George Will

CHICAGO -- Amid the cold world's uncertainties, there is the comfort of having one incontrovertible axiom: If something seems too good to be true, it isn't true. Something, or someone.

Then along comes Jack Ryan.

Six-foot-four and Hollywood handsome, he grew up in this city's northern suburbs, graduated from Dartmouth, simultaneously earned degrees from Harvard's law and business schools, then was made partner at Goldman Sachs where he made a bundle. The man who made him partner, Jon Corzine, made a mega-bundle, ran successfully for Senate from New Jersey, and in this election cycle is chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, charged with defeating Republican senate candidates.

Three years ago, when Ryan was 41, he walked away from moneymaking to start his real life. Or resume it. Earlier he had been doing what his family has always done, which involves making the rest of us seem like moral slackers.

Ryan, who keeps in moral and physical trim by going to mass and the gym each morning, left Goldman Sachs to become a teacher at Hales Franciscan High School in the heart of the huge African-American community on the South Side. In an area where some schools send more young men to prison than to college, Hales Franciscan has for six consecutive years sent all its graduates -- all African-American boys, most from homes poor enough to qualify for the school lunch program -- to colleges, including Notre Dame, Northwestern, Georgetown and the Naval Academy.

``That,'' he blandly says of his career change from high finance to high school, ``is what our family does.'' After Harvard he worked as a volunteer in a migrant workers' camp in Texas. Such stuff runs in the family.

His mother saved a failing Catholic school in Chicago. His uncle, a Jesuit priest, started a school in a Hispanic neighborhood. There the students are in school four days a week and work one day. Five students share a $25,000-a-school-year job, each earning their tuitions. Ryan's sister was a sixth-year medical student at Northwestern when she left to open a medical clinic for indigent and immigrant Hispanics. With a verbal shrug, Ryan says, ``That's what we're supposed to do.''

Now he is seeking a rendezvous, of sorts, with Jon Corzine. Ryan is campaigning for the Republican nomination for the Senate seat held by Peter Fitzgerald, a Republican who is retiring.

George Will

George F. Will is a 1976 Pulitzer Prize winner whose columns are syndicated in more than 400 magazines and newspapers worldwide.
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