Cambridge, MA – Last night, Congresswoman Liz Cheney participated in a moderated conversation with former Wyoming Governor Matt Mead and answered questions at a Harvard University Institute of Politics event entitled “Whatever It Takes.” Video of the full conversation is available here and please watch some of the individual highlights below:
HANNAH BOTTAREL: So, on a slightly more optimistic note we have a lot of motivated, passionate students watching here tonight who are inspired by your political courage and your honesty and who want to repair the polarization that we currently see to help restore America’s democracy. At the same time, though, there’s been a wave of political nihilism among a lot of young people, this feeling that there’s no point in engaging in a system that feels so broken and so hopeless. So, I want to know, what’s your advice? How can we make people optimistic about a better tomorrow and how can young people help make meaningful change regardless of their political affiliation?
CONGRESSWOMAN LIZ CHENEY: I think that is, as I said, just such an important message for people to take with them. That is that, yes, we are at a moment of peril, certainly, for our country but the solution and the way out is by the action of individuals. And I hope that talking to young people all around the country to be able to convey to people that the blessings that we have in this nation, first of all, are exceedingly rare in the course of history, and that means that each one of us has a responsibility and an obligation, and I know sitting where some of you are in college or in graduate school and looking at what happens in politics and what’s happening in the government – it can all seem huge and impossible to influence, but the reality is you are the only ones who can influence it. The only ones. And that means you have to run for office. That means you have to get engaged. It means you have to do it at a local level. It means that you cannot sit back – and I say this at a moment when a lot of elected officials are sitting back, saying ‘that’s somebody else’s problem. Hopefully this is going to get resolved, I don’t have to deal with it.’ None of us can be a bystander. And I think that that’s an obligation we have. It’s also an unbelievable blessing. Just think about the fact that we live in a country where you get to decide who your elected officials are. You get to decide – we all get to decide – what laws we live under. It’s an unbelievable blessing. And so I would just say we need every one of you, we need you involved and engaged, and there’s no more important thing you can be doing than helping to make sure we right this ship of our democracy.
QUESTION: Hi, my name is Alex and I’m a junior at the College. Thank you, Congresswoman, for coming and speaking with us tonight. My question is about – it’s a little more international: Traditionally, the United States has been a force for democracy in the world and promoting democracy in the world, but – especially now in light of the Russian invasion of Ukraine – how can the United States continue to credibly promote and support democracy around the world when it seems like it’s falling apart here at home?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, I think, number one, we need to make sure we’re doing everything necessary to support the Ukrainian people in their battle against the Russian invasion and I was – I don’t know that I can say I was surprised, but I think it’s really disgraceful that, today, Minority Leader McCarthy suggested that if Republicans get the majority back that we will not continue to provide support for the Ukrainians. What’s happening in Ukraine today shows is that democracy must be better armed than tyranny, and there are a whole range of programs, many of them I have worked on for large parts of my career, to help countries that are emerging democracies, to help countries develop the rule of law and establish a private sector and empower women, and those are all really important and American leadership is really important, but you also have to make sure that democracy is better armed than tyranny and today, Ukraine is the front line in the battle for freedom and the world, not just America but the world has an obligation to make sure that Ukraine prevails. And, when you look at the sort of post-World War II world and you think about the extent to which it has for the most part been an era that has been characterized by the expansion of freedom, by economic opportunity, by security, all of those things have not been accidental. They’ve come because America was leading and if America decides – and there are people in the Democratic Party and people in the Republican Party who advocate that America should pull back, that we should return to an isolationist kind of foreign policy. That’s a recipe for the Russias of the world, the Irans of the world, the North Koreas of the world, for them to fill the void. China is another example. A world in which China is the predominant power will be a global surveillance state, and that is not a global order that any of us want our children to have to suffer in, so I think America’s role in the world really matters and American leadership really matters.
QUESTION: Thank you so much. My name is Jonah Simon and I’m a first year at the College. So my question was, at the beginning of this programming, Governor Mead read a series of statements by key members of the Republican Party – Minority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader McCarthy – about the attack at the Capitol, condemning it the night of January 6th. One of the most striking parts of the commission’s findings has been the many different statements on the day of January 6th by key Republican leaders and members of the administration condemning the attacks. And yet, since then many of them have about-faced and completely changed their policy. And a large part of this is largely because of demand within the Republican Party and seeing in their base that not opposing January 6th is leading to better electoral outcomes and will help in the midterms. How can we show Republican leaders, and what’s the path forward to showing that this is not the way forward by encouraging future insurrections and encouraging future violence?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Yeah, look – the way that we do that is by incentivizing the serious people, and right now you have a situation where people, Republican elected leaders will say things like, ‘Well, I would like to do what you’re doing, but I can’t because the base believes X, Y, and Z.’ And this goes back to the point of: elected officials have a responsibility to make sure that their constituents have the truth, they have a responsibility to help to guide the direction of events and not just sit and watch. Right now, if you look at the Republican Conference in the House, the most extreme voices are becoming more and more powerful. And politicians on both sides who think that the key to operating effectively is how many likes you get on Facebook or on Twitter, they are incentivized. And so as a country, we have to say, whether you’re going to vote for the Republican or for the Democrat, vote for the person that you can trust. Vote for the person that you can count on to do the right thing. Vote for the person that you would trust to babysit your kids. Just some very basic questions about–
FMR. GOV. MATT MEAD: There’d be a shortage of babysitters.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: We need to get Governor Mead to run again, that’s the solution to this. But it is really, you think about how we decide about who we’re going to hire, who you’re going to entrust in other areas of your life, we need to be in a place where we understand that the authority and the responsibility people have in elective office requires those same kinds of considerations. But that also means we need to get more good candidates in the race and that’s my message also, is please run for office and treat it seriously.
FMR. GOV. MEAD: Liz, I’m going to get the last question here. I know you’ve got a plane to catch. But first, a comment, you spoke about your father, how he was inspired by JFK, President Kennedy. And I will say first to comment, I think you inspire a lot of people here tonight, and around the country. And that is, maybe one of the most important things, in my mind, a politician could do is provide hope and examples of leadership. So, I applaud you for that.
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Thank you.
FMR. GOV. MEAD: The second thing is, there must have been some hard days. I mean, at some point, you knew the election was not looking great for you–
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: I was totally surprised.
FMR. GOV. MEAD: Were you?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: No.
FMR. GOV. MEAD: And on the night of your concession speech, as I’ve told you, you didn’t look like a person defeated to me, but a person that was determined, determined to make sure that the rule of law was followed, determined to make sure that we’re doing the right things in this country to protect our democracy. And you spoke at your concession speech about getting a letter from a Gold Star father and how that struck you. Would you share that? Because you and I have been to military events, and you’re a great supporter of our military. But if you’ll share further what that quote was, and what it meant to you?
CONGRESSWOMAN CHENEY: Well, there have been a lot of moments since January 6th that have been really moving and humbling. And the message that you’re talking about is one I got from a Gold Star father a few months after January 6th. And he said to me, ‘Standing up for truth honors all who gave all.’ And it’s something I know I think about, I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle think about the fact that what we are able to do, the debates that we have, the discussions we have about policy, we can only have them because people put on the uniform of the country and have served and have made the ultimate sacrifice in defending our freedom. And that’s when you, again, are thinking about people in these offices, make sure that we’re electing people who are going to conduct themselves in ways that are worthy of those men and women.