Freshman Rep. Mike Johnson, 45, a Louisiana Republican, talks about civility in his class, graphic design, and his children’s musical talents.
Q: What has surprised you about Congress so far?
A: I guess the most surprising thing is the level of collegiality that we’ve seen certainly in the Republican conference, but even in our freshman class. We had our retreat the weekend after we took our oath of office back in January and we had just a great visit, just members-only sessions and everybody sort of committed to the same ideals that we wanted to change the tone of how Congress is done, change the tone in Washington. And that led to the creation of the “Commitment to Civility” document that I drafted.
It’s effectively like a contract that we made with one another that will model civility in our public and private actions and treat one another with the respect and dignity that’s deserved and try to set an example with our children and the rest of the country. I think that’s had the desired effect. We have a great collegial feel amongst our class members and to me, that’s been a great delight and it’s made the process more enjoyable.
Q: I heard you do your own graphic design. Tell me about that.
A: I’ve always done that kind of thing on the side almost for therapy. I don’t have enough time to develop any of that. We ran our campaign on a shoestring budget and I just frankly was not going to pay some firm thousands and thousands of dollars to develop a logo and all that so I just did it myself. And maybe it’s partially because I’m a control freak.
Q: How did you learn graphic design?
A: I’m totally self-taught and a complete novice because of it. I enjoy … dabbling in that when I get the opportunity.
Q: Tell me about the interesting talent your children have.
A: Really proud of them. We have four children under the age of 16 — two girls, two boys — and for some reason, they all took a real interest in music and my three older children play guitar. My 6-year-old has decided he has to be the drummer in the band because we don’t have a drummer yet. They play piano, guitar, they’re writing their own music. They truly are legitimately very talented and everyone notices that and acknowledges it. We have no idea where they get it. Neither my wife nor I are musically inclined. My wife played a little piano when she was in high school, that’s it. So it’s our great delight.
Q: What are your hobbies?
A: When you’re the father of four small children, your hobbies are theirs because I have so little free time. Any moment I have, I would feel really guilty if I was on a golf course or something. So what I do for my hobbies is what they’re into. We do their ball games and their events and all their extracurricular activities. That’s the time I enjoy the most, is investing in them.
Last book read: “Lincoln on Leadership,” by Donald T. Phillips.
Last movie seen: “Braveheart,” which is our favorite film of all time.
Favorite songs of all time: “Be Thou My Vision,” which is an old classic hymn and I would juxtapose that with U2’s “Where the Streets Have No Name” because it’s sort of an anthem for my generation.
Role models: My father was one, he passed three days before I got elected to Congress, tragically. He died of cancer.