“If I were to focus on the real question, it is what is the role of federal government?” remarked junior U.S. Senator from Delaware Chris Coons about the current political atmosphere in Washington. The Senator spoke on Widener Law’s Delaware campus at a special breakfast on the morning of Monday, September 19th to kick off the Faculty Development series for the 2011-12 academic year.
Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development Andrew L. Strauss
offered a brief, general welcome before turning the program over to Dean Linda L. Ammons
, who introduced Senator Coons, saying, “Ladies and gentlemen, without further ado, from the great state – the first state – of Delaware, our Senator, Chris Coons.”
Senator Coons spoke candidly about his experiences in Congress since being elected to the Senate in 2010 during a special election to succeed Vice President Joe Biden. He spoke briefly about the four committees – Budget, Foreign Relations, Judiciary, and Energy and Natural Resources – on which he currently serves.
He focused on his work with the Judiciary committee, saying of the judicial nomination process, “I think that the level of obstructionism has slowly ramped up over the last several congresses.” He also touched on potential challenges to Delaware’s position in the area of corporate law and governance, noting that some officials from other states would prefer to not to have to defer in matters such as corporate bankruptcies.
The greatest thrust of the Senator’s remarks, however, returned to the need for civil discourse within federal government, and in particular the Senate. “We’re not really listening to each other,” he said of posturing ahead of the next election cycle, and added that willingness to compromise “is the spirit that we most need to return to the Senate.”
Following his remarks, the Senator took a few questions from the audience. The questions touched on a range of topics including the so-called “Buffet Rule” proposed by the President, the Senator’s views on the filibuster, and climate change. Dean Ammons asked a final question about what Widener Law could do to be more helpful to Delaware and to the nation.
In his response to the question, the Senator noted that he felt legal clinics were an imperative part of legal education that challenged students to look for ways to contribute to real world solutions. Praising Widener Law’s clinical programs, he shared a bit about his own law school clinical experience at Yale serving clients in landlord-tenant disputes, saying, “Were it not for the clinic, I wouldn’t have stayed in law school.”
A graduate of Amherst College, Senator Coons earned his M.A.R. from Yale Divinity School and a J.D. from Yale Law School. He spent eight years as in-house counsel for W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. In 2000, he was elected president of the New Castle County Council. He served for four years before being elected New Castle County Executive in 2004. In 2008, he was reelected as New Castle County Executive, serving for two more years before running for Senator in the special election.