A behind-the-scenes force on Capitol Hill is retiring after 26 years on the job. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell paid tribute Tuesday to Senate Page School principal Kathryn Weeden in a speech on the floor.
“For more than a quarter century, principal Weeden has been a constant anchor in a place where rotation and change are par for the course,” the Kentucky Republican said.
The Senate Page School educates the batches of 30 high school juniors that rotate on and off of Capitol Hill throughout the year. The pages go to class early in the morning and late at night, when they’re not helping to deliver correspondence, transport bills and prepare the chamber.
Pages are part of the fabric of the Senate, answering phones, delivering messages for staffers and members, holding doors and monitoring floor action. A handful of pages can often be found perched in the well of the chamber whenever the Senate is in session.
The House page program was shuttered in 2011, and while congressional leaders pointed to advancing technology and cost, there was also scandal.
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In 2006, Florida Republican Mark Foley resigned after it was revealed that he had sent lewd Internet and text messages to pages. In 1983, Illinois Republican Dan Crane and Massachusetts Democrat Gerry E. Studds were reprimanded for engaging in sexual conduct with teenage pages.
But the Senate page program has survived the internet age and avoided the scandal for which the House program became notorious.
In 2009, Senate pages were part of an H1N1 swine flu outbreak, but the page school soldiered on under Weeden’s leadership.
“Keeping this unique arrangement running smoothly is less than an ordinary job,” McConnell said, calling it “more like a life’s mission.”
He praised the longtime educator for running the page school with competence, professionalism and grace.
“If I had to guess, a large share of that grace was spent in 5 a.m. meetings most mornings. That’s typically when she would first encounter what I’m sure were the most chipper and alert 16- and 17-year olds around,” the majority leader joked.
He said that while the hundreds of pages who have studied and worked under Weeden’s leadership may not miss the early morning academics, they’ll miss her.
McConnell referenced comments from recent Senate pages who talked about Weeden taking the time to check in with them and to talk about their goals for the future, and her wisdom to help them put high school pressures in perspective.
He also heard from her colleagues at the school, who said Weeden “painted a picture that looks something like a mother superior, a no-nonsense administrator, an exacting leader, and a true friend all in one.”
While teaching, guiding, feeding and caring for so many young people would be an accomplishment anywhere, McConnell said, Weeden’s contributions were special in other ways too.
“Her legacy will have helped form and shape America’s civic future for the better,” he said. “Because she gave of herself so generously to a special class of young people, those who are so interested in our American government, they just had to come see it firsthand.”