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June Alumni Spotlight
|Paul Teller, 2005 Lincoln Fellow
Chief of Staff, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz
Day in and day out, Paul keeps the office of Senator Ted Cruz running smoothly, working tirelessly on behalf of the people of Texas and the conservative movement.
What is your current position?
I’m privileged to be the chief of staff to U.S. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas.
What are you currently working on?
I’m committed to keeping Senator Cruz’s Senate office firing on all cylinders—and then some! When the presidential campaign was in full swing, I worked to make sure that the millions of Texans the senator represents weren’t ignored. Today, Senator Cruz is as engaged in his work as ever. During any given week, we are facilitating Senator Cruz’s writing and introducing bills and amendments, conducting oversight of the executive, engaging Texans of all stripes in constituent service, building coalitions in and out of Washington, D.C., communicating with Texans and conservatives nationwide, and leading longer-term legislative battles, such as stopping a so-called “lame duck” session of Congress later this year.
How did you hear about the Claremont Institute?
My connection with Claremont is so longstanding (at least a dozen years) that I honestly cannot recall how I first heard about it.
What’s your fondest memory of the Claremont Institute?
That’s an easy one. My week as a Lincoln Fellow back in 2005 was one of the most consequential weeks in my political life. It is not an exaggeration to say that I reflect on that week and use its lessons in my current work on a very regular basis now.
There are all sorts of educational programs out there for current and rising conservative professionals. What do you think makes the Claremont Institute’s Fellowships unique?
Another easy one! Claremont Fellowships serve the whole person. They don’t just fill your mind with intellectual challenges; they also fill your soul with joy and meaning—and they fill your belly! You come away from a Claremont Fellowship invigorated and refreshed. Claremont has also been excellent at building a family out of the Fellowship alumni, so your Fellowship never truly ends. It’s an ongoing education, maintained with lifelong personal connections.
If you could have a drink with an American Founder, or any great thinker, who would it be, why, and what would you order?
James Madison. Without a doubt. First of all, I’d want to see if he’s as shy as the historical literature says he was. And if so, I’d be intrigued to see how such a shy person could have become such an influential leader in American political thought and action. I’d also appreciate commiserating with him about the current American population’s lack of understanding of who he was and what role he played in restoring and securing liberty for so many people. As to what I’d drink, that of course depends on the weather and the location—but whatever we’d be drinking, I’m sure it wouldn’t take long for me to start complaining about how there’s no monument to him on the National Mall, how he’s not featured on any widely-used U.S. currency, and how we don’t properly celebrate his birthday as a nation.
Who was more important for their time, George Washington or Abraham Lincoln? Why?
Great question. And of course this topic could be the subject of a dissertation. But real quick, I’d say that George Washington was more important for his time, mainly because he possessed the intangible qualities of a leader that cannot be taught, cannot be bought, and cannot be truly replicated. They are just inborn. Without such intangibles, it’s hard to imagine that the American Revolution would have succeeded or that the young United States would have gotten off on the proper footing—both in terms of how Washington governed and how he relinquished power.
What is the greatest challenge facing the United States today?
Our greatest threat is indeed existential—will this nation continue to exist in light of the millions of people around the world who are committed to its destruction? From Iran and North Korea to the radical Islamic terrorists who seek to annihilate us, is our national constitution (small “c”) strong enough to acknowledge and repel this mounting threat to our way of life and our very lives themselves? I believe so, but sadly our current president consistently projects American weakness around the globe and therefore makes us less safe.
What books are you reading right now?
Just one at a time for me! The current one is Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War that Changed American History by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. So far, it’s a really excellent, engaging read. I’d also recommend that every Claremonster regard as required reading David’s Sling: A History of Democracy in Ten Works of Art by Victoria Coates.
Which was more exciting: the new Star Wars movie, or the start of Duke's basketball season? Why?
Oh come on! That’s like asking a parent to choose which child he likes best! But if you’re forcing me, well, I’d have to say the new Star Wars movie, if for no other reason than the build-up to it. The start of any Duke basketball season is exciting, but the actual first game is rarely a major contest—and sometimes it’s not even televised. But—good question!