Sunday, November 13, 2011

Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich about His Childhood in an Army Family

Excerpts of the Interview with Presidential Candidate Newt Gingrich
by Military Family Expert and author, Julie Rahm as printed in the book Military Kids Speak
Military Kids Speak is available everywhere books are sold.
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Your father was in the Army. Who else was in your family growing up?

My mother married my biological father Newt McPherson who served in the Navy in World War II. And then they got divorced and she remarried to my stepfather Bob Gingrich, who was career Army. On my original biological father’s side, I have a half-brother, Randy, and a half-sister named Kathy. And on the other side, I have three half-sisters, Susan, Robbie and Candace. Candace wasn’t born until 1967, so she came late. Growing up, I spent most of my time with my mother and my stepfather and my two sisters on that side.

Which place was your favorite to live and why?

I think OrlĂ©ans, France, was the most exotic. We left Pennsylvania when I was 10 years old. And I liked Pennsylvania. We had relatives in the mountains just below State College. We would go up and stay there during the summer and go looking for deer. It was fun. I felt a little bit like the way somebody once described Theodore Roosevelt, as a man who could get excited discovering rocks on a beach and who each morning thought he had rediscovered the Ten Commandments. There’s this sense of life bubbling. I was always struck by a cornerstone on a bank building at Fort Riley that read, “Site of the Northernmost Comanche Raid in 1855.” For a young kid from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, to be in the middle of the west looking out over that flat space and wondering what it would have been like in 1855 to see 50 or 60 or 70 Comanche Indians, I had the sense of “Wow. This was real.”

I had the same feeling in Harrisburg. We had buttons and other things from Gettysburg where one of my grandfathers had served. And Gettysburg was right down the road. That’s where my father had gone to college. So I had the sense of things being real. Orleans was the most interesting in the sense that my dad was too low in rank to live in Army housing. So we lived in a beautiful little town by a river about 18 miles west of Orleans toward the sea. We were there when the U.S. dollar was very strong. We were able to rent a fabulous small chateau where we got the first two floors. It had a walled-in garden of five acres. They had a gardener and a maid who lived on the site and took care of everything. And here we were, little American kids running around thinking, “Wow. This is cool!” I remember one of the great moments was going to the French fairs with dirt streets. Western string ties were in style. So we would go to the Post Exchange and buy as many string ties as we could. And we would take them to the fair and trade them for bottles of Champagne. We were only 12 or 13 years old and there were no drinking laws in France. We thought we were pretty big kids.

Was it easy for you to make new friends?

I guess so. My dad was a very tough infantryman. He believed in pretty tough and straightforward rules. On my biological father’s side, my father and my favorite uncle (who helped raise me) were also very tough people. And so, all of them basically had this very stoic attitude of you get to a new place you meet new people. What a great adventure. Quit whining. There was zero sympathy for “oh, I hate leaving these folks.” I suspect at one level, I hated leaving people. But I lived in this huge extended family, so my basic attitude was there was always someone I could go to who would either bake me a sugar pie or I could talk them into taking me to a zoo. So I kept on with the same attitude as I had in Fort Riley, wondering what would happen next, wondering who I would meet. It led to a very different life. I sometimes compare notes with my wife whose oldest friend goes back to the crying room at the church at two or three years of age. So they really know each other. I had the double tragedy that my two best friends from high school both died of cancer at very early ages. But I have an enormous range of friends and some very close friends. It is different, though, when you live in a world where either you’re about to move or they’re about to move, or somebody new is about to show up, or you’re about to show up. You do learn a whole different set of skills about how you meet people. With the rise of Facebook, you probably have a better chance of keeping up with a lot of people now. I wasn’t good at that at the time. I was too busy focused on the next great adventure.

How do you think being a military kid built your character?

Being an infantryman’s son, I learned a lot of stoicism. I learned a work ethic. I learned a lot of sense of endurance. I learned that if you’re in the infantry, you have the notion that you’ll end up somewhere where nobody knows where you are and nobody remembers why they sent you there, you’re out of ammunition, and it’s about to be a bad morning. And that’s what you sign up for.

I remember I was with General Burba when we were mobilizing and training the 48th Brigade. We were down in Fort Stewart. I was a Congressman. Part of the Brigade came from my district. It was a National Guard unit. We ran across a bunch of guys who had been marching all day. They were in the rain and it was fairly chilly. They were supposed to meet the wagon that had the food and hot drinks. And the wagon wasn’t there. And it hadn’t been there for three hours. They were standing there in the rain and I felt like that was the Army. I understood it. The reason you try to have overwhelming power is that things get messed up all of the time. Now, with modern GPS and equipment, it’s better. But things still get messed up. Look at the complexity of responding to help Haiti after the earthquake. It looks really simple until you try to do it.

I came out of that kind of background. Fort Riley was particularly important in that regard. Our neighbor was part of the aggressor squadron. Those were the guys whose job it was to pretend to be the enemy and to keep the American troops training at a very high tempo. This was in the 1950s, so these were the guys who had fought in World War II and Korea. So they had been in really big wars and really tough situations. They wanted to prepare other troops for that kind of tension and stress. And they would let me go out with them on certain occasions to see what they did and how they did it. At one point, there was a film group called The Big Picture that was an Army TV show. They were there to film camouflage and other things. And they said “Why don’t you come out and spend the day with us?” For a little kid, this was fabulous. I got to wander around and watch the cameraman and watch the director. I got to learn about camouflage. So the result is that nothing has surprised me in the political world. Mao Tse Tung once said that “War is politics with blood. Politics is war without blood.” I think that being an infantryman’s son is a pretty good background for what I’ve done in the rest of my life.

What motto do you live by that relates to or might inspire other military kids?

West Point—Duty, honor, country. I think that’s a very important concept. And listening to the words of the Pledge of Allegiance and the Star-Spangled Banner, and remembering the phrase “land of the free and home of the brave” is really important to remember, and for kids to realize that their parents are doing something very different than almost anybody else. My father was literally prepared to give his life for 27 years, and thought that it was essential that somebody be prepared to do that. So I would say first of all, that young people be instilled with a sense of pride for what their parents are doing. That they should look around and appreciate the level of dedication, discipline, and sacrifice they see in their community. And, to some extent, carry that pride with them out into the civilian world. And, recognize that it would be nice in some ways if America was a little more like the pride, discipline, and commitment we get out of people that volunteer for the military.

Read more of the interview with Newt Gingrich in Military Kids Speak - available at and

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Julie Rahm

Mindset means everything. And no one knows this better than Julie Rahm, aka America's Mindset Mechanic. A former naval physicist, Julie applies physics to the energy of human thought and the results thoughts create. As a military daughter, spouse and mother-in-law she has experienced the challenges of deployment separations, frequent moves and telecommuting careers while remaining happy and achieving her dreams. With her passion and people-loving style, Julie has provided the metaphorical tools for thousands of people to bridge the gap between their thoughts and their lives. Julie Rahm, M.S., is a certified Frame of Mind Coach who has appeared on numerous television and radio broadcasts, including The Phil Knight Show and ABC affiliates. She hosts The Mindset Mechanic LIVE on Saturdays and Sundays on FM107.1 WTKF and AM1240 WJNC in Eastern NC. Her weekly column The Mindset Mechanic appears in The Pamlico News. She has been quoted in numerous newspapers, and on the web at and Julie is an inspirational keynote speaker conveying life lessons through a blend of intuitive success strategies, enlightened wisdom, humor and fun. She is the Champion of Military Kids around the World. Julie's latest book is Volume I of Military Kids Speak.

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