Tommy Tuberville’s First Senate Speech: Football Metaphors and Putting “God and Prayer” in Schools
Teaching moral values to children by “putting God and prayer back in school” and providing students with opportunities in technology career programs were among the educational priorities cited by Republican Senator from Alabama Tommy Tuberville during the his first speech in the Senate.
Tuberville, a former head college football coach, also continued to use football metaphors to illustrate his public policy positions on education. He stressed that federal lawmakers must work “as a team” to create more opportunities for Americans.
“This country was built on hard work, it was built on competition, whether commercial or individual,” Tuberville said. “Education and athletics teach you how to compete and how to cringe. Determination. And how to work as a team.
He said opportunities promoted by the federal government should include career technology programs leading to professions with “great pay and great future.” The comments come after Tuberville, on a trip to Mobile, visited a workforce development program at Austal USA.
“To ensure our country remains competitive in the 21st century, we need to promote STEM education for people interested in math and science,” Tuberville said. “To stay strong this country needs welders, plumbers, nurses, equipment operators, electricians and artisans.
He added: “If Democrats want to pass a massive infrastructure bill, they have to ask: who is going to build it?
Tuberville is a member of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee chaired by Democratic Washington Senator Patty Murray.
“I will support technology career programs that prepare skilled workers,” Tuberville said. “Our goal should be to restore America that does things again.”
But Tuberville also pledged to support the institution of “moral values” and prayer in schools, although he did not specify.
He said, “Our children need structure. They must learn right from wrong. I have looked at everything that has happened in education over the past 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 compared to other countries were “unacceptable”.
“Now you can learn anything you want from books,” Tuberville said. “But if you don’t learn to persevere and compete, it’s hard to be successful. Some people in this country think you are owed something just because you live in the United States of America. This country owes you neither work nor wages. This country owes you only one thing and it is an opportunity.
He added: “What’s great about this country is that it also gives you the opportunity to fail. It might sound a little funny coming from a football manager who has spent his entire career trying to win. But here in this country, if you fail, this country will give you a chance to rise up and try to be successful over and over again.
Tuberville’s first Senate speech came nearly a year after he burst onto Alabama politics after winning the most votes among a crowded group of Republicans in the Senate Primary of the GOP March 3, 2020. He continued the impressive performance by easily defeating former US Attorney General Jeff Sessions in the GOP runoff election in July. In November, he won 1.39 million votes to defeat incumbent Democratic Senator Doug Jones, by a margin of 60.1% to 39.7%.
“It’s a lesson in humility,” Tuberville said of the win. “This is an opportunity to serve my country which I respect, cherish and will always honor.”
Tuberville, during the campaign, relied heavily on football metaphors in speeches and public appearances, and the strategy paid off. But he continued to use football metaphors after the election, which has aroused some criticism from the national media, including a reference he made comparing Senate obstruction rules to performing a two-minute drill at the end of a football game.
But experts don’t believe Tuberville’s football talk will tire out voters. Tuberville coached at Auburn from 1999-2008.
“It’s important when you first arrive in the US Senate that you line up with what you understand,” said Jess Brown, retired political science professor at Athens State University. “He understands college football. I don’t think it’s a political responsibility to voters. The only voters that matter (for Tuberville) are in Alabama, and let’s just say the passion for college football in that state is extremely high.
Brent Buchanan, a GOP pollster in Montgomery, said Tuberville “sticks to that form” by voicing his opinion in a “put it like that” approach that Republicans in Alabama appreciate.
Says Buchanan, “This is the same reason Donald Trump is so popular (in Alabama).”
Tuberville, for example, answered questions and gave his take on the January 6 insurgency at the nation’s Capitol. Tuberville was receiving a phone call from President Donald Trump as Senators were told to evacuate the building after a large group of pro-Trump supporters stormed the historic building.
Trump, ahead of the November election, backed Tuberville and urged voters to support “the coach.”
Buchanan said: “As long as Tuberville sticks to football metaphors, he will be able to communicate with any Alabamian to get a message across.”