Moore: Professor. Powerlifter. Politician?

Lia-Michelle Keane '18
Features Editor

A young Professor Moore in 1972.  Virginia Law Weekly

A young Professor Moore in 1972. Virginia Law Weekly

I had the pleasure of first meeting Professor John Norton Moore in December 2017 when I volunteered to promote his possible senatorial bid at the Republican Party of Virginia’s “Advance.” Despite the numerous events on his schedule that weekend, Professor Moore’s calm and genial affect was unshakeable throughout the Advance as he answered hard-hitting questions ranging from his position on foreign policy to his stance on taxes. 

When members of the Law Weekly sat down with Professor Moore over lunch in late January, I learned that his one-hour Saturday morning presentation had enjoyed the highest attendance of any potential candidate at the Advance, an impressive feat for a newcomer in the political arena. Professor Moore spoke candidly about the preparation that he had undertaken leading up to that weekend. According to Professor Moore, he had been contemplating a run for the U.S. Senate since the summer of 2017 after being approached by party leaders in Virginia. Professor Moore indicated that he had also been encouraged to seek a potential Senate seat after watching the uninspiring presidential debates in 2016. In fact, his dissatisfaction with the debates on both sides of the aisle prompted him to write a book, The Presidential Debates: Issues and Questions for the 2016 Elections and Beyond, which emphasizes topics that he believes any candidate should be familiar with. 

By the time he spoke at the Advance, Professor Moore had developed a platform that  focused on issues such as increasing the country’s underlying growth rate; funding medical research for diseases; social security reform; enhancing military resources; and promoting prison reform. With respect to the latter, Professor Moore expressed his concern that politicians have traditionally shied away from discussing, among other things, alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders and also from amending the existing sentencing guidelines as well as other needed changes in the criminal justice system. In Professor Moore’s own words, his platform was largely founded on his goal of preserving the Republican Party for everyone in the nation and attracting a greater number of women and younger voters. 

Photo courtesy of University of Virginia School of Law.

Photo courtesy of University of Virginia School of Law.

Nevertheless, Professor Moore stated that, following the Advance, he made the difficult decision not to pursue a senatorial campaign, a choice that he described as having “broken his heart.” Professor Moore cited the current political climate as having been a significant deterrent, though he said that he loved the experience and wished that he had considered running “twenty years ago.” He strongly encourages UVa Law students with political interests to pursue that route because he believes that this Law School is filled with the best and brightest who possess the integrity necessary to run our country. Moore also indicated that he would like to see more faculty members consider entering politics. He stated that although the process may initially seem mysterious, it is something that reveals itself step by step. 

A brief review of Professor Moore’s résumé, with his five presidential appointments, makes it obvious that he would have brought a tremendous amount of experience and insight to the Senate, though his background also makes him a clear superstar at UVa Law. For instance, during the First Gulf War, Professor Moore served as the principal legal adviser to the Ambassador of Kuwait. His work focused largely on demarcating the boundary between Iraq and Kuwait, and he joked that because most negotiations took place in Geneva, at one point, he had spent “1/40th of his life” in Switzerland. Notably, his position drew the attention of Saddam Hussein who named him before the Iraqi Parliament as a potential target. While most people would be justifiably terrified by this, true to his unflappable demeanor, Professor Moore calmly explained that he had simply responded by removing his addresses and any identifying information about his family and himself from the internet. 

In addition to his role in the Gulf War, Professor Moore also played an instrumental role in rule-of-law talks between the U.S. and the then-U.S.S.R. As the chair of the board of directors at the U.S. Institute of Peace, Professor Moore encouraged the U.S. government to promote democracy and the rule of law. Along with the Deputy Attorney General of the United States, Moore wrote an overview paper that was reviewed by Soviet officials, including a personal spokesman for Mikhail Gorbachev, during a meeting in Moscow. In the overview paper, Professor Moore emphasized the importance of property rights, which he had been told would probably not be received well by the Communist leaders in attendance. In spite of this, according to Professor Moore, the U.S.S.R. representative who responded to his comments on property rights stood up and said, “I’m here to tell you that the lack of property rights has destroyed civil society [in the U.S.S.R.].” Professor Moore described that moment as the signal that revolution had arrived and he sent a cable back to the State Department that “the revolution was here.” The talks that Professor Moore participated in ultimately resulted in negotiations for a charter on democracy known formally as the Copenhagen Document, and colloquially referred to as a modern Magna Carta. 

While one could fill a book with Professor Moore’s impressive professional background, his personal life is equally exciting. In particular, Professor Moore is a renowned competitive powerlifter. He is a six-time member of the U.S. National Powerlifting team and is set to return to the team later this year for the world championships in Finland. Professor Moore started competing on the bench press at 66 years old and within a few years he had joined the U.S. team. He has set two North American record and won multiple U.S. national championships. His personal best lift weighed in at 309 pounds; in competition he has lifted 288 pounds. He holds the unequipped national record for his age group with an in-competition lift of 270 pounds. Along with powerlifting, Professor Moore enjoys sailing and fly fishing, as well as dining at Pomme, a French restaurant in Orange, Virginia, which he highly recommends. 

Although he will not be running for the U.S. Senate, after speaking with Professor Moore at the Advance and during this interview, it is my personal opinion that he exemplifies the most desirable qualities of both a political representative and a UVa Law professor.