Congressional visit for Twelve Bridges

By: Brandon Darnell, News Messenger Reporter
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Twelve Bridges Middle School students received answers firsthand Friday about the economy, education and the American system of government from Congressman Tom McClintock. “This is your future,” McClintock said to the students, urging them to now take an active part in government. McClintock, a Republican elected in November, is the Congressman representing the Fourth District, which includes Lincoln. “I’ve made it a point to visit as many eighth-grade classes as I can,” McClintock told the News Messenger. “They’re in the middle of their studies on the Constitution and American government.” McClintock spoke for about 45 minutes Friday to the approximately 60 students in the multipurpose room at Twelve Bridges Middle School. Most of those students will travel to Washington, D.C., in June for a field trip to see the nation’s capital. During Friday’s talk, McClintock outlined the basic system of government and why it exists, focusing on checks and balances. McClintock explained checks and balances with the story of two siblings arguing over a piece of pie and the solution having one sibling cut the piece in half and the other choose which piece to eat. “The self-interest of one checks the self-interest of the other,” McClintock said. Principal Stacey Brown said he thought McClintock did a good job of relating major issues to the students. “He was very good at using analogies the kids could relate to,” Brown said. The overriding theme in McClintock’s speech was to pay attention to history. “Everything we’re dealing with today has been debated over and over again,” McClintock said, explaining that there are always two groups of people – those who want to be left alone and those who want to tell others what to do. “It’s not Republicans versus Democrats,” McClintock said. “It’s those two groups of people.” McClintock pointed out that the American government was formed to protect the rights of the citizens – rights that are bequeathed to everyone at birth – including those rights Thomas Jefferson wrote in the Declaration of Independence – life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The preservation of those rights, according to McClintock, is up to the younger generation. He stressed the students’ need for getting involved, citing his own involvement in writing letters to the editor when he was 14 years old. After his speech, McClintock took questions from the students on a variety of topics. Some of the questions were easier to answer than others and the students learned that McClintock was never interested in sports with balls but prefers SCUBA diving, camping and hiking; he voted for John McCain but he hopes President Barack Obama is successful in bringing the country out of the recession and that he doesn’t have a home in Washington, D.C. – just an apartment. One student asked what McClintock thought about the bank bailout. “I think the bailout is unconscionable,” McClintock said. “I’ve voted against it every time it’s come up. People have the right to make bad decisions but they need to live with the results of those decisions.” Another student asked if the congressman plans on soon introducing any bills. McClintock replied that he is working on a bill that will, if passed, allow homeowners to withdraw money from individual retirement accounts tax-free to pay their mortgages and keep from losing their homes. Eighth-grader Mandisa Cox asked McClintock for his opinion on California’s schools and if there’s anything that can improve them. “California schools used to be very good,” McClintock said. “That’s not the case today. There’s too much regulation in the education code and that’s the basic problem.” While in school during the 1960s, McClintock said, teachers had full control of the classroom but everything now is regulated by the education code. McClintock also advocated for more pay for the better teachers while the ones who aren’t good should be paid less or let go. Mandisa said she understood what McClintock was saying and that he made a good point. “I liked how he talked to us about the reason why he wants to change things,” said eighth-grader Ashley Dominici. “I felt like he took our opinions seriously.” Garrett Butts, another eighth-grader, said McClintock did a good job relating the problems the country is facing, specifically the economy. “It actually makes sense,” Garrett said. “Most kids don’t have parents that explain to them what the problem is and he did a good job of explaining the value of the dollar.” Garrett referred to a portion of McClintock’s speech in which he described prosperous growth as a buyer paying $1 for a cup of coffee – with each party getting more out of the deal than what they put into it. “I thought it was great,” Principal Brown said. “He catered to the period of U.S. history the eighth graders are studying, so when he mentioned Jefferson and Madison and Franklin and the Federalist Papers, they knew exactly what he was talking about.” Brandon Darnell can be reached by e-mail at