Heard on the Hill

Take Five: Sheldon Whitehouse

The senator finds a way to get his ocean fix while in D.C.

In Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse's office is a picture of former President Franklin Roosevelt, with a hand-signed note to Whitehouse's grandfather, also named Sheldon Whitehouse, who served as a Foreign Service Officer as minister to Guatemala from 1930 to 1933 and as minister to Colombia from 1933 to 1934. (Al Drago/CQ Roll Call)

In this week's Take Five, Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse , D-R.I., talks about birds, boats and Newport.   

Q : You traveled a lot when you were growing up; what do you think was your favorite location?  

A : I was a Foreign Service brat. Laos. I spent a year there before going off to college, so I was at an age where I was kind of young enough to do what I wanted and be free and easy but at the same time able to maneuver on my own. I had the time there to kind of soak in the place a bit and it was also a really fascinating time in the history of Laos because we were pulling out and we tried to organize the joint government, which failed.  

Q : I hear you birdwatch; where do you do this?  

A : I’m not a birdwatcher in the sense that I have binoculars, go to places, keep track and have my list. So, real birdwatchers would scorn me for saying that I was a birdwatcher. But there are some really terrific, interesting birds that I’ve had the chance to run across. I just got back from Delaware, where we saw the red knot landing, which is a very ordinary, plain little shorebird that just happens to fly to Delaware from Patagonia with one stop in Brazil. So, I mean, how can you not love a bird that can do that?  

Q : You got your college degree in architecture; what did you originally want to do with that?  

A : Yes, architecture and history of art. I thought I was going to be an architect. I must have had some hesitation because I went to work for an architect before going off to architecture school. During the course of a year, he informed that I was a really fine young man but I should look elsewhere for my future. So, I did.  

Q : As an insider, what makes Newport , Rhode Island, so special?  

A : I think the really special thing about Newport is what the world knows it for and that’s as a spectacular sailing location. I have a little old sailboat that I can get out on the Narragansett Bay and it’s a beautiful thing.  

Q : How do you cope with being so landlocked here in D.C.?  

A : Get home, all the time. Actually, I went down to see the Hawaiian boat at the Washington Canoe Club . Today, I guess the Hawaiian boat is leaving but [it's canoe] that sailed all the way to the Potomac from Hawaii. So, that’s as close as I got to anything oceanic.  

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