Q&A With Governor John Rowland

Q&A with Governor John Rowland

John Rowland isn’t just the Governor. Like everyone else, he’s a man with dreams, hopes and tastes. The following interview offers a peak at Rowland’s inner workings.

Observer: If I gave you two tickets to fly anywhere in the world, where would you go? Why?
Rowland: Block Island. For me, it’s home away from home. I’ve spent the last 41 summers there. It’s second nature. My folks had a place up there for 30 years. There’s a comfort zone and it’s my place. With Patty and me it’s our place. We go out there and we just kind of melt. The other place would be Bantam Lake. I don’t think you have to necessarily fly. I have no great interest or need in traveling far away. I’ve never been to the Caribbean or an island; I have no interest.

Observer: You’re on death row and we’re preparing your last meal. Describe it for me.
Rowland: Oh, it’s definitely pizza and a couple of cold beers. There’s no question. That’s easy.

Observer: Who talks faster, you or UConn basketball coach Jim Calhoun?
Rowland: Easily Calhoun. I’m fast, but Calhoun is in his own league. At least you can understand me. I talk fast because my mind is racing and my juices are flowing. Calhoun talks faster but he’s tougher to understand. Yeah, I do talk fast, but my brother Henry definitely talks faster, and my other brothers and sister… my sister can go pretty good. She can talk a starving dog off a meat truck.

Observer:What was the last good book you read?
Rowland: Ray Baldwin’s biography. He was the governor 50 years ago. He was the last Republican governor re-elected, 1944. I read a lot of boring biographies. Political stuff. I read all the John Grisham books, but it’s hard to differentiate one from the other. I think he writes them all at the same time. I like to read a lot of history books. I really love history. If I had to do it all over again I would have been a history major.

Observer: If you could invite any five people from all of history to dinner tonight, who would be at the table?
Rowland: Teddy Roosevelt. Mark Twain and whoever Mark Twain would like to invite. Alexander Graham Bell and Will Rogers.

Observer: That’s going to be a fun party.
Rowland: Absolutely, I gotta have some fun.

Observer:What is your favorite TV show of all-time?
Rowland: I was a Seinfeld fan. Patty didn’t enjoy him but I did.

Observer: How about when you were a kid?
Rowland: Oh, Eastside Comedy. You remember Eastside Comedy? It was on at 8:30 on Sunday mornings. It was the Bowery Boys, Satch and Louie. It was the best.

Observer: Who did you like better on Gilligan’s Island, Marianne or Ginger?
Rowland: Marianne. I’ve heard that question before. That’s very telling of a person.

Observer: What’s your favorite movie of all-time?
Rowland: A Christmas Story. It’s the story of a little boy who dreams of getting a red rider BB gun for Christmas. It’s awesome. It’s such a panic. Have you ever seen The Wonder Years ? It’s a little bit of a segue off that, just a little bit of a different version. The father in it is great. Darien McGavin. Darien McGavin is unbelievable in this movie. Unquestionably that’s the best.

Observer: When you were 12 and Neil Armstrong walked on the moon, do you remember what you wanted to be when you grew up?
Rowland: I think I did the fireman, policeman thing. I knew my dad went to the office, whatever the office was. It was kind of a scary thing. I didn’t know where it was or what they did at the office. I didn’t do the professional sports hero. I can only remember the policeman, fireman thing.


Observer: Is there an adventure that you have always dreamed of going on but were too busy with family and politics? Like climbing Mount Everest, sailing around the world or running a marathon?
Rowland: Whitewater rafting. I would love to do that. I think I might settle for the Naugatuck at some point. Even tubing. I want to tube down the Farmington, I want to canoe in the Naugatuck. I keep talking about it. I’m going to get around to it.

Observer: To some you still represent a wise-cracking youth. You are the youngest Governor in the United States. Do you think youth in politics hinders or helps? Energy versus wisdom and experience.
Rowland: Oh, I think it clearly helps, because if you’re 69 years old it’s hard for you to portray a vision of the future for the state. Whereas if you’re younger, you have a vested interest. I’m not saying that older politicians don’t care or that they don’t have a vision, but I’m suggesting that you can identify more clearly with a younger politician who says, ‘Hey this is where I want to fix education, this is where I want to fix the cities, this is why I want to do something about children’s issues.’ Clearly, I think the state has a more youthful image than in the past. I think we’ve always have had a stodgy arrogance about us. A lot of the change I attribute to Patty with the tourism commercials — kind of a ‘hey, come, we’re a friendly, warmer state now, we’re not as arrogant as we use to be, we want you to come to the state, we want you to visit, we want your business to come.’

Observer: You left Washington years ago and said you didn’t like it. Could you ever foresee yourself living there again as a congressman, senator, vice president or president?
Rowland: I don’t like Washington at all, I don’t like the lifestyle, it’s a 24-hour work environment. There’s no roots there. It’s a very transient area. There’s no sense of community. It’s a stop-by community. I have no allegiances to Washington whatsoever. I don’t rule anything out, but obviously it’s not a place I would ever want to bring my kids up, put it that way. It’s an empty shell.

I would always have to tell my staff… all these people are being so nice to us, everybody comes in and there’s this tremendous respect and homage paid to you as a congressman. I said, ‘Don’t forget there’s going to be a time when I’m not here and some other schmuck will be sitting here and they’ll pay the same respect and same homage to that person because of the office.’ I always called it Mickey Mouse land. It’s all make believe.

Observer: If there isn’t a desire for higher office, what does one do after being governor? Sell insurance at the family business? Stand-up comedy? Ambassador to Peru?
Rowland: Patty and I talk about it once and a while. The first priority is what will work best for the kids at that stage in their lives. You know I make the joke that there is no constitutional requirement to limitation for a third term, but there’s a college limitation; I have to think about getting my kids through school. I’m a great believer in faith. It’s part of my spiritual being that if you create opportunities, if you do a good job as a state representative maybe you can be a congressman, or maybe you won’t be a congressman. If you do a good job as a congressman, maybe you can be governor or maybe you have to go make a living. If you do a good job as governor, maybe you can go to higher office, maybe you’re going to do something else. Maybe I’m going to go teach third grade. So, I really have no idea what I would do in four years. But what I do know is that if I do the right thing now, there will be opportunities. You have to open those doors and create those opportunities. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s no plan, there’s no agenda, there’s no ambition, by the way. I know clearly of friends of mine out there campaigning for president, vice president. If it happens, it happens. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter much to me. What’s important is doing something that is fulfilling. I can tell you the range of thought goes from I would love to go teach third grade to I would love to run a not-for-profit agency to maybe it would be fun to be ambassador.

Observer: Last election at 8 p.m. your campaign manager, David O’Leary, was pressing a cold Budweiser to his temple trying to alleviate a stress headache. It was a close race. This year, with a commanding lead in the polls, do you envision O’Leary on election night with another headache?
Rowland: (Big laugh) I envision him clearly with a Budweiser in his hand, but the physical location will be different. I’m hopeful that the beer will not be on his forehead and will be securely pressed to his lips.

Observer: When you look back on your life from the cozy confines of an easy chair do you think this time as Governor will turn out to be the pinnacle of your life, or will you climb higher? What do you think the view will look like?
Rowland: I work under the assumption that it will be the pinnacle, and live each day that way. I try to live each day like this will be the best that I can do, because I’m not sure I’m going to have another day, or another chance. Again part of that is my spiritual philosophy. And part of it is the upbringing I had with my father, who never aspired, or never had an agenda, or had any kind of a blind ambition. You take it as it comes, but as I said, you have to create the opportunity. So if this is the best I’ll ever do, I’ll be happy. If there’s something better later on, that would be even greater. So if I end up on that porch, teaching third grade for the rest of my life, that would be fine.

Observer: It seems like you would have fun with anything you do.
Rowland: I always try to. I try to have a little fun in everything we do, because that’s what it’s all about.