Weeks after House Speaker John Boehner’s sudden announcement that he will resign, Republican lawmakers are still scrambling to fill the vacancy.

According to biographer Harlow Giles Unger, Washington has a lot to learn from a Kentuckian who once held the speakership, and who he now considers to be “America’s greatest statesman.”

Unger recently spoke with WFPL News about Henry Clay, who made a career of reaching across party lines to find compromise.


[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/228249416″ params=”color=ff5500&auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false” width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]

Clay, who lived in Lexington, would serve as speaker on three occasions between 1811 and 1825.

So what would Clay do today, if he were thrust into the void left by Boehner’s resignation?

“He would have gotten to know the vast majority of the various representatives, and he would have talked, one-by-one. He would have smooth-talked them into recognizing that, even when there are opposing sides with competing interests, there is common ground. And you’ve got to step onto that common ground,” Unger said. “The job of the House is to hold the nation together, and to serve the majority of the people, without crushing the interest of the minority.”