Rep. Jason Lewis' missed opportunities
On Saturday, Feb. 25, I attended a town hall meeting in Burnsville, the last of three town halls scheduled for Rep. Jason Lewis during his week home from Congress. These meetings were created in hopes that it would compel the congressman to participate in dialogue with the constituents of his district. Unfortunately, Rep. Lewis was a no-show for all three events.
Recently, when asked if he would be holding any town hall style meetings, Rep. Lewis explained that he did not want to have a town hall because it would be a "political point-scoring event filter(ed) down from nationally organized 'indivisible' groups." He was only interested in "respectful exchange with those who want to be heard." He believed that the best way to do this was by group telephone calls.
What I found at the meeting was not a gang of rowdy protesters. The people I met were friendly, articulate and kind. They were everyday people with real concerns about how the government's choices would affect their lives, the lives of people they care about and the community they live in. I met Democrats, Republicans and Independents who were all seeking a respectful dialogue with the public servant who was elected to help them. Those attending were not looking to score points. The constituents were wondering what Rep. Lewis was going to do to preserve their right to health care, stand up for Minnesota's great public schools and protect the environment, to name a few.
One participant of the meeting was a recently retired high school teacher. She taught for over 30 years and worked with people from many different backgrounds. She believed that being a good congressman was a lot like being a good teacher, in that when working with people you must listen to understand. The key to successful public service is to take the time to get to know where people are coming from. As much as Rep. Lewis would like to stay in the safe bubble of group phone calls that mimic the talk radio style to which he has grown accustomed, he must break out of his comfort zone and meet with his constituents in person; he must really listen to understand, instead of simply replying with canned talking points.
Rep. Lewis missed three great opportunities to connect with his constituents. What a shame. Let's hope in the future he makes a better choice.