The auditorium at the Northampton High School was filled with students as Congressman Jim McGovern fielded questions in a town hall-style meeting on Friday afternoon. The students were engaged and their questions ran the gamut from what should be done about climate change to whether there should be a federal law mandating that minors be tried as juvenile offenders.
McGovern’s overall message for the audience of high-school students, most of which are still too young to vote, was get involved. “Step up and email your congressmen,” he said, and added to encourage friends and family in other states to do the same. “When you do something in Northampton, it’s heard around the state.”
He also recommended teens can get involved by phone-banking for candidates in other states. Later, he said “For a million reasons you need to speak up,” and continue to be passionate. “Politics have become exclusive, rather than inclusive,” the congressman said. To fix this, more women and candidates from a range of backgrounds should be encouraged to run for office, he said.
The biggest challenges McGovern sees in 2018 will be to protect the rule of law and make sure people don’t “get complacent about accepting this President.” He added that the current situation with the president is “not right” and “not normal.”
One student asked what topic the congressman is most passionate about. “Hunger,” McGovern said. “There’s not a city or town Massachusetts or the country that is hunger free.”
He said there are 42 million people in the United States who are hungry.
“Rather than give corporations a tax cut, how about ending hunger in this country? It’s maddening because we can solve it, we just don’t have the political will,” he said.
McGovern told another student that he would support lowering the voting age to 16 years of age. “I would. Yes, absolutely. I’ve had more intelligent and thoughtful conversations with you,” he gestured to the students, “than I have with many of my colleagues.”
McGovern walked a line when asked about opioid injection centers. He said that the goal was to get people off of opioids and that he’d like to see pharmaceutical companies held accountable for their role in the influx of opioids in communities. “But, as part of a medical treatment, I’d be open to it.”
After the event, McGovern was asked what he thought of the republican congressional memo regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s handling of the Russia investigation. He said, “I feel sad. It’s making a mockery of the intelligence community and politicizing a very serious issue. It’s a republican press release.” It worries McGovern that the president doesn’t seem concerned that Russia attacked the American democratic system and he said now is the time for lawmakers to ensure that President Trump does not fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller.