Congressman discusses America with students


Melissa Irish

Nebraska Representative Jeff Fortenberry reaches out to the crowd of students gathered in the Bellevue West auditorium.

Melissa Irish, Features Editor

U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry spoke to many Bellevue West students April 12 regarding the subject of our country and his role in its leadership.

The opportunity for the Nebraska representative to visit Bellevue West arose after teacher Louis Harrison had his AP Government students write to the congressman.  Fortenberry published his responses in a personalized YouTube video, but the correspondence did not stop there.

“Then I got an email saying that the congressman would love an opportunity to come talk with some of your students,” Harrison said.  “I was like, ‘Yeah, we’d love to have him!’ but I wasn’t sure if they were talking about just my AP classes or a bigger thing.  I never really got a clear answer on what they wanted.  We ended up just deciding to invite seniors and make it voluntary.”

When the day came, many others joined the willing seniors, especially social studies classes.  Fortenberry walked amongst the audience instead of standing at the podium as he talked and prompted the students with questions.

“I feel like him being out and interacting with the crowd was a much better choice,” senior Phillip Marion said.

One interesting subject that arose during the presentation was the stress that accompanies being part of the House of Representatives.  He said it felt like a major decision whenever he checked into the building.  However, he felt that it was the responsibility that made it worth it.

“Responsibility is two things,” Fortenberry said in an interview following the assembly.  “It is very weighty but it’s also very awesome in the sense that you’ve been entrusted with this gift of leadership to try to make things better for everyone.”

In the same interview, Fortenberry expressed that he enjoyed speaking with the students.

“My primary responsibility and idea was to have a conversation about America,” Fortenberry said.  “Where our government came from, who we are, and what ought we to do. I think it was a great conversation with a lot of good interactions, very proud of the young people for their eagerness.”

According to various students, he achieved that goal through his interactive speaking style and anecdotes.

“I think he kept it upbeat and to the interest of the age group he was talking to,” sophomore Jediza McLey said.

The overall consensus was that the students wished there was more time for questions.  However, as his constituents, students can email the congressman with follow-up questions.

“Even though I don’t agree with a lot of his policy, I feel like he was somebody I can respect,” senior Vartika Dubey said.

Students can contact Jeff Fortenberry through his website or at (202) 225-4806.