© 2024 Kansas City Public Radio
NPR in Kansas City
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
Up To Date

Why Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine Owes His 'Egalitarian Spirit' To Kansas City

Luke X. Martin
KCUR 89.3
Sen. Tim Kaine, shown here in KCUR studios, grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, attended Rockhurst High School, and graduated summa cum laude from Mizzou before moving to the East Coast.

Sen. Tim Kaine last called Kansas City home in the 1970s, but he says he still relies on his Midwestern values to guide his politics.

Kaine is Virginia's junior U.S. Senator and was Hillary Clinton's vice-presidential running mate in 2016. But Kaine grew up in Overland Park, Kansas, and this week returned to stump for his old friend from Rockhurst High School, Steve Miller, who is running for Kansas City mayor.

"It was a delightful place to grow up," Kaine says of Kansas City.

"There's more of a kind of egalitarian spirit," he says, compared to the east coast. "I believe that's kind of a Midwestern thing."

That spirit and Rockhurst's ethos of service helped propel Kaine's political career.

Credit Rockhurst High School
Rockhurst High School
Tim Kaine graduated from Rockhurst High School in 1976.

"They really put that thumbprint on us," he says, "and I really thank God that I had that experience."

After he received his bachelor's degree from the University of Missouri, Kaine went on to law school at Harvard and eventually settled in Virginia, where his wife, Anne Holton, was born and raised.

On Friday, Kaine told KCUR's Up To Date, it was "not until I went to law school in the east ... would people say, 'Well, where did you go to college?'" implying a state school on the prairie might not be up to snuff.

Listen to Sen. Kaine's entire conversation with Steve Kraske here.

Kaine was raised by Republican parents in the historically Republican Johnson County, but it was here, too, that the seeds were planted for his center-left trajectory.

"I learned so much from my dad about work ethic, and I also learned the relationship between the owner and labor," says Kaine, whose father owned a unionized iron-working shop. "His attitude was, 'Look, my business acumen will hopefully put those guys' kids through college, and their artistry is going to put you boys through college.'"

For Kaine, Kansas City remains a place to relax and enjoy family.

"I can't go shopping in Richmond without somebody wanting to lobby me about something. [In Kansas City] I can hang out with my folks and, you know, go out and grab a pizza," he says. "It's restful."

This trip may be the exception that proves the rule. Kaine's schedule is jam-packed with campaign stops with Steve Miller.

Luke X. Martin is associate producer of KCUR's Up To Date. Contact him at luke@kcur.org or on Twitter, @lukexmartin.

As culture editor, I oversee KCUR’s coverage of race, culture, the arts, food and sports. I work with reporters to make sure our stories reflect the fullest view of the place we call home, so listeners and readers feel primed to explore the places, projects and people who make up a vibrant Kansas City. Email me at luke@kcur.org.