Norfolk Daily News: Norfolk Catholic gets visit from Fortenberry

Nov 21, 2017
In The News

Norfolk Catholic high school students got a lesson in government Monday afternoon from U.S. Rep. Jeff Fortenberry.

Fortenberry, who represents Nebraska's 1st District in the House of Representatives, not only explained what communities make up his district — including those in Madison County — but why the United States' government functions the way it does.

"In our modern society we study things, but we aren't deeply connected to their foundations," Fortenberry said. "So to try to unpack for young people the history of our country, the meaning of the sacrifice that so many people gave before us, and the construct of government that I now live on their behalf to me is very exciting and interesting."

Fortenberry spoke about why the United States functions as a democracy — as opposed to a monarchy — and why every U.S. citizen has certain unalienable rights — life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. He also touched on why local government handles certain laws and regulations while the federal government focuses on others.

Near the end of his presentation, when students were allowed to ask questions, it led to some interesting discussion.

"Like most students, they're adjusting — 'Who is this, why are you here?' And after a time, they warm up and ask very interesting questions," Fortenberry said after his presentation had concluded.

Some questions were personal, like what are his hobbies and where does he reside. But many hit on hot-button issues in society, like what's the last thing Fortenberry voted on and what are his thoughts on North Korea.

Respectively, the answers were tax reform and, while it's complicated, Fortenberry hoped a diplomatic approach could be taken with North Korea and its threats to continue to arm itself with nuclear weapons.

"You can see the conversation move to be much more reflective about the issues of today," he said.

Some students were even interested in how to pursue a career in politics, to which Fortenberry answered: Get an education and pursue internships or page positions with local politicians.

Fortenberry's hope, he said, was that students walked away Monday with a deeper understanding of what America means.

"All people have an inherent dignity and rights and we have a shared responsibility for ourselves for the rights that we enjoy, but also for others," Fortenberry said. "That's the basis of our government and our culture. That's why it presents itself as so attractive to so many people because not everyone has that true liberty."

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