Written by Charlotte Law
Striding past groups of noisy lunch-eaters, this reporter squeezed her way in to the Dan Rather room. Republican Congressman Peter “Pete” Sessions intrigued and excited students at the ‘Careers in Politics’ event last Friday. The forum opened with an introduction from Dr. O’Neill from the Political Science department. Pete Sessions, who graduated from Southwestern University in 1978, began the discussion by expressing admiration for Southwestern’s close-knit community and the subsequent interpersonal skills he learned here. He then opened up the meeting for questions. The audience, which was composed mainly of students from one of Dr. O’Neill’s classes, had typed, prepared questions for Representative Sessions. The topics ranged from the conference committees he has served on to the possible conflicts between representation and re-election. When discussing the nature of working in Congress, Pete Sessions discussed the “outlandish power” held by the Senate, and that if Barack Obama wins the current presidential election, there will be unequal representation and very limited room for conservative issues or discussion. He also mentioned that there are blackmail and bribery techniques employed by the senate to not pass bills. Session claimed, “[It is better to pass] a bad piece of legislation than none at all.”
When Sessions was asked if he ever felt the need to distance himself from the Republican Party, he stated that there are times when politicians have not followed the party line, and that he becomes separated in this way. One example he used of not staying true to the Republican Party was U.S. President George W. Bush. Sessions claimed that he adopted ideas from Ted Kennedy, such as the No Child Left Behind act. He also did not approve of Bush’s action on immigration, which Sessions felt focused too much on homeland security and not on boarder control. His discontent was also felt in the statement that “[Bush] did not veto a single bill.” A student asked Session of current members of Congress he thinks would not be re-elected. Due to the recent sex scandal allegations of Representative Tim Mahoney would greatly affect his chance at re-elections. Republican Tom Feeney was also named as a possible politician to not be reelected. On the issue of healthcare, where Session “spent a lot of time on” is a very divided issue between the parties in the house. “The democrats are 100% sold on socialized health care,” claimed Sessions, while Republicans are strongly opposed to these measures. Sessions outlined potential negative effects of a public health institution.
The reactions from the students on the forum were positive. One attendee said, “I wasn’t interested in the internship going in, but now I’m considering it. [Pete Sessions] was very personal, and I felt I could connect with him.” Another student said, “I think that Pete Sessions is a really straight and open guy, and he is not afraid of answering the hard questions. I also appreciate the fact that he is so open with his Washington Semester… He makes it much easier to get work up there. My friends are really excited about the possibility of interning with him.”
Pete Sessions was born in Waco, Texas, where he grew up. After graduating from SU, he took up a job with Southwestern Bell where he worked for 16 years. In 1996, the people of Dallas sent Congressman Sessions to represent them in the House of Representatives. In 2002, Sessions began to represent the 32nd district, which encompasses the areas east and north of Dallas. Sessions as two sons, one of which, Bill, is currently a first year at Southwestern. Along with serving on many Congressional committees and caucuses, he is also member of the Rules committee.
The Washington semester encompasses interests and opportunities from a variety of disciplines, from politics and economics to fine arts, health and journalism. Students work at Capitol Hill, in the White House, the courts or as a part of a special interest group. A student is paired with a politician or group that best suits his or her political leanings or interests. Twelve to fifteen credit hours can be obtained by this internship and students reside in apartments on Capitol Hill. This opportunity results from a relationship that Southwestern holds with the United Methodist College at Washington Consortium. Details and a downloadable application can be found on the Southwestern website. Sessions claimed that students need “the interest and acumen” to pursue this internship, and there are cases of people who have gone on to work in Washington after their time at Southwestern.
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