The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

The Oldest College Weekly in America. Founded 1868.

The Colgate Maroon-News

Former Members of Congress Visit Campus

Former+Members+of+Congress+Visit+Campus
Colgate University

Two political advocacy groups, the Colgate Vote Project and Democracy Matters, co-sponsored a visit by two former U.S. representatives to Colgate University: Mike Capuano, a Democrat from Massachusetts, and John Faso, a Republican from New York. The visit, which occurred during the week of Feb. 26, was in partnership with an Association of Former Members of Congress (FMC) program called ‘Congress to Campus.’ The initiative typically sends two former members of Congress from opposing parties to college campuses to have bipartisan conversations.

During their time on campus, Capuano and Faso attended multiple political science classes for discussions and hosted a town hall and a brown bag lunch open to the Colgate community. After attending the class discussions, which centered around democracy and representative government, The Colgate Maroon-News interviewed Capuano and Faso, who described what they heard from students.

“[Students] were presenting some of the theories of constitutions and representative government that they had been studying and we were responding to some of those theories and trying to give a practical, real world example of how these things operate,” Faso said. 

Reflecting on the visit, Capuano shared a lesson he learned when attending college and protesting the Vietnam War, as well as environmental issues that stuck with him throughout his career.

“Why should you just sit back and accept things that aren’t fair?” Capuano asked. “You may not be able to change it, but you have an obligation to fight with every ounce of your soul.”

The congressmen also explained why they got involved with Congress to Campus.

“I just feel it’s important for us who’ve been involved and have been participants in the system to help young people understand it better,” Faso said. “And this provides a great forum for doing that.”

Capuano expressed that since he is retired, he feels it is his duty to encourage the younger generation to take over.

“I’m done; I’m tired. I’m not getting back on the field — you guys have to,” Capuano said. “So I [hope to] help encourage somebody to do it, [to] encourage anybody in your generation to just be at the table and to participate.”

A central theme from the congressmen’s visit, as indicated by their opposing political parties, was how future leaders can overcome the divisions in today’s political system. The congressmen discussed how disagreements are not confined to Capitol Hill, but rather a reflection of America’s current climate, meaning all Americans must contribute to improving this environment.

“We do need to have pursued consensus, and I’m a firm believer that we can make it happen. But we all have to work at it to keep the progress going forward,” Faso said.

This message stood out to sophomore Logan Wilson, a member of Colgate’s chapter of Democracy Matters. Wilson helped organize the lunch between the congressmen and student leaders from the Colgate Vote Project, Democracy Matters, the College Republicans and the College Democrats.

“They very clearly had differences in opinion, but they did not let that get in the way of being cordial with each other,” Wilson said. “One of the biggest themes they talked about was the idea of compromise and the need for compromising with other people in order to get things done; it can’t be your way or the highway every time, and you need to be able to come to an agreement.”

The congressmen demonstrated this more open-minded attitude while discussing gun rights at the town hall held on Monday, Feb. 26. Capuano favored restrictions on gun purchases and recognized the impact of mental health on gun violence rates. 

“[Restrictions] might reduce the damage. I wish I had a better answer,” Capuano said.

On the other hand, Faso advocated for re-evaluating the Second Amendment to protect gun ownership.

“The notion that you’re going to simply be able to ban something isn’t really going to work,” Faso said. 

First-year Louis Derechin attended the town hall and found the congressmen’s discussion of compromise refreshing. 

“It was interesting to hear them talk. I liked to hear them talk about polarization, because I feel like from the outside, a lot of the time you don’t see Congressmen trying to compromise,” Derechin said. “Their talk of their aspirations for compromise was interesting and kind of refreshing to hear.”

During their interview with the Maroon-News, the former Congressmen shared advice on how to have difficult conversations surrounding controversial topics, stressing how important it is to expose oneself to a wide array of opinions. 

“It’s best to be challenged and to be open to a range of opinions on some of these difficult topics,” Faso said. “Because the natural tendency of all of us is to just read the things and watch the things we agree with. It gives us comfort, and to get out of your comfort zone is really important.”

Capuano agreed with Faso and reiterated that compromise is a crucial factor.

“Too many people think that today’s compromise is selling your soul and selling out and that you gave up,” Capuano said. “I fought as hard as I could and, yes, it’s a judgment as to when to give in […]. That’s not failure, that’s success.”

Faso and Capuano gave advice to college students interested in going into policy-making. Their biggest suggestion was to get involved.

“Just be involved. Don’t sit in an ivory tower, just thinking [and] talking about it,” Capuano said. “Get dirty. It’s a messy, dirty world.” 

Faso agreed and urged students to use college to their advantage as much as possible.

“These are four years you’re never going to get back,” Faso said. “These are four years when we have unique opportunities. When you’re in it, you probably don’t see it as much. But boy, I tell you that four years, it’s over in a snap. It really goes fast.”

To this effect, Wilson shared why he joined Democracy Matters at Colgate after the congressmen’s visit.

“I want to be more involved in getting people politically involved, I suppose, since I feel like college students — especially on this campus — aren’t very involved politically. They don’t think about politics a ton, and they definitely don’t vote very much,” Wilson said. “Politics is very contentious right now and the only way to get people’s voices heard, for things to get better, is if people are more active in politics.”

Coming into the election year, Wilson shared that Democracy Matters plans to do more work on campus to encourage greater political participation in both New York and national elections, getting students involved and registered to vote.

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About the Contributors
Emma McCartan, Assistant News Editor
Emma McCartan is a sophomore from Guilford, CT majoring in international relations with a minor in Middle Eastern and Islamic studies. She has previously served as a staff writer for the News section. On campus, Emma is involved in Model United Nations.
Ellie Weber, News Editor
Ellie Weber is a junior from New York, NY concentrating in political science. She has previously served as a staff writer for the News section. On campus, Ellie is involved in the Comedy Sketch Club.

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