Last Thursday, February 23, two former Congress members visited Millersville University. Millersville students got the opportunity to interact with former Democrat Congressperson Loretta Sanchez of California and also former Republican Congressperson Donald Manzullo of Illinois.
Mrs. Sanchez served as a member of the House of Representatives from 1997-2017 in California. She served on multiple committees during her service time such as the following: Armed Services, Education and the Workforce, Homeland Security, and National Security. Mrs. Sanchez was also on the Joint Economic Committee.
Mr. Manzullo served as the U.S Representative of Illinois from 1993-2012. Mr. Manzullo also served on several different committees throughout his time as a member of Congress. Some of his assignments included: Small Businesses and Financial Services, which included Capital Markets, Government Sponsored Enterprises, and Domestic and International Monetary Policy.
Students interested in learning more about Mrs. Sanchez and Mr. Manzullo can read about them at these respective links: http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/S/SANCHEZ,-Loretta-(S000030)/ and http://history.house.gov/People/Listing/M/MANZULLO,-Donald-A–(M001138)/.
In a “Politics and Pasta” session, the two former members of the House of Representatives conversed with students about their first-hand experience in politics and extensive knowledge. Students were encouraged to bring questions and friends to the buffet and question session. Faculty and staff were also cordially invited. The event was held from 4-6pm in the Lehr Room of Gordinier Hall.
In an interview moderated by MU faculty member Dr. Robert Spicer, the former Congress members expressed their enthusiasm to be speaking at Millersville.
“We’re very impressed with the quality of the students and the professors and the connection between them,” stated Mr. Manzullo.
Mr. Manzullo represented the 16th district of Illinois, which stretches across the northern part of Illinois touching Iowa and Wisconsin. According to Mr. Manzullo, the area he represented was diverse and heavy in agriculture, heavy manufacturing, as well as financial businesses.
“It was an area of intense diversity in terms of occupations of the people,” stated Mr. Manzullo.
Mr. Manzullo practiced law in Illinois before he became a Congressperson. Mr. Manzullo dreamed since he was ten years old of becoming a Congressperson, a lifelong dream that he successfully fulfilled.
Mrs. Sanchez represented the 47th congressional district of California. The area Mrs. Sanchez served in was described by her as “one of the most diverse districts in our nation both in ethnicity and race and economic status.”
Mrs. Sanchez’s specialty was in her committee assignments concerning the military. Mrs. Sanchez is the daughter of two Mexican immigrant parents who boast not just one, but two daughters who served or are currently serving as members of Congress. Mrs. Sanchez’s sister is still serving.
Mrs. Sanchez and Mr. Manzullo addressed issues about the public’s negative view of Congress members.
Mrs. Sanchez emphasized the House of Representatives as an organization which represents the people.
“A good congressperson goes home, works with, talks to, understands the needs of the people they represent and then they go to the House of Representatives where there are 434 other members doing the same thing,” stated Mrs. Sanchez.
Congresspersons are often popular in their own districts, and yet Congress as whole remains viewed negatively by the public.
Mrs. Sanchez partially attributes this to the fact that extremes are portrayed in the press because these extremes “sensationalize” current issues.
Mrs. Sanchez stated that Congress members are working hard to resolve issues relevant to the American people. “They are working very hard to fashion something that will fit as many people across the United States as possible,” stated Mrs. Sanchez.
Mr. Manzullo discussed the original ideas behind the making of the Constitution. Power was purposefully defused in order to avoid a one-party power.
“What’s really difficult to explain is that the Constitution was designed for conflict,” stated Mr. Manzullo.
Mr. Manzullo commented on the camaraderie in Congress back in the 1990s. Mr. Manzullo remarked about the way the atmosphere has changed, stating that there have been problems especially in the Republican Party. Mrs. Sanchez also commented on the changed atmosphere and “behind the scenes” actions within Congress.
“The reality is that many of us are working together, certainly it was more prevalent in the Congress when I began 20 years ago than as of late,” Mrs. Sanchez stated.
“The more outlandish of a comment you make, the more likely you are to end up on the nightly news,” Mrs. Sanchez stated. Mrs. Sanchez compared these fights between opposing political extremes to a bad traffic accident that people want to watch.
“The people towards the middle were really the ones who would fashion the deals and get things done,” Mrs. Sanchez stated. Mrs. Sanchez commented on how the “middle” has seemed to disappear in both the Democratic and Republican Parties.
The two Congresspersons offered advice for people thinking about running for Congress. Mrs. Sanchez offered two pieces of advice for people considering a career in public service. First, she suggested that potential candidates be the best that they can possibly be in their professional area, whether that field is related to politics or not.
“That tells me you’re going to work hard for me,” stated Mrs. Sanchez.
Secondly, Mrs. Sanchez suggested people go and volunteer in an actual campaign. This way, they can learn about the nitty-gritty of running for a position, the public speaking, raising funds, and going door-to-door to promote the campaign.
Mr. Manzullo also commented on the difficulties of running for Congress.
“You have to start with a servant’s heart,” stated Mr. Manzullo. “Why are you running for office? If you think it’s just because you’re qualified, that’s not sufficient.” According to Mr. Manzullo, public servants must learn to go without sleep and be willing to put in long hours during the week.
The two former Congresspersons also visited one of Millersville ROTC’s classes. There, the two former House Representatives talked about their first-hand political experience, particularly in regards to military matters, in Congress and held a Q&A session with cadets.
Millersville University was honored to have two Congresspersons visit it and spend time discussing their personal stories and unique journeys to Congress as well as their experience serving the people of the United States of America.