Mike Johnson | Speaker of the House

A legend is someone who leaves behind an unforgettable impression on others. They touch lives, they’re remembered, and they’re cherished. There are all sorts of legends, famous or not so famous in this world. Becoming one means finding your particular role and your calling, following it, staying true to it, and touching others around you.Add a dash of “Southern Charm,” and you have Speaker of the House Mike Johnson.

During a reception following this interview, Johnson shared more about his family. Kelly, his wife, was at home packing for a two-week trip to D.C. to help plan events surrounding the State of the Union Address and then on to Greenbriar in West Virginia for a House Republican retreat.

Coordinating the logistics of the trip and making plans for their two sons, who are still at home, would have most women in a frenzy. But, according to her husband, Kelly is a rock.

Their oldest daughter, Hannah, is a second-year law student. Abbie will graduate from Louisiana Tech and is about to enter law school. Jack is a senior at Benton High School and has applied to the Naval Academy as an aspiring Navy Seal. That leaves 13-year-old Will, who has been described as the family mascot.

With two May graduations followed by a June wedding, the Johnson family household is hopping. SB Magazine was fortunate to interview Speaker Johnson for a few moments before the fundraiser reception held at the Petroleum Club on Monday, March 4th. Guests were treated to hors-d’oeuvres and refreshments before Speaker Johnson spoke (without notes) about his family, the state of our country, and what must be done to preserve our nation’s founding principles.

SB: Thank you so very much for giving SB Magazine this opportunity to visit with you. You said in your first speech when you first became speaker of the house that family is everything here in Louisiana. Family is where it’s at. So, how has your family adapted to what it’s like being part of this arduous role as Speaker of the House? Has it affected them?

SPEAKER JOHNSON: A lot has changed.They’re very adaptable, my little crew because we’ve been through lots of things in the past. But you know, by God’s grace, the kids are all thriving. I’ve got one in law school – 2nd year in law school and one about to go to law school, graduating Tech in May. My oldest son has just applied to the Naval Academy. He’s awaiting that admission, and then I’ve got a 13-year-old at home. So, we have the whole gamut.

My oldest daughter is getting married in June. So, we didn’t have enough going on this year. It’s a huge adjustment. Being a member of Congress is busy enough. It’s already 24 hours a day, 365, but the Speaker of the House is on a whole different level. We went from having about 19 employees to cover our 16 parishes –

 had about half the staff here in the district and half in Washington, to around 100 employees. The speaker’s responsibility – the scope of it is so broad. It is one of the only offices listed in the Constitution. And so, you’re in charge of everything from the actual grounds of the Capitol itself to obviously the legislative agenda, the policy agenda, and the fundraising for effectively half the party, and it’s a lot to say grace over. It comes with a whole security detail. I mean, your entire life changes in every conceivable way. But I’m happy to report that our family’s adjusted well and are all great sports.

SB: It’s going to make them very successful adults.

SPEAKER JOHNSON: Yeah, if they can endure all this.

SB: Well, my next question- you answered it already-was going to ask how you balance your marriage, your family, and being a public figure.

SPEAKER JOHNSON: Well, they all have to be very forgiving, and they are, and we try to incorporate them in as much of it as possible; I mean, when we’re not in session, I’m on the road just almost constantly. I think I’ve been in 24 States since I’ve been a speaker since early November because you have to go and do events, campaign, and fundraise all around the country. As much as possible, I’ve tried to take one of the kids along with me. My wife Kelly is a saint, and she has been able to come with me on a few of those things and to Washington more often than we thought. We still have our home base here, and that’s always been important to us. It requires a lot of adaptability and flexibility, but so far, it’s worked out okay.

SB: You’ve been very open about your Christian faith, which is impressive to all of us. Help us understand how your faith has influenced your leadership style as a congressman and then as Speaker of the House.

SPEAKER JOHNSON: When you go into politics, if you don’t know exactly what you believe and where you’re grounded and ultimately who you serve, then you’re susceptible to all sorts of corruption and corrupting influences and just the allure of power and all the rest of that. Adhering to the faith that we all grew up with and appreciate here is a really important thing, and it’s part of who I am. I can’t separate it from my work life, political life, or whatever. It’s who I am. The night after I got the gavel
– or maybe the night – I did a sit-down with Sean Hannity, and we did 45 minutes uninterrupted by commercial, and it was live, and he said I’m going to ask you tough questions. I said, please do ask me all the tough questions. At one point, he said something like everybody is clamoring to figure out what Mike Johnson thinks about

anything under the sun or something like that. And I said, well, I’m pretty simple. Just pick up the Bible off your shelf and read it. That’s what I believe. That’s what I stand for. There’s no mystery about this. That was regarded to be such a controversial statement in Washington. I’ve been reminding people ever since that this is exactly what previous generations of leaders said and did. I quote the founders from Washington to Adams to Lincoln, all the way down. Until very recently, all the leaders of the country believed in these basic principles. Inscribed above the Rostrum in the house is our national motto: In God We Trust. I reminded people in my speech the night I took the oath, and in the nationally televised speech, I said,
“This isn’t on your screen.” But that’s what it says, and it was put there in 1963. Why was it put there? If you look in the guidebook for visitors to the house, it will tell you that it was put there as a rebuke at the beginning of the Cold War to the Soviet’s worldview, which is Marxism, Communism, and Socialism, that begin with the premise that there is no God. I said our country is different and exceptional and extraordinary. We’re the greatest nation in the history of the world because we were founded on an opposite premise. We are founded on the idea, articulated in the Declaration, in the second paragraph, that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all of us are born equal, created equal by our creator, and that God’s the one that gives us her rights and that is the foundational principle of our country. We lose it at our peril.

Speaker Mike Johnson crisscrosses
the country to speak at receptions
like the one in Shreveport on
Monday evening, March 4, 2024, at
the Shreveport Petroleum Club.

The Speaker regaled the guests with stories of his travels and his work in D.C. His energy and sense of humor were infectious, and one couldn’t help being motivated to rally behind this man. He is especially proud of the fact that this is the first time in the history of the United States that any state has ever had the top two officers in the house at the same time. (referring to Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Steve Scalise) Speaker Johnson sincerely thanked everyone, saying, “Kelly, the kids, and I are so grateful, humbled, and honored by your presence and your investment… and we’ll never forget who’s been with us from the beginning and is with us now. Thanks for standing with us because we need that, and the prayers have never been more appreciated.”

SB: How did we go off the rails?

SPEAKER JOHNSON: I’ve got a five-hour seminar that explains all that. It was a series of cultural shifts. It was really big in the early 1900s, with the push of the Marxists, frankly, who infiltrated trade unions and universities and tried to sort of change the minds of Americans to think differently. And now that has taken root, and we’re dealing with an open conflict between two different worldviews.
This isn’t even Republicans versus Democrats anymore. It’s two competing visions about who we are as a nation. Our group believes we should hold fast to the founding principles, which I describe as individual Freedom, limited government, the rule of law, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity. That’s what America is founded upon. There’s another group advocating that we jettison all the founding principles. We traded it in for something else, and they want a European-style sort of Marxist Utopia. Well, that’s a Fool’s errand. That is not who we are as Americans, and we have to stand strongly against that, so every day, we’re advancing policies, events, and legislation, trying to move the ball for our principles. we have in mind that we are fighting to preserve the foundations of this, which is the greatest country in history, the world.

SB: That’s a great answer. Sadly, so many people, and a lot of our kids, don’t understand that.

SPEAKER JOHNSON: Somebody told me recently, “Oh, we just wish we had another Ronald Reagan right now.” And I said, “Well if Reagan gave the same speech right now that he gave in the late 70s (we were in the malaise of the Carter era), I don’t know if we would have exactly the same effect. Reagan talked about The Shining City on the Hill, how we could usher in the morning in America, and all that.
He harkened Americans back to something they knew, and that reminded them of that, and they responded to it. Right now, if you gave those same speeches, there’s no frame of reference because you have two generations of Americans who don’t have any recognition of that at all. So, our challenge is a little bit different. We have to be in with an education process going back to Civics 101 and Philosophy 101 and then talk to them about renewal, but you have to explain to them what we’re losing before they can grasp it. And that’s a very serious challenge for me.

SB: You’re absolutely right. What’s being taught in our schools today goes against most of what I was taught when I was in school. You’ve done so much in a relatively short period of time compared to other people in politics. What comes after being Speaker of the House?

SPEAKER JOHNSON: I’ve been asked this question my entire adult life. What is your Five-Year Plan, your 10-year plan? I have a very short-term plan. I’m just trying to be faithful to whatever God puts before me today, and then I’ll let him take care of the rest of it. That’s a biblical principle.

This event raised over $300 thousand to go toward the $330 Million that must be raised by the fall.

The event committed included:
Clay Crenshaw | Dr. Fred Willis | Ke Shaw | Seva May | Kit Gamble | Espe Moran | Boyd Parker | Kevin Gamble

SB: What do you want to be remembered for?

SPEAKER JOHNSON: Adherence to our founding principles, somebody who is faithful and practical. I want to be known as a servant leader. That’s how I try to live my life. It’s sacrificial service at this level. This is not a job I ever aspired to. This was not ever on my bucket list for very practical reasons. Steve Scalise from Louisiana, our small state, was way ahead of me on the totem pole in years of service and every other way. He’s like my brother, and it never occurred to me that it would ever be a scenario where I would leapfrog Steve Scalise. As fate would have it when the speaker’s chair was vacated, he had just gotten his cancer diagnosis, and it just wasn’t his time. And so, I tried to get lots of others – I tried to get Jim Jordan elected speaker and other friends, and it didn’t happen. I knew all along I could get the votes, but I wasn’t trying to; I wasn’t running for it.

Somebody told me when I was in eighth grade at Middle Magnet always to remember that real leadership is recognized and not imposed. I wasn’t trying to impose myself on anybody, but my colleagues ultimately said it was you all along, and I needed to do it. We’re very sober minded about the challenges we face. But I’m very Resolute. I mean, “without vision, the people perish,” is what scripture says. We have a real vision of where we’re supposed to go and how to get there, and it’s grounded in those timeless principles. I want to be remembered for that. I didn’t do this for myself. I did it for my kids – for our country.

SB: For our fellow Americans.

SPEAKER JOHNSON: That’s right. That’s right.

SB: This has been a real pleasure. I thought it would be tough, but you’ve made it so simple. I really do appreciate the opportunity. I had more questions about politics, but I wanted this to be more relaxed. Besides, all anybody has to do is get online, Google you, and they can see or read where you stand. We wanted to get more of a feel for what it’s like for your family and how you and they are hanging in there.

At the reception, Speaker Mike Johnson had everyone on the edge of their seats as he described what it’s been like to be a Congressman and Speaker of the House. His position, the first in Louisiana History, has made him more determined than ever to “buckle down” and do whatever is in his power to “fix” the problems Americans face today.