During a visit to the University of Virginia, Sen. Mark R. Warner said student debt is weighing down entrepreneurship and business innovation.
As part of a sweep of community visits throughout Virginia, Warner visited UVa on Tuesday evening for a question-and-answer session with students at the Darden Graduate School of Business Administration.
“I have failed at everything I have ever tried to do,” Warner said in response to a question about what skills are relevant in the political world.
“I’ve failed at business, I’ve failed at politics. … I think we live in a society that celebrates success so much, that hopefully you guys will come from a culture that will cultivate the idea of entrepreneurship, whether in business or in politics. You’ve got to be willing to fail,” Warner said.
Elected to the Senate in 2008, Warner, a Democrat, said business skills — especially calculated risk-taking and accepting the freedom to fail — translate well in politics.
Warner said he’s thankful he graduated from George Washington University and Harvard with only moderate student debt. After disappointing ventures in energy and real estate, Warner found business success with his investment in former communications giant Nextel.
Without the burden of debt, Warner said, “I could fail in business and not put myself in such impossible financial circumstances. … When some of these kids come out with $100,000 or more in debt, it really makes it harder for them to take chances.”
But despite his previous experience as Virginia’s governor, Warner told the group that working in Washington during the last five years has been a learning experience.
“I never thought that being in Washington would be as hard as it is,” he said. “I was not naïve coming to Washington, but I didn’t fully appreciate all of the pressures that force you into a red shirt [or] blue shirt when that is not what I think most Virginians, most Americans want.”
Last week, Ed Gillespie, a former Republican National Committee chairman and aide to George W. Bush, announced his intent to seek the GOP nomination to challenge Warner in November. Warner said he’s ready for the campaign.
“I’m willing to take my record on putting together a rational fiscal plan for our country and take that to the folks of Virginia,” Warner told The News Virginian in Waynesboro.
If re-elected, Warner said he hopes to be part of “getting Congress back on the road of common sense and working together.”
At UVa, Warner touched briefly on several business topics, including crowd funding, saying that self-policing from within that industry will be essential to sustaining the successful ventures that have emerged by taking appeals for financial support straight to the public via the Internet.
“A background in business is so beneficial for people who decide to pursue legislative work or public policy because business trains people to look out for the interests of those they serve: Customers, employees, investors, the community,” Darden school Dean Bob Bruner said in an email.
Although about 7,000 bills are currently pending in Congress and very few of those will ultimately become law, Bruner said the business community will have its eyes on legislation regarding taxes, immigration, spending and foreign trade.
In addition, “The business community will also closely monitor the evolution of regulations around health care, net neutrality, approval of new drugs, consumer protection and financial services,” Bruner said.