Today Ryan Rhodes, an LI graduate and former intern, found himself at the center of national media attention.
On Monday, August 15, at an Iowa town hall, Ryan asked President Barack Obama how he could call for more civility when -- as Ryan said -- "your vice president is calling people like me, a tea party member, a 'terrorist.'” (Watch Ryan's full conversation with President Obama online.)
Within a day, Ryan was interviewed by Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Mark Levin, and others. His story was in USA Today, on the Drudge Report, and in other media outlets across the country.
Live on air with Rush on Tuesday, Ryan told listeners, "I was trained at a great place called the Leadership Institute, and I was Morton Blackwell's intern. He helped me with the tools to get out and make a difference and be able to get active in this and I’m doing the best I can to use them."
Rush's response was simple: "You worked there with a great guy, Morton Blackwell." (Listen to Rush's full interview of Ryan Rhodes online.)
Ryan's first training was a May 2007 Student Publications School, which teaches students how to publish independent campus publications. Months later, Ryan traveled to Las Vegas, Nevada for a Youth Leadership School, LI's flagship training, which he finished as a top graduate.
In spring 2008, Ryan interned for LI. At the Institute, he took as many trainings as he could -- 13 in total. The schools ranged from LI's Campaign Management and Future Candidate Schools to its Blogging and Public Speaking Workshops to all levels of its Television Workshops.
When he returned to Iowa, his home state, Ryan ran for office. He lost the race, but not his drive to be a conservative leader.
Using techniques learned at LI, Ryan organized a 4,500-person Tax Day Tea Party and a 3,000-person Independence Day rally in Iowa. In summer 2009, he organized thousands of Iowans to attend Sen. Charles Grassley's town hall meetings. Sen. Grassley summarily withdrew from healthcare negotiations with the White House.
The success was noted in Iowa and in DC. Washington Post called Ryan "the leader of the tea party movement in Iowa."
This past summer, Ryan served as chairman of the Iowa Tea Party Bus Tour, co-sponsored by LI. The bus stopped at 17 Iowa locations to train more than 600 activists in the caucus process.
Ryan now trains for the Institute too. He's an LI faculty member at grassroots activist schools, passing on the knowledge he once learned at the Institute to other conservatives.
After Ryan appeared on Rush Limbaugh's show, he emailed Morton Blackwell, LI's president, a short note: "I can't forget who gave me the tools and Rush Limbaugh sang your praises as well. Keep up the great work at LI. We can’t save our country without the Leadership Institute."
Learn more about Leadership Institute training. Review LI’s 2011 training calendar online or contact Lauren Hart to learn more.