By John J. Duncan Jr.
My father told me many years ago that people forget you when you leave office faster than the ripples disappear when you throw a rock in the water.
Former Congressman John Kasich said a friend of his told him, “When you leave office you won’t need a phone, because no one will call you and you won’t need to call anyone.”
And Kasich added that during his last year in Congress he was invited to more than 40 Christmas parties. His first year out, he was invited to two, and one of them was his own.
So, I have been pleasantly surprised at how nice people have been to me since I retired and how many lunches and events of all types to which I have been invited.
I think the transition has been easier for me than for many who leave Congress because I didn’t expect very much and, more importantly, because not one time in my 30 years in the House did I ever consider Washington as home.
The best decision I ever made was when I told my late wife I wanted our kids to be raised in Tennessee and she agreed. They visited Washington several times, but they went to school in Knox County.
I am sure former Vice President Gore was surprised when he lost Tennessee. But he should not have been.
He was born and raised in Washington and both he and his kids all went to exclusive, very expensive private schools there. As far as I know, none of them live in Tennessee now, although they may visit occasionally.
My family and closest friends have always been in Knoxville, and we have spent all of our holidays here.
A friend of Sen. Mitch McConnell once told me that Sen. McConnell had gotten where he is by living, eating, and breathing politics 24 hours a day, seven days a week, ever since he was in high school.
I was always very grateful for being allowed to serve in Congress, and I took it very seriously and worked very hard at it, but I am glad it was not the only thing in my life.
I tried very hard to be a better husband and father then a congressman.
I tried to never miss a vote, but I caught the first plane out every week and ended up spending slightly more time in Tennessee than in Washington. This was better for me and my family, but it also made me more accessible to my constituents. Now I am enjoying and trying very hard to be a good grandfather to my nine grandchildren, all of whom live in Knoxville.
I picked up Zane Jr., 8, and his brother Miles, 5, at school a few weeks ago.
Zane said, “Papa, when I am old enough to get my own house, and if you’re still alive, you could live with me.”
Miles immediately said, “Zane, he couldn’t do that. He would be with Papa,” his mother Hallie’s grandfather who passed away a couple of years ago.
My oldest grandson, Beau, who is 17 now, sent me a two-page letter a few weeks ago that I will treasure until the day I die.
He is in a class at Halls High School that was assigned to write a letter to someone who had been a big influence on his life, and he wrote about many things we had done together.
Finally, at the close of my career in Washington, Ryan Girdusky, a New Yorker I have still never met, wrote a very nice column in The Week Magazine.
He said: “Duncan belongs to a brand of conservatism that dates back to the Eisenhower era, one that regularly opposed both military-industrial complex and big business. He looked out for the interests of Main Street instead of Wall Street and voted to protect America’s liberty and security at home instead of traveling the world and search of monsters to destroy.”
He added that I had voted against the big business bailouts and advocated “for the working class instead of Wall Street, K Street, or weapons developers who live in and around Washington, D.C.” And that I “showed bravery, conviction, and dedication to the idea of limited government at home and abroad.”