Thursday, January 20, 2011

Jim Webb Visits PVCC

Earlier today, U.S. Senator Jim Webb (D-Virginia) visited the campus of Piedmont Virginia Community College near Charlottesville.

Webb's stay was not long, perhaps 90 minutes in all, but he packed in several activities in the process. 

At about 1:00 p.m., he met with PVCC students who are utilizing the educational benefits available through the GI Bill and others who qualify for financial assistance under the "Great Expectations" program.

Those eligible for GI Bill assistance are, of course, military veterans, many of whom have served in Iraq and Afghanistan. There are 102 PVCC students attending under the GI Bill.  The Great Expectations program is for students who are emerging from the foster care system; there are 42 people in that category attending PVCC.  Webb spoke about his principal role in creating an upgraded and expanded version of the GI Bill to fit the circumstances of a post-9/11 environment.

At 1:30 p.m., Webb gave some brief remarks to an audience of about 160 people in the auditorium of the V. Earl Dickinson Building.  He is introduced here by the college's president, Dr. Frank Friedman.

He spoke for just over 10 minutes and then opened the floor to questions for another 10 minutes or so.  (At the end of this segment, Dr. Friedman presents Senator Webb with a "Virginia cup" and a hoodie emblazoned with the PVCC logo.)

When that session ended, Senator Webb was escorted backstage where he engaged local news media in an informal press gaggle. Reporters from the Daily Progress, WINA-AM, NBC29, and the Charlottesville Newsplex were there, as well as yours truly, representing and The Metro Herald in Alexandria.  (C-VILLE and The Hook were conspicuous by their absence.)

While the TV cameras were setting up, I lobbed the first question in Senator Webb's direction.  I asked him about the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, which was signed last month by both countries in an updated version.  (The Bush 43 Administration first negotiated the agreement in 2007, but it has been languishing for more than three years while both the U.S. Congress and the Korean National Assembly have delayed ratification.)  Webb indicated that he is a strong supporter of the agreement.

I reported Webb's answers to my questions on, as well as his replies to a related question from WINA radio's Chris Callahan. (Callahan's question and mine are not included in the press gaggle video, above, because I was operating my audio recorder at the time and picked up the video camera when the TV reporters started filming.)

Perhaps the most politically pertinent question addressed to Senator Webb -- what does he think about a rematch with former Senator George Allen in 2012? -- was answered with a curt "no comment."

Before Senator Webb arrived, I was able to interview PVCC's president, Frank Friedman, who offered his suggestion for a question that should be asked of the senator in the public forum.

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