Hobart students grill congressman
By Michael Gonzalez Post-Tribune correspondent May 14, 2014 5:44PM
U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky addresses eight-grade students at Hobart Middle School Wednesday, May 14, 2014. Visclosky spoke to about 225 students on topics ranging from the South Shore rail line extension to family life in Washington, D.C. | Michael Gonzalez~for Sun-Times Media
Updated: June 17, 2014 1:51PM
HOBART — Joe Smith had plenty of questions to ask U.S. Rep. Pete Visclosky, but the Hobart Middle School eighth-grader realized there would not be nearly enough time to get answers.
An immigration detention center that has been the buzz around Hobart for months drew much of Smith’s attention.
“I’m really into community politics, so whatever benefits my town, I’m all for it,” he said. “But this detention center, it’s not the greatest fit for this town. (Visclosky) said he wanted to help support small businesses, but if I had a small business and heard they wanted to put a detention center in that town, that would really scare me away.”
A company that specializes in the construction and operation of such detention centers, the GEO Group, bought land in the city but has not formally proposed plans to build.
Visclosky has been making annual stops at the middle school for about 10 years, social studies teacher Susan Buha said. The 14- and 15-year-olds generally do not follow the issues that affect their city, but the visits have an extra value, Buha said.
“It’s not every day they can meet a United States representative,” she said. “They want to ask questions about what his normal day is like, what does he do, what goes into his work. They really want to feel that personal touch.”
Visclosky spent time with about 225 students Wednesday talking about his work on Capitol Hill and about his work in Lake County gathering financial support for a proposed South Shore commuter rail line extension from Hammond to Dyer. He shared personal information, such as his plans as a teenager to become a Roman Catholic priest and the times he took his two sons to Capitol Hill to watch him cast important votes.
Visclosky touched on last fall’s federal government shutdown and the way the government touches most Americans’ lives and what he learns from young people.
“They ask such unadulterated questions,” he said. “Most adults speak from how something’s going to affect them, but these kids ask direct questions.”
Aaron Morin, 14, said Visclosky’s visit was a boost to his career goal.
“I want to be president someday, but I want to be straightforward,” Morin said. “I probably won’t be able to talk as well, but I’ll be able to talk straightforward. I like to help people, so I’m thinking, if not president, maybe I’ll be a doctor.”