The former governor also shared stories of growing up in McKees Rocks, Pa., visiting with then-president Richard Nixon in the Oval Office as an 18-year-old college freshman, and working with Ronald Reagan on his 1976 presidential campaign.
Noting he spoke with President Nixon for about 20 minutes, Kasich drew laughs when he quipped, "I peaked at the age of 18."
While his presentation mostly steered clear of politics, many of the questions submitted on note cards by the audience prompted Kasich to weigh in on the pressing issues of the day.
When asked if he was going to run for president again, Kasich observed he was the "president of the Kasich Co. That’s pretty good. I achieved that."
He noted he enjoyed running for president in 2016 and said he was "thrilled that the people of Ohio supported me by enormous numbers" in the state’s primary election. Audience members laughed when Kasich recalled that he "carried Manhattan, including Trump Tower."
Money is essential to running for political office, the former governor said.
"The reason I didn’t get elected president, most of the reason is, I didn’t have the money," said Kasich. "The reason I didn’t have the money is because people who had the money didn’t want to give it to me because they didn’t think I was going to win, until later — then they started to give me money but it was a little bit too late."
Kasich said he thinks if the Democratic Party nominates a "hard left" candidate, President Trump will win re-election.
Noting that the Republican Party does not have much support from African-Americans, Hispanics, college-educated women, or young people, Kasich said he believed the GOP will "have to change … over time." With both major political parties operating on the extreme ends of the spectrum, Kasich said a third or fourth political party could be formed, but noted a large amount of money is needed to start that endeavor.
With gerrymandering, many U.S. congressional candidates run for "safe" seats and this means they are more concerned about winning a primary election instead of a general election, according to Kasich.
"We need to end gerrymandering," said Kasich "…[Then the] public would have to be listened to."
After the formal talk, Kasich signed copies of his books and posed for photos. Leslie Polott, executive director of the library, said her organization was "delighted" to have Kasich visit and thought the audience was receptive to his presentation.
Dawn Burke said she felt she and other audience members learned a lot from the program.
"We tend to put all politicians into categories," said Burke. "I think tonight a lot of those myths were dispelled for me … It was an eye-opener for me."
Judy Packer said it was "refreshing to hear a politician talk to us about being moderate, about coming together, instead of being divisive."
Denise Radovick added she believed Kasich "made us feel good," and observed that such an approach can "bring about change."
Reporter Phil Keren can be reached at 330-541-9421, email@example.com, or on Twitter at @keren_phil.