Rep. Adam Putnam (R-Fla.) emphasized the need for the Republican Party to start looking at “generational issues” in a speech to about 40 students Tuesday night at the School of Media and Public Affairs.
In the speech – hosted by the College Republicans – Putnam discussed the importance of understanding the issues young people consider significant. He stressed the generational gap of cutting-edge technology and the ignorance of many elected officials.
“Some political leaders in Washington think a BlackBerry is what you put on your cornflakes,” said Putnam, who is chairman of the House Republican Conference. “We can’t survive as a party by taking pride in our ignorance (of technology).”
As the second youngest member of the House, Putnam has had to deal with constituents who do not believe he has the experience and wisdom necessary to represent his district in Congress. Putnam admitted that although he may not have lived through many of the historic events of the 20th century, he is capable of bringing insight to Washington.
“Equally important (to the perspectives of those who lived through the Civil Rights movement) are the new perspectives of people who have sat in classrooms after the Civil Rights movement,” Putnam said.
Putnam recalled when he first ran for the Florida state legislature, his opponents tried to use his age against him. They went so far as to show a photo of Putnam in high school on a commercial and reference the photo as recent.
“(The advertisement) fell flat,” Putnam said. “It fell flat because the people who went to vote are the people who lied about their age, said they were old enough to enter the war after Pearl Harbor.”
Putnam also said the Republican Party “handed it over” to Democrats when they lost the majority in the House in 2006.
“We handed it over to them because we lost our way,” he said. “We lost our way with ethics.”
Putnam said he believes the Republican Party needs to regain fiscal restraint and restore people’s faith in the party. He added that, contrary to public belief, it is more important to control the state legislatures than Congress.
“The legislatures get more done before noon than Congress does in a year,” Putnam said.
Freshman Garrett Georgia said he felt Putnam was “encouraging.”
“He is a young guy who recognizes he needs to reach out to young people like us,” Georgia said. “He is one of the more personal congressmen I’ve met.”
Junior Jon Gottschalk said he agreed.
“I believe because he is a little bit younger he’s able to relate to us as College Republicans,” Gottschalk said.
Putnam represents Florida’s 12th district, after being elected in 2000 at the age of 26. He previously served two terms in the Florida House of Representatives. A Florida native, Putnam grew up in rural Bartow on a family farm and graduated from University of Florida in 1995.