Down-to-earth routines key

Robba Moran doesn’t lead the sort of life many would imagine her to as the wife of U.S. Rep. Jerry Moran, she told those gathered Monday morning in Tabor College’s Wohlgemuth Music Education Center for the opening session of the 60+ Learning in Retirement Program.

While other representatives and their spouses wine and dine away their evenings at galas, Moran attends PTA meetings, she said, and videotapes her daughters’ activities so their father can watch them when he comes home to Hays on the weekends from his Washington, D.C., office.

This choice of lifestyle was intentional, Moran told her audience, as is the positive attitude with which the entire family supports her husband’s congressional career.

“We’ve made conscious choices in our lives so that he can represent you all better,” she said. “And I think so far it’s been very successful.”

Her husband takes seriously his commitment to faithfully represent his constituency, Moran said, and that’s why they’ve chosen to make Kansas their home.

“(Jerry) runs to the post office for me and the grocery store when he’s home,” she said, “so that way he can hear what John Smith has to say about what’s going on with gas prices.”

It’s been good for their two teenage daughters that a life in politics is all their family has ever known, Moran said, ever since her husband launched his career in politics in 1988 and then was elected to the U.S. Congress in 1996 to represent the 69 counties in Kansas’s First District.

“They don’t know their dad any other way than in political life,” Moran said. “There’s never been that point of adjustment.

Their teamwork mentality is what separates her family from those of other politicians, she said, who fail to see it as a chosen privilege to represent one’s state-even if it means riding in 31 parades and attending 21 county fairs, as she and her daughters did in the year her husband was first elected to Congress.

“It’s all about attitude,” she said. “Jerry and I both appreciate the opportunity that Kansans have given us to serve, and have given him to work in Washington on their behalf.”

The role of a politician’s wife was an unexpected one for Moran, who earned a business administration degree from William Jewell College and a law degree from Duke University before meeting her husband while practicing corporate law in Kansas City, she said.

Today, her full-time job is to be the accompanist for the Hays High School vocal music department.

But Moran has always defended the unusual path her family has taken to both friends and to her own daughters, she said.

“No, this is not the law career I thought I was going to have, and this is not what most kids your age are going to be doing,” Moran said she has told her daughters. “But this is fun, we’re doing it for Dad, and you get to throw candy.”

Her husband’s political career has had other perks for the family, she said, including several eventful trips to the White House for tours and other social functions.

“Both of my daughters have gotten to meet President Bush, which is something they’ll never forget,” she said.

But along with the perks of political prominence comes the pressure of being in the public eye more than most, Moran said.

“We develop a thicker skin, because every night I worry about what the Hays Daily News has to say about what Jerry’s doing or saying,” she said.

“When you’re a preacher’s wife or a politician’s wife, everybody’s always looking for you to mess up, or for your kids to mess up.

“I think that’s sad, but true.”

But Moran and her husband have no time just to sit around and worry over public opinion-his two-year congressional terms have kept them blazing the campaign trail and raising funds for expensive TV commercials during the short periods of time Congress is not in session, she said.

“We do have an August recess every year,” she said. “He used to do his 69-county tour in August, so that even when he was not in Washington he was on the road.

“He is home every weekend in Hays,” she added. “But we rarely go to things in Hays because we have 68 other places he needs to be.”

But the need to slow down and be more available to their family during their oldest daughter’s senior year of high school is part of the reason her husband chose not to run for Kansas governor, Moran told her audience.

“We didn’t want to be gone, both of us (during) her entire senior year, on the campaign trail,” she said. “So we made the choice that this year is family year.”

As far as the future, Moran told her audience during the question-and-answer time following her presentation that her husband might take interest in a U.S. Senate position, as the six-year terms are appealing to a family tired of constant campaigning.

But for now, Moran said, her role is to keep supporting her husband in his current position.

And she doesn’t need a silly statute saying that “a member of Congress can accept unlimited volunteer services from you, his spouse,” to motivate her to serve her husband in this way, she said.

“That’s all I’ve done for 21 years, is offer volunteer services,” she said with a laugh. “I just try to keep his feet on the ground and his head from getting too big.”

Ultimately, it’s because her husband’s work is a family affair that he’s enjoyed continued success in his career, Moran said.

“We always made it as, this is what our family does,” she said.

“We do this as a family, because this is what’s best for our family.”

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