By Judy Kurtz
Despite saying that much of what happens on Capitol Hill “looks like kabuki,” Mike Rowe is making a trip to Washington to testify before Congress a second time.
The former host of “Dirty Jobs,” who just inked a deal for a new show with CNN, will testify at a House Committee on Natural Resources hearing next Tuesday about opportunities for skilled trade workers.
“But look,” he continued, “I wouldn’t blame them because so much that goes on on the Hill, to me anyway, looks like kabuki.”
The reason he does it, he says, is for the exposure his causes get after he visits the nation’s capital. He notes a YouTube video of when he spoke to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation in 2011, which garnered more than a quarter of a million views.
“I don’t think anything directly happens because of testimony, but the tertiary effect is pretty cool,” the 52-year-old exclaimed.
“We need to affirmatively get some companies in line and the government to make the case for the trades. You’re not going to close the skills gap unless the country has an underlying appreciation for the work that’s being done.”
A trip to the Capitol grounds won’t be Rowe’s only stop while he’s in the District. He’s also one of several celebrities — including Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” “Dancing With the Stars” contestant Danica McKellar and Kareem Abdul Jabbar — participating in this weekend’s FREE USA Science and Engineering Festival. The event, at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, features more than 3,000 hands-on activities for kids and adults and runs from April 26 to 27.
Rowe, whom many might recognize from Ford commercials, says he’ll be speaking to students about ways to achieve science, technology and engineering careers through skilled labor.
“There are going to be astronauts, for instance, at this event. Lots of them. And there will be lines of kids waiting to talk to the astronauts, and that’s great,” Rowe explains.
“It’s just that when you go home to check out the classifieds, you’re not going to see anybody hiring astronauts. You will see people hiring welders. If you really sit down and talk to the astronauts, you’ll find that many of them were mechanical engineers and many got their interest in mechanical engineering through welding.”
The Baltimore native and founder of the mikeroweWORKS Foundation, which “promotes hard work” and awards trade school scholarships, says he actually turned down an invite to one of Washington’s most sought-after events: the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
“It’s kind of tempting, but the truth is, I’ve worked pretty hard to avoid the obvious locales,” Rowe says of the May 3 shindig. When ITK noted that the dinner is one of the hottest tickets among celebrities and journalists, he chuckled, saying, “I try not to behave like a celebrity. I kind of keep my head down.”
Besides, the host of CNN’s yet-to-debut show “Somebody’s Gotta Do It” has been traveling quite a bit for work. “I don’t have any clean clothes,” he said.