Two former congressmen talk to students over pizza

Dan Miller (left) and Mark Cirtz (right) addressed large issues facing the nation. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Bundra.

Kelsey Bundra 

The Robert S. Walker Center for Civic Leadership and Responsibility at Millersville and the Stennis Center for Public Service brought former representatives Mark Critz and Dan Miller to campus. The October 26 event was held in the University Room in Gordiner Hall. Students were able to have a roundtable discussion with the former members of congress. Government classes taught by Dr. Robert Bookmiller and Dr. Adam Lawrence were also able to ask the former congressmen questions during their class time.

Mark Critz worked as a democratic representative in western Pennsylvania. He started his career in the House of Representatives after the Congressman John P. Murtha passed away. Critz was working as a staffer for Murtha and decided to run for his seat. He was elected in May 2010 and then reelected in November 2010. Critz served until January 2013.

Dan Miller served as a republican representative in Florida from 1993 to 2003. Miller retired from congress in 2003 because he wanted to keep his promise. When running for the seat, he promised he would have a term limit of ten years. Neither congressmen had held office before they were elected into the House of Representatives. Both focused on different issues while in office. Critz was a member of the House Armed Services Committee. He was recognized for his service to the US’ military by receiving the Patrick Henry Award by the National Guard Association of the United States in 2008. This award is the highest civilian award given by the National Guard. Critz also worked with the House Small Business Committee. He co-founded the House Marcellus Shale Caucus. Critz worked to strengthen Social Security and Medicare. Currently, Critz joined Governor Tom Wolf’s administration as Executive Director of the Rural Development Council.

Miller served on the House Appropriations Committee and the Budget Committee. He was Chairman of the Census subcommittee and helped conduct a successful census in 2000. Miller wished to balance the federal budget and fight corporate welfare. As a result, the federal budget had a surplus for three years. On 9/11, Miller was with President George W. Bush at Booker Elementary School. He flew with him on Air Force One. He is currently, he has returned to academia. Miller has taught at over twenty universities across the country and around the world. Congress to campus is meant to bridge the gap between academia and real world politics. During the classes of Bookmiller and Lawrence, the former congressmen answered questions. Miller was asked about the atmosphere of 9/11 when he was with Bush. He teared up while answering. “We were pulled aside and watching it on the TV,” Miller said. They were briefed by someone in the CIA but they didn’t have TV’s on the Air Force One.

“I could tell [Bush] was going to do everything he can to prevent something like that from happening again,” Miller said.

A student asked Critz if military experience is necessary to serve in congress. “Military experience is always good. Does it mean that you are going to be a great member of congress: absolutely not,” Critz said. He went on to explain that government officials are less likely to use military action if they once were in the military.

The subject of obtaining a career in public service was brought up. Miller explained that he experience with community service helped him serve in the House of Representatives. Critz worked in the in congressional office, learning how campaigns work as a volunteer. He made a suggestion, volunteer for someone in office.

Critz explained the process of politics. He said that representatives will support bills that they know will not pass because they want to show the constituents we do things to show that we support something to show the constituents, even if they know it’s not going to pass, members good people got swept away both democrats and republicans, defense and agriculture used to be non-partisan but that has changed Miller has experienced his own self-imposed term limit. A student asked him how he feels about term limits for members of congress. It was a campaign promise he made and kept but he told the class that he had “mixed opinions” on term limits.

Dan Miller (left) and Mark Cirtz (right) addressed large issues facing the nation. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Bundra.
Dan Miller (left) and Mark Cirtz (right) addressed large issues facing the nation. Photo courtesy of Kelsey Bundra.

Dealing with their respective parties has been a challenge for both. Critz said that he had a hard time with fellow democrats being angry that he was not more like them. Miller said he felt safe in his district because they historically vote republican, but it was running in the primary that was frustrating to him.

Miller went on to talk about how much time is devoted to re-election. He stayed active by going to town hall meetings. Critz said a good way to get reelected is to “do your job and let them know that you are doing your job.”

The discussion was then focused on the current round of presidential nominee debates. “With ten people you have very little time,” Miller said, referring to the recent republican debates. He also questions if the nominees understand the policy issues.

“Donald trump is unelectable,” Miller said.

Voter registration for the younger generation has been a recent issue that many have been discussing. “Old white people vote,” Miller said. Critz agreed with Miller and said that he doesn’t understand the younger generation’s disinterest with voting.

“You have access to more information now than any time in history” Critz said. Critz urged students to become more educated about politics.

One issue that Miller and Critz were split on was raising the minimum wage. Critz said that if the minimum wage is raised, people making the increased wage will pump the extra money back into the economy. Then he says the economy will flourish because of the increased spending. Miller argued that raising the minimum wage would not be beneficial to the economy. He said it will cost jobs. Critz and Miller discussed a third party being introduced into American politics. Critz was in favor a third party because he said “it brings up issues that need to be talked about.”

“I think we are stuck with the two party system,” Miller said.

Overall, students in attendance of both the events enjoyed listening to the insight of the former congressmen. Students were able to ask the former representatives questions about politics over pizza. Bridging the gap between politics and academia benefited both the students and the former congressmen.