On April 18th, Blair Academy welcomed Josh Gottheimer, New Jersey’s representative from the 5th District, who has been trying to come to Blair for two years.
Gottheimer splits his time between Washington, D.C., and New Jersey. He is currently on recess, which allowed him to visit Blair. As a Democrat, no one believed that he could win in his district because it is predominantly Republican. He takes a bipartisan approach to politics, which means he aims to strike agreement between members of the two major political parties, which usually oppose one another. He tries not to worry about the national party, but rather what the people in the district want.
He reminded the audience that his job involves a lot of negotiating. Gottheimer believes that his job is to get things done, and goes by the motto, “You can’t always get what you want but most of the time there are compromises [to be made].”
As a Representative, Gottheimer is given a stack of papers to read every day and many constituents go to his office to talk to him on a regular basis. He goes to the town hall once a month and also goes to diners to meet the people he represents. All of these are different ways that people communicate with him. He has gotten a lot of attention at grocery stores, being pulled aside while shopping, and on social media.
One of the many things he feels best about accomplishing while in office was helping a constituent get social security.
He often works until 11pm four days a week, either Monday through Thursday or Tuesday through Friday. He has two kids and a wife in New Jersey, and when he is in Washington, he lives with 11 other members of Congress.
Gottheimer also focused on trying to find the middle ground, giving the example of school safety. He says the key is to try to understand how the other side thinks, which he aimed to do by getting take out and talking for 40 hours with a bipartisan group about what to do next.
The talk was followed by questions. One student asked, “Do you think that getting both sides to talk can [get]the change that you want…?” Gottheimer believes that yes, it is possible because “how you talk about [the problem] is everything.”
Another asked, “ Do you think people are aware of your wins like they are of your losses?” People want to talk about the failures, the Representative noted, but not about the successes.
When a student asked whether he would recommend going into politics, Gottheimer responded by saying that they should come intern with him, pay attention to issues, and get involved in a campaign. The importance of voting was emphasized, as well as speaking up.
(Copyright 2019 Akshar Aiyer)