Corker grilled by students at Chattanooga Christian School

Corker grilled by students at Chattanooga Christian School

August 24th, 2018 by Meghan Mangrum in Breaking News

Staff photo by Doug Strickland / U.S. Sen. Bob Corker answers questions from students during a visit to Chattanooga Christian School on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018, in Chattanooga, Tenn. Sen. Corker toured the school before participating in the student forum.

Updated at 6:58 p.m. on Friday, August 24, 2018, with more information.


Gallery: Corker at Chattanooga Christian School

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U.S. Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., while speaking to an auditorium full of students Friday, said President Donald Trump "has a tendency to get involved in things that maybe presidents shouldn't get involved in."

The former Chattanooga mayor was in the Scenic City to celebrate the ongoing expansion of Chattanooga Christian School's campus and had been asked by a student about Trump's recent comments about basketball star Lebron James.

"There's something in [Trump's] DNA that causes him to want to pick fights with somebody," Corker responded.

The question came as Corker was grilled by the school's more than 500 high school students on topics ranging from human trafficking and net neutrality, to what led him into public service and his favorite color (blue).

"I thought it was really interesting to have Sen. Corker come by," said Cade Lowrance, a 10th-grader at CCS. "I thought he was really direct when answering our questions."

Lowrance asked the senator what efforts were underway to tackle modern-day slavery and human trafficking.

Corker told the students that was a topic he had talked about with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that very morning, and it was one he had found "young people are incredibly involved in and care about."

The senator did not have a specific message he wanted to impart to the students, Corker told reporters before his question-and-answer sessions. Rather, he said, he just wanted to hear from them.

"I like to talk to people about what it is they have to talk about," he said.

School staff, including President Chad Dirkse and Vice President of Advancement John Stroud, gave the senator and his staff a tour of the school before he met with students.

Over the past year, the school has seen more than $7 million in facility improvements, including adding a new elementary, or lower, school facility, multiple STEM science labs and renovations to common areas across campus.

Chattanooga Christian School is one of the largest private schools in the area, with about 1,275 students enrolled in grades Pre-K through 12th.

One of Corker's stops was in the school's industrial arts and drafting building, where for decades there has been a full-service woodworking shop.

"Not all of our students go to college," Stroud told him during the tour. "So this is a place that is really great for them."

This year, the school is offering an advanced woodworking class for the first time, said teacher David Macallister.

'This class doesn't make functional furniture," he said. "They're predominantly working on projects for the Holiday Market. They are making marketable, sellable items that they will then sell at market price."

Corker told students that when he was their age, all he wanted to do was work in business, but he encouraged them to explore public service or get involved in something bigger than themselves.

"We can all serve other people in our schools and our neighborhoods," he said. "I think there is something that makes us more whole as human beings through a passion that you have that somehow affects other people."

Back in the auditorium, Corker addressed some of the students' questions about the president and his behavior, such as the topic of Trump's recent Twitter posts or comments about James.

"Frankly, he does it to rally his base," Corker said.

"Let LeBron James do what LeBron James does," he added.

In a tweet earlier this month, Trump said: "Lebron James was just interviewed by the dumbest man on television, Don Lemon. He made Lebron look smart, which isn't easy to do."

It's not the first time Corker, who is not seeking re-election, has criticized the president. The two have traded barbs off and on for months, most notably on Twitter last year.

In that exchange Corker said it's "a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning." To which the president replied: "Senator Bob Corker 'begged' me to endorse him for re-election in Tennessee. I said 'NO' and he dropped out (said he could not win without my endorsement)."

School officials and Corker's staff members were impressed by some of the topics in which the students were interested. Dirkse said some of the upper school teachers had put together a set of questions beforehand, but the students were free to ask what interested them.

Corker also met with the middle school students, who asked the senator about what he still hopes to accomplish during his waning days in Washington and what he will do once his time there is up.

Contact staff writer Meghan Mangrum at or 423-757- 6592. Follow her on Twitter @memangrum.