Congressional Staffer Stays True to Lifelong Beliefs

Congressional Staffer Stays True to Lifelong Beliefs

Isaac Woodward, Class of 2014, came to Rutgers to study philosophy, to challenge and defend his worldview

Woodward
Isaac Woodward, Rutgers Class of 2014, speaking at a Ratio Christi event during his student days.
Photo: Ratio Christi, Julie Miller

'Christian students who grow up in protected churches and families often find their faith challenged in a large, secular university. They know what they believe, but they may not know why they believe. Not Isaac. He was ready for that challenge.'
 
- Julie Miller, director, Rutgers Ratio Christi
 

 

 


Before he was even a teenager, Isaac Woodward was intensely interested in politics.

 “I wanted to work with ideas, and that inclined me toward politics, since I was 12 or 13,” Woodward says. “I had a passion that I wanted to pursue and directed things in the service of that passion.”

At  Rutgers University-New Brunswick, Woodward, who turned 24 in December, majored in philosophy and political science and is now a legislative correspondent – a staffer who deals with constituents’ inquiries – for a conservative Republican member of the House of Representatives from Wisconsin.

After graduation in 2014, he worked as a policy analyst for the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative research organization in Washington, and as a campaign staffer for a candidate running for the Virginia House of Delegates.

Woodward was raised as a devout Christian in Carrolton, Georgia, in a family with a conservative political leaning. His parents were active in the pro-life movement. “I wanted to be in a large, academically rigorous environment where I could meet people with different values and experiences,” he said. He said he applied to Rutgers because of its Department of Philosophy in the School of Arts and Sciences, which consistently receives a high marks in college department rankings.

Woodward was home-schooled but wasn’t raised in a bubble. His parents taught him to stretch his mind and test his convictions. “I was raised to believe that politics is downstream from culture, so the informed Christian should care about both spheres, and not merely about getting good people into office,” Woodward says.

In high school, he worked with a conservative Christian youth organization, TeenPact, which sponsored trips to state capitals; he also volunteered on state and local political campaigns. In 2008, thanks to a scholarship from the non-partisan youth organization The Junior Statesmen Foundation, he attended the Republican National Convention in Minneapolis. So, when he got to Rutgers, Woodward was no stranger to debate.

“There was hardly any system of belief I came across in college that I hadn’t come across before in the course of studying different worldviews from my own,” he said.

His philosophy classes allowed him to think deeply about questions that underlay his political positions and gave him the opportunity to discuss war and peace, social and foreign policies. Asked about heroes or role models, Woodward reaches back in American history to Calvin Coolidge, the Republican president famous for his lack of charisma and his terse announcement: “I do not choose to run in 1928.”

“His [Coolidge’s] example is so important because it is so rare,” Woodward said. “People often look to war-time presidents like Lincoln or FDR, who led the nation through dangerous times. While there is much to admire in their records, a far harder task was undertaken by Coolidge, who rather than make the popular decision to get the federal government involved, held back when he was constitutionally prevented from further action. He saw that if the rule of law and the system of checks and balances is to stand, then we must obey it even when it is unpopular and unglamorous.”

While Woodward was willing to have his convictions and beliefs challenged at Rutgers, he also wanted learn how to defend them more effectively, and so became a founder of the local chapter of Ratio Christi, an organization that equips university students and faculty “ to give historical, philosophical, and scientific reasons for following Jesus Christ,” according to its website. Julie Miller, the director of the Rutgers Ratio Christi chapter, hosts weekly meetings led by students and open to all. The group offers robust discussions between Christians, skeptics, agnostics, atheists, and anyone interested in investigating the big questions of life.

“Christian students who grow up in protected churches and families often find their faith challenged in a large, secular university,” Miller says. “They know what they believe, but may not know why they believe. Not Isaac. He was prepared for the challenge.”

Like any college graduate, Woodward faced the challenge of landing a job. Within a year of graduating, he and his wife, Katelyn Brantley, the high school sweetheart he married after graduation, both were hired by the American Enterprise Institute. Woodward left AEI in September 2015 to join the campaign of Chuong Nguyen, a Republican running for the Virginia House of Delegates. Before the election (which Nguyen narrowly lost to Democrat John Bell), Woodward took his current job in a Wisconsin Congressional office.

The Washington world of government and politics provides ample stimulation for Woodward’s passions and goals. Whatever twists and turns the future may bring, Woodward says, he remains true to the ideas that started him on his path as a pre-teen.

“I have a deep respect for Lord Acton’s dictum that ‘power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely’,” Woodward says. “This is why I hold to a conservative political philosophy which seeks to decentralize power rather than giving it to the government, even when government officials have the best of intentions. The complexity of the public policy process means that whatever intentions people start with have little to no effect on those who ultimately benefit or suffer from the policy. ”


Media contact: Ken Branson, kbranson@ucm.rutgers.edu, 848-932-0580, cell 908-797-2590