Teaching children moral values by “putting God and prayer back in school,” and giving students opportunities in career tech programs were among the educational priorities Republican Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville cited during his first speech on the Senate floor.
Tuberville, a former head college football coach, also continued to utilize football metaphors to illustrate his public policy positions on education. He emphasized that federal lawmakers need to work “as a team” to create more opportunities for Americans.
“This country was built on hard work, it was built on competition, whether business or individual,” Tuberville said. “Education and athletics teaches you how to compete, and how to grit. Determination. And how to work together as a team.”
He said opportunities promoted by the federal government should include career tech programs leading to professions with “excellent pay and futures.” The comments come after Tuberville, during a trip to Mobile, toured a workforce development program at Austal USA.
“To ensure our country remains competitive in the 21st century, we need to promote STEM education for folks who have interest in math and sciences,” said Tuberville. “To remain strong, this country needs welders, plumbers, nurses, equipment operators, electricians and craftsmen.”
He added, “If the Democrats want to pass a massive infrastructure bill, they need to ask: Who is going to build it?”
Tuberville is a member of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee chaired by Washington Democratic Senator Patty Murray.
“I will support career tech programs that prepare skilled workers,” Tuberville said. “Our goal should be to restore America that makes things again.”
But Tuberville also pledge to support instituting “moral values” and prayer into schools, although he did not elaborate.
He said, “our kids need structure. They need to learn right from wrong. I’ve watched everything that has happened in education these past few decades. From the front row seats on the sidelines as a coach, it’s embarrassing.”
He said the country’s low scores in reading, science and math proficiency relative to other countries is “unacceptable.”
“Now you can learn everything you want from books,” Tuberville said. “But if you don’t learn to persevere and compete, it’s hard to succeed. Some people in this country think you are owed something simply because you live in the United States of America. This country does not owe you a job or a paycheck. This country only owes you one thing and that is an opportunity.”
He added, “What is great about this country is it also gives you the opportunity to fail. That might sound a little funny coming from a football coach who spent his entire career trying to win. But here in this country, if you fail, this country will give you a chance to get off your feet and try to succeed again and again.”
Tuberville’s first Senate floor speech occurred nearly one year ago after he blasted onto Alabama’s political scene after earning the most votes among a crowded field of Republicans during the March 3 GOP Senate primary. He followed up the impressive showing by easily defeating former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions during the GOP runoff election in July. In November, he earned 1.39 million votes to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones, by a 60.1% to 39.7% margin.
“It’s humbling,” Tuberville said of the win. “It’s an opportunity to serve my country I respect, cherish and will always honor.”
Tuberville, during the campaign, leaned heavily on the football metaphors during speeches and public appearances, and the strategy paid off. But he’s continued to utilize football metaphors following the election, which has stirred some national media criticism, including a reference he made in comparing the Senate’s filibuster rules to running a two-minute drill during the end of a football game.
But pundits do not believe Tuberville’s football talk will tire among constituents. Tuberville coached at Auburn from 1999-2008.
“It’s important when you first arrive to the U.S. senate that you align yourself with what you understand,” said Jess Brown, a retired political science professor at Athens State University. “He understands college football. I don’t think that is a political liability with voters. The only voters that matter (for Tuberville) are in Alabama, and let’s just say that the passion for college football in this state is extremely high.”
Brent Buchanan, a GOP pollster in Montgomery, said Tuberville is “holding true to this form” by speaking his mind in a “says it like it” approach that Alabama Republicans appreciate.
Said Buchanan, “It’s the same reason Donald Trump is so popular (in Alabama).”
Tuberville, for instance, has taken questions and provided his viewpoints on the January 6 insurrection at the nation’s Capitol building. Tuberville was on the receiving end of a phone call from President Donald Trump at the same time that senators were being told to evacuate the building after a large group of pro-Trump supporters stormed the historic building.
Trump, before the November election, endorsed Tuberville and urged voters to support, “the coach.”
Said Buchanan, “So long as Tuberville sticks with football metaphors, he’ll be able to communicate to any Alabamian to get a message across.”