Senators’ first jobs: 
Corker picked up trash, Cornyn pumped gas

Working in Congress can be tough, but it might be a breeze compared to some of the jobs lawmakers had before they came to the Capitol. With all the talk about the American Jobs Act, ITK wanted to know how some senators got their start.

Sen. John Cornyn’s (R-Texas) first paying gig was pumping gas at a San Antonio station in high school.

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Sen. Mary Landrieu (D) put her swimming skills to use as a kid. “When I was 12 or 13, I started a little swimming clinic in my neighborhood,” says the Louisiana senator. Landrieu employed her best friend, whom she admits didn’t even know how to swim: “Her job was to sit by the side of the pool and tell me if any of the children went under the water, and I would save them.”

While Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) was busy delivering The Washington Post for his first gig, which he says with a smile “put me off on the wrong foot for the rest of my life,” Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) was getting up close and personal with plenty of pineapples, saying, “I think I was about 15 or 16 — my mother and my aunt came home and announced that they had gotten me a job at a fruit store.”

Despite her boss telling her she was “as green as grass,” Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) says her stint as a waitress at a family friend’s restaurant might have served as the perfect training ground for a future politician: “Part of being a waitress is that you have to approach people you don’t know, talk to them, engage them in conversation and make it worthwhile for them. That’s where I discovered I liked talking to people I don’t know.”

Snowe may have been handling food, but Sen. Dick Lugar was the one gathering it. The Indiana Republican remembers earning 10 cents an hour pulling volunteer corn out of the soybeans on his father’s farm.

And while some say politics can be a dirty business, Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) and Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) know about cleaning up real messes. When he was 13, Corker was “picking up trash at a playground.” 

Graham also got his hands dirty as a janitor at Clemson University. The senator said he learned some important lessons from that summer job, including, “I’m not really good at getting up at 4:30 in the morning.” And as far as cleaning goes, Graham simply says, “That was not a good career path for me.”