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Political Legacies and the Skills to Succeed


Sons began following their fathers into politics long before George W. Bush was elected President. Rand Paul, like others before him, had unique opportunities to gain the experience and skills needed to propel him to one of the nation’s highest offices.

Rand Paul and Ron Paul
U.S. Senator Rand Paul and Congressman Ron Paul.

Sons began following their fathers into politics long before the election of George W. Bush. As Rand Paul, Kentucky’s newly elected representative to the U.S. Senate, and son of Texas Congressman Ron Paul, readies for his move to Washington, he continues a long tradition of men whose fathers and grandfathers fueled their passion for public service at the highest levels of government.

Paul John Kvale
Paul John Kvale

When Minnesotan Paul John Kvale was elected to the Congressional seat previously held by his father, Rev. Ole John Kvale, the editors of TIME Magazine wrote: “Primogeniture and hereditary public office have no place in U. S. tradition.” Paul Kvale had been the editor of the Minneapolis Tribune and his father’s secretary before Rev. Kvale’s death led him to seek his father’s seat.

The year was 1929.

The voters of Minnesota’s 7th Congressional District returned Representative Kvale to Washington four more times before his defeat by Herman Carl Andersen in 1938.

Rand and Ron Paul

As TIME noted in their report 81 years before Rand Paul’s election, many another son has followed his father into high office. At the time, only one President’s son had become President (John Adams—John Quincy Adams) and just one President’s grandson had become President (William Henry Harrison—Benjamin Harrison). Many more had followed fathers and grandfathers to serve in Congress.

Congressman Kendrick Meek, the Democratic candidate for Florida’s U.S. Senate seat won by State Representative Marco Rubio, was the first to follow his mother, former Congresswoman Carrie Meek, to Washington.

Kendrick and Carrie Meek

In politics as in life, children learn what they live. The advantage of early lessons and examples, for better and worse, often makes the difference.

In Outliers, Malcolm Gladwell examines factors that contribute to high levels of success. More than intelligence and natural competence, Gladwell says those who become their profession’s superstars have unique opportunities to master the challenges required to accomplish ambitious goals.

The New York Times best-selling author finds evidence for a “10,000-Hour Rule,” saying the key to success in any field is a matter of “practicing a specific task that can be accomplished with 20 hours of work a week for 10 years.”

Like Paul Kvale in 1929, Congressman Ron Paul’s 13 years in Washington, including eight campaigns, helped his son surpass 10,000 hours.

As parents, their stories and many others are reasons to consider where we are encouraging our sons and daughters to invest their 10,000 hours. Jeb Bush has surely put in his 10,000 hours. It’s a safe bet that our future leaders of science, business, and politics are hard at working putting in their hours right now.

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