U.S. Senator John Warner Chooses Rotunda as Backdrop to Announce Retirement

Aug. 31, 2007 — With a nod to the “hallowed ground” of the University of Virginia, a set of modest, hand-written remarks and a simple, “I have done my best,” Virginia Senator and U.Va. Law School alumnus John W. Warner used the Rotunda as a backdrop Friday to announce one of the most important decisions of his life: his intention to retire from the U.S. Senate following the completion of his fifth term, on Jan. 6, 2009.

“This university laid an essential part of [the] foundation for my eventually becoming your U.S. Senator…. As I now add up all the years of public service, it totals 45 years,” Warner said at the outdoor news conference.

The event was attended by more than four dozen members of the print and broadcast media, more than 220 spectators and a handful of the senator’s personal friends. “I’m quietly going to step aside and clear the way for others…. How fortunate, how blessed I have been,” he said.

Throughout the 45-minute remarks, delivered in scorching heat, under sunny August skies, Warner made numerous references to his fondness for U.Va., Charlottesville, and the Commonwealth of Virginia.

“The communities of Charlottesville, Amherst and Lexington are, to me, hallowed grounds. My ancestors on my father’s side go back many generations in Amherst; Lexington is home to Washington and Lee University, where my father graduated in 1903 and [where] I, following Naval service, graduated in 1949; and then to Charlottesville where I entered the Law School,” said Warner.

Warner recounted having attended the law school in his first year but then having to leave to serve in Korea. When he returned, Warner said, the transition from his duties as a young officer to that of a student was difficult.

"Had it not been for the strong commitment of the dean of the law school and the commitment of about six of the professors, I simply would not have been able to make that readjustment," Warner said. "By virtue of finishing that law school, this University together with Washington and Lee (his undergraduate alma mater) and my service to my country laid the foundation for this moment when I stand here as a United States Senator."

Warner began his afternoon press conference by thanking U.Va. President John T. Casteen III, several former University presidents, including Colgate W. Darden Jr. and U.Va. politics professor Larry Sabato, for their friendship and support during his career. 

Commenting on his decision to hold this press conference at U.Va., Warner noted that he had a longstanding invitation from officials at the University to announce, on U.Va.’s Grounds – whenever the time was right for him – his decision to retire from the U.S. Senate.

“One’s achievements in life are largely owed to all who helped along the way,” said Warner.  “That is why I share with you today my lifetime of gratitude for what I learned in Virginia’s educational institutions…. They forged my character. They forged my sense of value.”

Warner’s ties to the University of Virginia run deep. He is a 1953 graduate of U.Va.’s School of Law, and several members of his family also attended the University as undergraduates, including his brother and his son.

“I close with a quote from a founding father of our nation and the founding father of the University of Virginia, Mr. Jefferson,” said Warner. “‘There is a fullness of time when men should go, and not occupy too long the ground to which others have the right to advance.’ Together with my family, I have decided to follow this sage, fair wisdom and yield the right ‘to advance.’”

His decision to retire brings to a close a distinguished 30-year career in national politics. The 80-year-old Warner was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and he has been one of the nation’s most influential Republicans on military issues.