Former Board of Regents President David Miles shares tight bond with Tim Kaine

Miles on Democratic vice presidential hopeful: 'He's good people'

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The guy David Miles met back in 1979 as a first-year student at Harvard Law School never mentioned political aspirations, partisan objectives, or White House dreams.

Tim Kaine, rather, was a bright but down-to-earth natural friend who ended up in the same orientation group and class section as Miles, a Des Moines-based businessman and attorney who spent six years on the Board of Regents, has served 13 years on the Drake University Board of Trustees, and recently was named chair of the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges.

As first-year classmates, Miles and Kaine lived a few dorm rooms apart. By year four, they were living in the same house with two other guys. On the last day of their Harvard experience, they threw a party, and Kaine made a mixed tape.

Miles ended up with the tape, which he held on to “as a memento of our time together” and hopes to dig up one day. But the two have continued collecting memories in the 37 years since they met, getting together three to four times a year — even more of late — for hiking trips, camping expeditions, family vacations, or occasional meals together as Kaine’s schedule allows.

In fact, 20 years ago to the day that Kaine on July 27 accepted the Democratic nomination for vice president, he dipped his bike tire into the Mississippi River after finishing RAGBRAI with Miles and five other friends.

“He’s incredibly bright, incredibly funny, and more interested in what’s on your mind than on his,” Miles said of his friend. “He asks great questions and is just as common as can be.”

So when Miles heard Kaine was Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s choice for vice president, he was “ecstatic.”

“I feel the country would be very fortunate if he were in the vice president position,” Miles said. “He cares about all the right things.”

Although Miles said Kaine never hinted of political aspirations while back at Harvard, he’s not surprised that’s the path Kaine took.

“He was always more interested in social justice issues and public policy than maybe the typical student,” Miles said, adding those are the interests that drive him still today.

“It’s not about him, it’s about what good he can do for other people,” Miles said. “You never hear him talk about what his official title or office is. It’s getting the work done, and trying to make the world a better place.”

Miles, who at times over the years has traveled with Kaine on his various campaigns and plans to do so in the coming months, got to sit in the “family box” at the recent Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia.

At breakfast the morning after Kaine’s speech, Miles said, friends and family were laughing at the social media explosion of “dad jokes” the vice presidential candidate had sparked.

“Tim Kaine is that soccer dad who can sing along to any rap song, but hums the cuss words,” one person wrote on Twitter.

“Tim Kaine will be driving you TO and FROM the prom, mister,” another person wrote.

“We thought they were hilarious,” Miles said, noting that Kaine and his wife Anne Holton, stayed up into the early morning hours one night reading them. “They were enjoying them too.”

And, Miles said, they sort of ring true — “if your dad was completely committed to public service and had all the chops to deliver on that.”

“He’s good people,” Miles said. “He’s more than good people, because he’s brilliant. But he’s also just good people.”

Miles said he’s personally experienced Kaine’s “Of course I’ll drive you to the airport Monday morning” attitude. And once, when they were hiking together in Virginia in 2014, they went into a general store and a cashier said to Kaine, “I remember you. Weren’t you lieutenant governor once?”

“He just smiled and said, ‘Thanks for remembering that,’” Miles said. “Since then, he had been governor and chair of the DNC and was a sitting senator. But he just said, ‘Thanks for remembering that.’”

Miles said he would worry about the mudslinging and hateful attacks leveled during presidential campaigns, but Kaine has a history of maintaining perspective and staying resolute.

“Tim is fine,” Miles said. “He knows what’s important and what’s not, and he doesn’t let small things get under his skin.”

As for Kaine and Clinton’s prospects, Miles admitted he’s no expert but does have his friend’s track record to go on.

“Tim has always run as an underdog — he’s had a lot of tight races,” Miles said. “And he’s 8-0. So I think he’ll prevail.”

Miles said he plans to do what he can to help make that a reality by advocating for Kaine’s abilities and leadership qualities on the campaign trail and by fundraising.

“He’s made it clear that he would like us to come and travel with him some,” Miles said. “And Iowa is a battleground state. If he can get to Iowa … we will certainly try to hold a fundraiser for him.”

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