Students at East Lincoln Middle School got a civics lesson straight from a politician. Rep. Patrick McHenry, a Denver Republican, visited with several different classes at the school Friday. His first visit was with a sixth grade social studies class where the students were able to ask questions of the representative.
“What’s the hardest part about being in Congress?” one student asked.
“The schedule,” McHenry replied. “I have to fly back and forth to Washington. I fly out of the Charlotte airport and I have to go through the security line like everybody else, wait for the flight, the flight gets delayed, I wait.”
When Congress is in session, McHenry explained, his days usually run from 8:30 in the morning to nine or ten at night.
“It’s hard to be away from my family so much,” he said. “That’s the biggest challenge.”
Another student asked what issues McHenry is working on.
“I’m the lead member of my party on the financial services committee,” he said. “The financial services committee deals with regulating banks, Wall Street, real estate and if my party were in the majority of the house I would be the chair of the committee. That’s where I spend most of my time.”
McHenry then detailed some of the “exciting” things that he’s dealt with like flood insurance, terrorism risk insurance and housing finance reform and asked if the class wanted to talk about that, which they answered with a resounding “no.”
“We’re involved in your lives, but in weird ways,” he said.
Another student asked why McHenry wanted to run for Congress, to which he responded, “to try to help people and to change the way things were being done.” Another student asked what his normal day is like.
“There’s no normal day,” he said. “For most of the year, I’m in Washington Monday through Friday. When I’m back here in North Carolina, I get to visit schools and businesses and talk to chambers of commerce, civic organizations and meet with elected officials to keep tabs on what’s happening in our district. Then I can take that back to Washington to try to help people back here.”
Each week he’s out of session, McHenry said that he tries to visit at least one school, one business and speak to different groups. McHenry takes his family back and forth with him to Washington so while he’s there, he said that he tries to spend time with them in the morning. From 9 a.m. on, he’s in meetings and hearings throughout the day. After that, he starts hitting receptions and dinners.
The next class that McHenry visited was an eighth grade technology class where students had constructed roller coasters out of cardboard and were testing their designs by running marbles along the track and timing the progression. He also spoke with Heather Spicola, a science teacher at East Lincoln Middle School and visited with an exceptional student self-contained math class.
While passing through the hallway, he met Steve Hoyle, a janitor at the school who had reached out to McHenry’s office a couple of years ago for assistance getting disability payments for his wife.
“I called up his office and told them that she was going to die before she gets her disability,” he said. “Within two weeks, she had it. We had a rough time back then but this really saved us.”