Friday, November 4, 2005

VA Governor Mark Warner on life, business and politics

"LAMB: Was there ever a time back in those days when you were working for Abe Ribicoff or Ella Grasso or Chris Dodd or Doug Wilder or the chairman of the Democratic Party in Virginia, all through this process, where you said, I have to make money and then I want to run for office?

"WARNER: Well, there was a time back in—when I was in college, or maybe I was in law school, and I was working for Chris Dodd, and he was about ready to run for the Senate, and I may have my dates slightly off, but there was a guy who ran for Congress and he lost. And I recall the stories afterwards that he was suddenly $300,000 in debt and had to pay something like—the story was, you know, $6,000 or $7,000 a month for umpteen months.

"And that seemed to me so stunning that, you know, you would put your family, your life, if politics didn't work out, you would be—you could be penniless as well as have to make compromises along the way.

"And, you know, there have times I think when people in politics have made those compromises. You know, 'I've got to stay in, staying elected is more important than maybe what drove me to get elected in the first place.'

"Or you take the financial support from people that maybe you shouldn't. And, you know, I swore that if I ever was going to take the plunge myself in politics, that I wanted to have some level of financial independence.

"Now that started me, and then I went into business and, again, after a few failures, ended up having built a venture capital fund after Nextel, built a venture capital fund that has become probably the most successful in the Mid-Atlantic, Columbia Capital.

"It gave me financial resources and I wasn't sure I was ever going to come back to politics. I had been—you know, I had married at that point. I was—again, was in a very, very exciting area. But, you know, I did think I could have—I guess I had become enough of business guy that I thought, you know, what's your value-add?

"And I spent a lot of time soul-searching about this notion of could I have a little different perspective on some of the challenges we face through this new economy, technology revolution, whatever we want to call it. It seems to change its names every couple of years.

"But the whole, you know, tidal wave of change that's sweeping through our world, whether we like it or not, brought about by a fundamental shift in how we think about information, how we think about knowledge, and, you know, basically the eradication of time and distance as being something that is—matters in terms of business, life.

"And that means that this revolution that we're going through, and I think we're still at the front end of it, is, you know, going to change not only the business world, it's going to change how we educate our kids, how we deliver health care, the role and function of government.

"And I think most people, as I thought about this in the mid '90s and took the plunge myself, I didn't think most people in politics had any sense of what we were going though.

"LAMB: Do with this what you want, but everywhere I go I find the figure $200 million, that that's what you're worth. I mean, you know you're going to—if you get into this national game, they're going to be all over you on that.

"WARNER: Brian, probably at one point before the bubble burst, that was accurate. It probably isn't accurate—it isn't accurate today. But it's still—I've been very, very lucky and very, very blessed.

"LAMB: Well, I guess the question is, you don't have to worry about money for the rest of your life?

"WARNER: No. I mean, I am financially set, my children are financially set. You know, and part of the challenge is with three daughters and not having grown up, and my wife didn't either, we're both kind of middle-middle class kids, you know, how to make sure that you impart to your children that sense that they've got to still struggle, they've got to still, you know, take risks.

"I mean, one of the things that I have—every graduation speech I give, and in this job I do a lot of them, I don't really talk too much about politics or policy, but I do encourage students to take risks and be willing to fail.

"I think sometimes in our society today, particularly from kids from successful families that there is always this—such a focus on success and such a reluctance to have anybody fail. And I've tried to make the point that, you know, any success I've been lucky enough to have in my life has been borne out of learning from failure."

C-SPAN Q&A Interview: Full Transcript, Video, Background

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