Senator Angus King spoke to students in various history and world politics classes at Windham High School on Wednesday via Skype from Washington D.C. The hundred students in attendance listed respectfully as Senator King spoke about his job in the Senate and then answered questions from selected students.
King told the students that his primary role was that of advocacy. He spends three or four days a week in Maine and the rest of the time in Washington D.C. working on his many committees like the Armed Services Committee or the Intelligence Committee to name a few. He said participating in hearings is his favorite part of the job.
“I enjoy the chance to ask questions,” he told the students. He has 10 to 12 hour days, but feels that the issues he deals with are all important and challenging.
“I’m delighted to have a chance to chat,” he told them.
The first question asked was about health insurance. In each of his answers he spoke about the laws, the existing programs and what might happen with the new administration. “Not having health insurance is bad for your health,” he said. People will put off going to the doctors, having tests or getting treatment without insurance.
He answered a question about our country’s debt. “Right now we are borrowing money to run the government already,” he said. Raising taxes or cutting taxes will come back on to the families. “It’s just going to make your life difficult 10 years down the road.”
Throughout the question and answer session, King spoke to the class as adults. It was obvious they already understood many of the issues.
“The depth of questions and level at which they’re paying attention has increased,” said King’s regional representative Travis Kennedy. “I’m very impressed.”
King has been doing these talks to schools since he first took office as a senator. It was the first time that students at Windham High School were able to use technology to have a 1 on 1 conversation, remotely, with their senator.
King has always been a supporter of technology, introducing laptops at the middle school level for each student while he was governor. Through technology, King is able to reach out to hundreds of students in between meetings and hearings on Capitol Hill.
Other questions asked were about marijuana legalization, of which, King hopes that Maine will take lessons learned in Colorado and California to make it a smooth transition; Illegal immigration, where 97.5 percent of US citizens are descended from immigrants. He also stated that Maine needed people to come here to keep the economy going. We can’t build a wall around Maine and expect things to keep going, he said. He also noted that Americans won seven Nobel Prizes and six of the recipients were recent immigrants; One student asked about potential military conflicts. With China and Russia building up their militaries, King worries about an accident escalating into a war; How to prepare for a terrorist attack. There is a fine line between protecting our freedom, not turning into a police state, he told them; Gun control can be accomplished by using common sense; Minimum wage is okay as long as it is phased in and small business owners are watched out for; Drug testing for Welfare recipients is a hard one for King to answer, he said. “I’d like to hear arguments on both sides.”
Affirmative action and securing our borders were the final two questions.
Social studies teacher Jeffrey Neal arranged the event. He has taken classes on field trips to see senators speak, but has never used technology to create a “FDR fireside chat” atmosphere, he said. The questions were determined by the students, he added.
Students in the various classes will have the opportunity to discuss their experience with their fellow students and teachers.