When Representative Jim Clyburn visited Heathwood on February 26, he offered students in Mrs. Firetag’s A.P. US Government and Politics class a chance to dialog about our nation’s government with someone who’s been on its front lines for a quarter century.
Representative Clyburn attended Upper School Morning Meeting and took part in a panel discussion about the U.S. Congress. The student panelists were seniors Justice Hill, Wallace Stuckey, Lawson Leidinger, Marie Charlotte Demetriades, Wlliam McKelvey, and Jake Sawyer.
The nature of government service was on display even in the session’s timing—it was originally scheduled to take place in late January but had to be rescheduled because the government shutdown kept Congressman Clyburn in Washington.
The questions the students asked Representative Clyburn included:
1. You have served in the United States House of Representatives for twenty-five years, and have held numerous leadership positions. Can you point to the one accomplishment that you are most proud of?
2. Being South Carolina’s only Democrat in Congress, do you find it difficult to voice your opinion on issues that hold the most meaning to you? Do you ever feel as if you are at a disadvantage being a Democratic representative in a largely Republican state?
3. In the wake of the recent mass shooting in Florida, what do you personally believe is the appropriate response from Congress? Is there legislative action that can be taken on gun control that would receive bipartisan support?
4. Exactly one year after President Trump’s inauguration, the government shut down, as the Senate was unable to reach a compromise concerning federal funds. Party leaders blamed each other, with House Speaker Paul Ryan calling on Senate Democrats to “open this government back up” and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling on the president to “get everyone in a room” and lead. How are the upcoming elections affecting legislators’ efforts to follow the lead of their parties?
5. In the media, there is constant mention of divisiveness within Congress and of legislators being unwilling to “reach across the aisle”. However, many view you as a legislator willing to work with Republican members. Do you think that the media gives Americans a false sense of divisiveness within Congress, or overall is Congress as polarized as it seems in the news?
6. You recently sponsored a bill, H.R. 4093: Campus Hate Crimes Act, which restricts federal funds granted under Title IV to any college campus that does not “adopt and implement a program to prevent and adequately respond to hate crimes.” Given your support of this bill, what is your opinion about the constitutionality of restricting hate speech in public universities, or in general?
7. As president of the NAACP youth chapter at 12 years old, did you ever experience racism firsthand? Was there a significant incident that inspired you to stand up for justice, and make such a profound change at such a young age? If there is one thing you would like to see the government do to further advance the Civil Rights cause, what would it be? What can individual citizens (even HS students) do to help further/promote equality in our country?