Archive for Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Oklahoma politician to deliver KU lecture

Former congressman J.C. Watts to speak as part of Vickers series

January 28, 2004


J.C. Watts Jr. calls it the "political treadmill," and he's glad to be through with the exercise.

The former four-term Congressman says he's enjoying time away from the grind of being in Washington -- and glad to be spending time with his family in his native state of Oklahoma.

"I went to see my seventh-grade son play basketball last night," Watts said during a phone interview Tuesday. "When I was in Congress, you would have never caught me in a gymnasium on a Monday or a Tuesday night."

Watts, a 46-year-old Republican, may be done with his political career, but he remains an active speaker and frequent commentator on CNN, CNBC, MSNBC and Fox. That circuit will bring him to Kansas University on Thursday, when he will deliver the Vickers Memorial Lecture at 7:30 p.m. at the Lied Center.

The lecture, titled "Our Nation Today," is free and open to the public.

Though he said he liked to put his "two cents" in on current events, Watts said his new priorities were running JC Watts Companies, which provide business and public relations consulting, and spending time with his family.

"Life's a little more simple these days," he said. "I've got a lot more flexibility in my schedule. The congressional schedule consumes you. Every week, you're faced with, 'Do I honor my congressional responsibilities or my family responsibilities?' Eighty-five percent of the time, the family responsibilities take a back seat."

Watts first gained notoriety in 1980 and 1981, when as a quarterback he guided the University of Oklahoma to consecutive Orange Bowl victories. He then played six seasons in the Canadian Football League.

Former U.S. Congressman J.C. Watts, R-Okla., will speak at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Lied Center.He will be the 36th speaker at the Vickers Memorial Lecture Series at the Kansas University school of business. The series honors J.A. Vickers and Robert F. Vickers Sr., oil executives from Wichita.The series, founded in 1969, has brought speakers such as President George H.W. Bush and Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor.The goal of the series is to "debate or discuss subjects vital to maintaining a free political and market society.

After returning to Oklahoma, Watts was a youth minister for seven years and was elected to the Oklahoma State Corporation Commission in 1990.

He first ran for Congress in 1994 and served until 2003. During that time, he was elected chairman of the Republican Conference in 1998, the fourth-highest leadership position in the U.S. House, and he served as honorary co-chairman of the Republican National Convention in 2000.

Watts will campaign for President Bush this year. He said he expected Massachusetts Sen. John Kerry to win the Democratic presidential nomination, though North Carolina Sen. John Edwards and Wesley Clark, the retired general from Arkansas, still could make a run at the nod.

But, Watts said, Bush's opponent doesn't matter to those helping with the president's campaign, even though most of the Democratic candidates have spent their time bashing Bush.

"I think the president is prepared," Watts said. "What they'll do, from talking to the folks on the campaign team, is take this time to put an infrastructure in place, to make sure they've got the resources so the American people can hear the rest of the story."

Watts said he's glad to return to KU without football game-day responsibilities.

"Most of the time I was on campus" previously, he said, "I was running for my life."

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