A Dispatch from Pelotonia (feat. Sen. Rob Portman)
Paul Dougherty ’13 filed this for us yesterday. He’s asked us to tell you that you can still donate to the Kenyon College Peleton. All money donated goes directly to research at the James Cancer Center in Columbus because the operational costs of the event are underwritten by corporate sponsors.
Yesterday, despite the gray skies, Kenyon was transformed into the epicenter of a great cause carried out by good-doers decked out in lycra. One of these riders was Sen. Rob Portman (R-OH), who has participated in every Pelotonia except for one (he had broken his collar bone and not everyone can ride like the Schleck brothers). As of Thursday, though, many around the country would have expected Portman to be elsewhere today — namely Norfolk, Va., where Gov. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, announced his running mate as Portman was en route to Gambier.
Wandering through the crowd in the misty rain, I ran into Portman’s brother, William “Wym” Portman ’77 (he used to live in the Bexleys). Their mother, a former Kenyon trustee, passed away from cancer, so Pelotonia holds a very special place in both of their hearts. The brothers finished the Columbus to Gambier leg “at the same time.” Wym introduced me to the Senator and we briefly spoke in the shadow of Ascension Hall as AVI workers scurried back and forth with platters of food for the hungry riders.
Portman believes in Pelotonia, he said. His own team raised a very generous amount of money (nearly $8,000, according to pelotonia.org) for cancer research at the James. (As someone whose sister passed away from a rare form of cancer, I can say that this kind of money really helps target the lesser-known cancers for which there might not be a large enough market to garner the research needed.) Beyond Pelotonia being a great cause, Portman said it was a “beautiful day for biking.” He was right, as the rain had largely held off as the riders arrived in Gambier, and the temperature had remained cool. A biker for 10 years (“since my knees made it too difficult for me to run”), today was quite fun for the Portman, and having his brother there clearly made the ride more personal.
In light of the events in Virginia that morning, when many were surprised to see Rep. Paul Ryan joining Mitt Romney on stage instead of Portman, our conversation naturally turned to politics. Portman described Romney’s pick of Ryan as “terrific,” going on to say that Ryan is an “old friend” and “articulate.” He is looking forward to the race really hitting its stride, as he is the Ohio chair of Romney’s campaign.
Looking to the future, the Republican senator is all about change: “We must retool,” he told me, with specific reference to taking the deficit to task and reforming the tax code. Portman feels that Ryan’s budget and Romney’s economic plan are “close if not identical” and will be just the kind of “fresh approach” this country needs.
For my final question, as I didn’t want to hound Portman all afternoon, I asked how he saw Kenyon’s role in the country and where he saw our graduates heading off to when May 18 rolls around in 279 days. Himself a Dartmouth grad, Portman said that Kenyon was a “treasure of Ohio” and one of “the best schools,” and that our graduates would do amazing things.