“Public service is absolutely phenomenal and is a place … where you can make a difference in people’s lives,” former U.S. Senator Bob Corker (R-TN) said.
Corker visited the University of Tennessee, Knoxville on Thursday as part of the Howard Baker Jr. Center’s Distinguished Lecture Series to discuss his life as a senator and his future in public service.
Since leaving the Senate, Corker said that while he still reads publications and remains up-to-date on issues around the world, he has not turned on cable television. He said by doing this, it is both “refreshing” and has “altered” his perspective on life.
“I called my 90-year-old mother today just to check on her, and she’ll almost every day say, ‘Oh I’m so worried about this’ and I can hear the cable television on in the background and go, ‘What is it?’ and she goes, ‘You don’t know? You don’t know that this thing is happening?'” Corker said. “… and I have found that knowing what’s happening on a 24-hour basis is good enough.”
After Corker was first elected in 2006, Corker said the most difficult adjustment for him was the legislative process.
“For about the first six weeks, I wondered why I worked so hard for two years to become a senator,” Corker said.
Additionally, Corker acknowledged he was used to being an executive, and it was difficult to adjust to dozens of meetings per day and the legislative process.
“It’s very policy-oriented,” Corker said. “You’re not creating a vision. You’re stating a position on a policy. Legislation in and of itself was very hard for me to adjust to.”
“After about six weeks, I told our staff I was not going to have 26 or 27 meetings a day. I was going to be busy, but we were going to become experts in a few topics,” Corker said. “… you can become the person that people go to on a particular topic and at some point in time, your particular knowledge is going to be necessary.”
While Corker does not see himself running for the 2020 presidential election, he said he hopes he can find something that will help utilize the knowledge gained from working in Congress.
“I surprise myself with what I know,” Corker said. “… so I just hope there’s going to be some way for me to utilize the knowledge that [the people of Tennessee] have allowed me to obtain.”
In addition, Corker discussed other topics including: the Iran deal, the country’s relationship with China as being the most important and others.
Corker also discussed civility and how people are often surprised to hear how many Republicans and Democrats in Congress are friends, rather than enemies.
“I think television, cable news make it look like everybody’s at each other’s throat,” Corker said. “… the only way to pass something in the Senate is to have somebody of the opposite party with you as a co-sponsor [of a bill] … you’ve gotta have people on the other side helping.”
Corker emphasized the importance of considering himself a senator from Tennessee rather than just a senator because his voters expected results.
“All the way through the end, I knew I was a senator from Tennessee,” Corker said. “And [the people] of Tennessee were expecting me regardless of my views of our current president to continue to do everything I could to advance our nation’s interests.”
Knoxville community member Edward Patrick said it was helpful to hear Corker’s perspective on the state of Washington D.C.
“Senator Corker has been an important influence for good, especially in Washington for the last two or three years,” Patrick said. “… I was impressed with his candor in describing the situation in Washington as very problematic.”
Edited by Ciera Noe
Featured image courtesy of the United States Congress, obtained through Creative Commons