Amy Choate-Nielsen: Leaving Washington: After 18 years in office, Bob Bennett looks to the future
"When I went to Washington, I said, 'I don't want my walls covered with pictures of myself,'" Bennett says, as his grandchildren naturally gravitate into nearby chairs to listen to his story. "I wanted people to see pictures of Utah."
Bennett lives in the house his parents originally built in 1949 in the Avenues. It's a humble one-story rambler with a view of the entire valley, custom glass doors and a hidden china cabinet built into the dining room. He thinks of his parents as he gazes through the floor-to-ceiling windows, and he sees reminders of their thoughtful influence throughout the house.
Across the walls, there's a hand-made quilt, a canvas he bought from a street vendor in Moscow, and another from Vietnam. There's more art in his townhouse in Virginia, where he and his wife will continue to live part-time. The collections are a gallery of his time in office, little scenes and flashes of color that remind him of his travels and home state.
When the legislative session ends, he will begin teaching, lecturing and mentoring at the University of Utah's Hinckley Institute of Politics. He also plans to be a part-time counselor at a Washington, D.C., law firm, join the Bipartisan Policy Center as a resident scholar, and head the Bennett Consulting Group, a group of Washington consultants who intend to join forces in a planned international organization.
"I do not view my departure from the Senate as the end of my career," he says. "I simply view it as a change of venues."
But as his days as a senator quickly fade, some things are already different. The random signs of Senate leadership around the house — needlepoint pillows and collector's stamps scattered here and there — are now souvenirs.
And his role as grandpa has slowly usurped the government. That much was clear as his 11-year-old grandson sat him down for an interview to complete a class assignment that afternoon. They sat under one of his paintings.
"What do they want to know about the Senate?" he asked his grandson.
"Well, it's not — she just said interview someone who is older than you, and I chose you," the little boy replied.
"Oh," Bennett said with a laugh. "I hope you get an A."
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