Being a governor is fun for a lot of reasons. The governor doesn’t have to drive, but gets the best parking spot and gets dropped off in front of the building. Guys with guns travel with the governor; he gets to ride in the state helicopter; he visits schools and he gets to meet a lot of people.
This was Gov. Mark Warner’s reply to one of the 20 or so questions presented to him by various fifth and sixth graders at Hybla Valley Elementary School during a visit this week. Originally scheduled to talk about Healthy Virginia, the governor spoke instead about his responsibilities as governor and answered students’ questions.
The president and vice-president of Hybla Valley Elementary School, Maria Suyat and Jordan Adams, respectively, were there to show him around. They took him first to the Computer Learning Centers Partnership, a cooperative effort run by the Fairfax County of Partnerships that was recently instituted at Hybla Valley. The two girls showed Warner and others what kind of programs they work on in the lab.
One that particularly impressed Warner was the fifth-graders' brochures of native countries; Adams did hers of Greece.
After the tour of the computer lab, Warner entered the cafeteria where the fifth and sixth-grade classes had assembled. He said that he knew Mr. Dallas’ dad, and said, “It’s probably hard to think of him as other than your principal, but I think of him as Bruce Dallas’ son.”
Warner then proceeded to introduce Del. Kristen J. Amundson (D-44); the person responsible for setting up the meeting.
“She is one of the people I work with,” Warner said, and then asked the audience what that group is. It took a couple of tries before a student correctly answered, “state legislature.”
“She is the person who represents Hybla Valley,” Warner said.
Amundson then introduced the other guests, which included School Board members Janet Oleszek, Cathy Belton and Brad Center; and Assistant Superintendents Dr. Calanthia Tucker and John English.
WARNER SPOKE BRIEFLY, saying that since he’s been governor, he has fought very hard for education. His goal was to do the most possible for the children in Virginia. He spoke about the computer lab and asked how many students had used it — almost everyone raised their hands. Warner emphasized the importance of learning the new technology and said, “What kind of knowledge, what kind of skills learned and what kind of abilities you have on the computer determine what type of job you will have.”
Warner also touched on the importance of SOLs, saying, “They should be used only to assess how well you’re doing. We want to make sure that everybody is learning on a common basis. It’s important for kids to do well on SOLs.”
Warner did mention Healthy Virginia, when he said that making sure that children are healthy is just as important as learning to read, write and do math.
“America has a lot of kids who are not growing up healthy,” Warner said. His Healthy Virginia program focuses on nutritional lunch programs and regular physical education classes.
And then the questions came. They ran the gamut from students wondering if the governor had spoken to people in Indonesia to what he does in his free time to why he went to Harvard instead of Yale. Warner said that he hadn’t spoken to the people in Indonesia, but had sent money. He said he spends his free time (what little he has) with his wife and daughters going on vacation, out to dinner and to the movies; he also likes to play basketball. His response for why he went to Harvard instead of Yale — he wasn’t accepted at Yale.
IN RESPONDING to a question about what he did before he became governor, he told the students that after Harvard Law School, he set up his first business. It failed and he had no money. He set up a second business and that also failed.
“Because I had a college education, I had another chance,” Warner said, and went on to form Nextel and several other high-tech companies, gaining wealth along the way.
“Education is important, but you shouldn’t be afraid to fail,” he said.
Warner spoke about his daily schedule, checking a hundred pages of daily articles, and making speeches and visits to schools and other places. Starting next week, he will be working with members of the General Assembly. When a student asked why he could only run once, he put a plug in to change the legislation that limits Virginia from electing governors to multiple terms.
The things that are hard about his job are reading bad things people write about him; dealing with political party divisiveness; and seeing problems that are really hard to solve. He said that he decided to run for governor because being in business, it made him realize that the future was with people who understand the new world and technology.
“I had ideas to make things better,” he said.
Warner said that most days it feels special to be a governor, but other days it’s just a regular job. And while living in the mansion is nice, it does have its drawbacks in that there are no other houses nearby with children for his children to play with, plus they have to put up with people visiting the mansion for daily tours. The most important thing about being governor is what changes you make.
After his presentation, Suyat said, “I thought he was very nice, kind, a good guy.” Adams thought he was “very nice, funny and nice to talk to.”
Dallas was pleased with the reception and said, “It was a wonderful event. I appreciated Kris Amundson for organizing it. It’s great for the community to get this kind of exposure and have somebody of this notoriety come to the school.”