I first met Senator Tim Kaine when I was teaching at my alma mater, the University of Richmond. I was the newest academic on the block in the smallest adjunct faculty office next to a much larger office that was rarely occupied. I knew from my time as an undergraduate that this space was reserved for professors of the practice and leaders in residence. I was intrigued by the current occupant who had just left the Governor’s mansion to become Chair of the Democratic National Committee and who would be teaching as part of his joint appointment at the Jepson School of Leadership Studies and the University of Richmond Law School. However, our introduction was anything but formal. One day, my neighbor walked right into my office and said, “Hey I’m Tim, tell me about yourself?” Over the course of the year, I learned that this was just his way.
My favorite Tim Kaine story from that year at Richmond was when he and my father met. My parents are missionaries to Japan and my father was visiting me on campus during a stay back in the United States. He happened to run into Tim Kaine in the hallway and, without knowing each other, they swapped stories about missional philosophy, with Senator Kaine sharing stories from his time in Honduras as a Jesuit missionary. The genuine excitement and interest with which he connected with my father was authentic and something he brought to the classroom as well. Professor Kaine’s energy was legendary and loved by his students, including the time he transfixed my class on “Leadership in an International Context” by regaling us with story after story of his recent international trips that often ended with a self-deprecating and humorous punchline.
Tim Kaine has an authentic charm that can’t be faked and is often described as “folksy.” He has been known to pull out his harmonica to engage with Bluegrass bands to connect with his constituents in southwestern Virginia. At the same time, Tim Kaine is the type of Senator that returns from Turkey jetlagged as he did last January for a Virginia Center for Inclusive Communities interfaith event to bring religious leaders together in the face of Islamophobia. Unlike most politicians that might stay for just the 5 minutes of their remarks and leave, Senator Kaine stayed for the full event. Even as small groups broke up to discuss the important issues, he dove in to a group with college students and fellow Richmonders, introducing himself as “Tim.” That’s the type of leader he is.
Tim Kaine has described himself as being “boring,” which is unfair given his policy depth. It also understates his genuine care for the issues that truly matter in governing. Right before visiting President Obama in Washington on the eve of the announcement about an air campaign in Libya, I found Professor Kaine in his office going through all the arguments pro and con that he wanted to rehearse before going to the White House. With the precision of a Harvard-trained lawyer, we debated the merits of the campaign for close to 3 hours. Although he had been the one enlightening me, he thanked me for my time, because that’s the type of person he is.
Having conservative Republican and progressive Democrat members of my family, I necessarily value bipartisanship in the way that Tim Kaine, a centrist Democrat, embodies the “Virginia way.” My family and friends who have met “Tim” (he refuses to use any honorific titles when introducing himself) have only nice things to say about him even if they disagree on specific policy issues. His level of civility and leadership is precisely what America needs now more than ever and why the Tim Kaine I know is Hillary Clinton’s best choice to be the next Vice President of the United States.
Tim Kaine’s resume speaks for itself as the only Mayor and Governor to currently serve as a Senator. In a world that seems to be increasingly tense and conflict-ridden, Tim Kaine brings a unique set of experiences and expertise in foreign policy that will be invaluable as Vice President. His fluency in Spanish and work on international affairs on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have been exemplary, along with his championing for a more inclusive and just Virginia and America. Tim Kaine is a tried and true leader that has represented Virginia at every level and is ready from day one on the job to be our next Vice President.
My bet is that even after November, he will still just be “Tim” to anyone he meets.