Photo by Kimberly Williams
Bob Corker, the junior United States Senator from Tennessee, visited campus on April 9 to discuss American foreign policy initiatives. Senator Corker, a republican, was recently elected to head the US Foreign Relations Committee. Before beginning his talk on foreign relations, he joked, “You may wonder how I became qualified for this. I mean, I build shopping centers.” He began by quickly talking about the relationship between Russia and Ukraine, and the efforts by China to expand their influence in international waters. He delved a little deeper into his efforts to end modern human slavery. He credited a mission trip to Haiti with his interest in foreign relations and trying to help people.
Corker spent a good deal of time cautioning excitement about the recent verbal agreement made with Iran about nuclear weapons. “The important details are yet to be decided,” he said. He named each of the sites that Iran might be building weapons in and admitted a lack of intelligence about two of the sites in particular. “We don’t know if Iran is trustworthy” he said as he changed subjects.
Corker attended the University of Tennessee where he was a member of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was awarded a Bachelor of Science degree in Industrial Management in 1974. Senator Corker cut his teeth as a businessman running a construction company he founded shortly after he graduated college. The company was very successful, and he sold it in 1990 for a considerable sum of money. He subsequently bought and sold various Chattanooga based construction companies.
Corker first ran for Senate in 1994, but lost to eventual Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist. Corker served one term as the mayor of Chattanooga, from 2001 to 2005. When Frist announced his retirement from the Senate in 2005, Corker launched his campaign for the vacated seat. His democratic opponent was Harold Ford Jr. Corker defeated Ford in one of the closest senate elections in recent memory. The margin of defeat was less than three percent. Senator Corker was re-elected in 2012 by an overwhelming majority.
A student questioned Senator Corker on the need for US foreign aid. Corker called it “important” and pointed out that it comprised a mere 1% of the United States budget. He went on to say that the United States is one of the largest backers of the United Nations and that these positions helped maintain US influence in the world even though “not everybody likes us” the Senator admitted.