U.S. Representative Mike Honda stopped by Santa Clara University last month to help students gain a better understanding of Congress, especially for Professor James Cottrill’s class whose students play the roles of members of Congress and respond to hypothetical bills throughout the quarter.
“My main motivation was to allow students to speak to an actual member of Congress about the day-to-day responsibilities and pressures faced by members of Congress as they try to represent their constituencies,” says Cottrill.
Honda discussed how he became involved in politics, the importance of integrity, and working across party lines. He also fielded questions from students who asked about everything from national security to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s future.
Sach Egan, who is a junior studying economics and political science, asked Honda to share his thoughts on minority candidates, such as Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal and South Carolina Governor-elect Nikki Haley, who change their name and religious beliefs for the sake of running for political office.
Honda responded that all American citizens need to be more accepting of individuals from diverse backgrounds and work together to create the kind of change this nation wants. Although those words were inspiring enough, Egan was moved when Honda later approached him.
“Congressman Honda put his arm on my shoulder, and said, ‘Hey, don’t change, and just do the right thing.’ Simple as these words may have been, I didn’t take them lightly. They reminded me that, although we could sit for hours discussing the challenges presented against progress and change, ultimately it would be up to us to make things happen,” says Egan.
Although scheduling Honda took several tries and a few years, Cottrill hopes to invite more members of Congress from the Bay Area. Students agree that having more opportunities to meet government leaders can have a greater and lasting impression than reading about them in their books or learning about them from their professors.
“I absolutely think more politicians should come speak to students, especially as young voters who are still in many ways developing beliefs and opinions. This is an environment where people are interested in learning and asking questions, and I think every politician could benefit from that,” says Kurt Wagner, a communication junior.
“Active, hands-on learning is often thought of as being important, but I believe that hearing the insights and inspirations of leaders who are out there ‘in the trenches’ is also paramount,” says Egan.