Inside Congress: The Inconvenient Truth

Led by Congressman Chris Shays – Tuesdays at 4:15 PM in FDR


When I was in third grade I became a voracious reader, consuming every kid's version of great Americans, and felt I wanted to be part of our government and its glorious history.

The 1960 Presidential campaign of John F Kennedy, his promotion of the Peace Corps, and his famous words, "ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country" only increased my enthusiasm, but it was not until I was in high school that I thought part of my government service might include running for public office.

Two years in the Peace Corps with my wife Betsi, eighteen months as a mayor's aide, thirteen years as a State Representative, twenty-one years as a Congressman, and two years heading the Commission on Wartime Contracting, were the result of my heartfelt desire, nurtured by devoted teachers, and a caring wife and parents.

With this as background, I hope to engage students from the perspective of elective office, and inspire a knowledge and appreciation of what it takes to be an engaged citizen, a persuasive public advocate, a dedicated government employee, and an effective elected official.

The first study group will focus on the WORK REQUIRED OF CONGRESSMEN AND WOMEN, and what it means to be an effective representative, understanding who they represent, and how they represent them.  In this 24/7 job, serving as a Member of Congress is like attending a large university, and being required to know something about nearly every subject the university offers.  Legislators tend to know a little about practically everything, and specialize and are truly knowledgeable, in just a few areas.

The second study group will examine why we are a DIVIDED NATION, and what can and must be done to restore Americans' faith in their government, and its elected leaders.  

The third through seventh study groups will examine FIVE ISSUES facing our country and its leaders. These issues are selected based on their importance, and the difficulty (Congress and the White House; Senate and House; Democrats and Republicans; liberals and conservatives; white and black, urban and rural; east and west; north and south; in land and coast land; rich and poor) have finding common ground, or even wanting to find common ground. 

Five of the following six issues will be selected.  Their order of selection, will be based on which guests are available, and when they are available.  These issues, all involving inconvenient truths, are: 

IMMIGRATION - The inconvenient truth: We have lost control of our borders.  We will examine... who should be allowed to immigrate to the United States, and who that are here illegally, should be allowed to stay?  

US BUDGET - The inconvenient truth: We are bankrupting our children and denying them a better future.  We will examine... how do we get our federal government's financial house in order when entitlements and debt service are on automatic pilot, and defense spending is such a large part of the budget?  

ISLAMIST TERRORISM - The inconvenient truth: The cold war is over but the world is a more dangerous place.  We will examine... how do we successfully confront Islamist terrorists, without being at war with all of Islam?

HUMAN TRAFFICKING - The inconvenient truth: Millions of women and children are sex slaves with the world community turning a blind eye. We will examine... why should human trafficking be an issue the United States needs to address, and how do we confront it? 

TRADE - The inconvenient truth: A trade war will cause a catastrophic world recession, with no true winners.  We will examine... what can we do to ensure trade agreements are fairer to the United States, strictly enforced, and not the cause of a global economic meltdown?

ENERGY/ENVIRONMENT - The inconvenient truth: Continued reliance on carbon fuels will devastate our planet.  We will examine... how do we move as quickly as possible to renewable non-invasive energy without disrupting economic growth, and the livelihood of millions of Americans?

MISCELLANEOUS: This category will allow us to explore an unanticipated inconvenient truth that may need to be addressed.

The eighth and final study group will look at reforms advocates champion that are designed to enable our leaders to better address the inconvenient truths that confront us. We will examine the merits of these reforms, and what it will take to implement them?  As in the seven proceeding study groups, students will be asked to analyze these reforms from the perspective of a Member of Congress.

When time permits the last 15 minutes of each study group will be spent discussing a major event of the week.