With flare and energy, Virginia Senator John Warner met with a group of students, faculty and members of the Williamsburg community Friday. With his 30-year career in the United States Senate drawing to a close, Warner expressed his hopes and concerns for the future, which he referred to as his “threshold thoughts.”
He began by discussing his upbringing, the lessons of accountability and discipline with which his military service imbued him, and the abiding maxim that he said has governed his life: “You learn nothing while you’re talking.”
Warner said three decades of political life have given him a unique vantage point into how the Senate and American politics have evolved. One of the more positive changes he noted was the increased presence of women in the nation’s highest legislative body, whose numbers have risen from one in 1979, when Warner first took his seat, to 16 at present.
But the passage of time has also brought changes of a negative sort, Warner said. Toward the end of his remarks, the senator lamented the declining bipartisanship of the Senate, a development which he said has weakened its traditional role as “a saucer” that cools the boiling political brew of the House of Representatives.
The increasing cost of political campaigns also drew criticism from Warner, whose first bid for public office had a total cost of “less than a million dollars.”
The senator then addressed other challenges unique to the present, such as speculation of global climate change and the need for an updated GI Bill to assist veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan with the rising cost of education. Warner said that these two causes have received special attention from his office during his final months.
Although approaching his 82nd birthday, Virginia’s senior senator showed no signs of aging. Springing from his seat at the moment the forum began, he paced around the room during his talk and the question period that followed.
Warner’s Friday visit to the College was the first of many to come. The senator recently accepted an invitation from the College to be the 2008 Hunter B. Andrews Fellow in American Politics, named for the late state senator and College alumnus.
Interim College President Taylor Reveley referred to Andrews as a “special champion of higher education.”
John Warner was born in Washington, D.C., and after high school served in the U.S. Navy. Following his graduation from Washington and Lee University, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps and served in the Korean War.
Returning home, he earned a law degree from the University of Virginia and served as an assistant U.S. attorney, undersecretary and then secretary of the Navy before winning a spot in the Senate in 1978. Having served five terms in office, he is the second longest serving U.S. senator in Virginia history.