US Congressmen visit De Montfort University in Leicester


By Rachael Pengelly

TWO former US Congressmen spoke to students in Leicester today about their many achievements but also the frustrations of trying to govern one of the largest democracies in the world.

Sam Farr and Dan Benishek both left their positions in the US Congress this year and travelled to De Montfort University (DMU) in Leicester as part of the annual Congress to Campus scheme.

Students from all over Leicestershire attended the day-long event at DMU’s Hugh Aston building which included discussions on many different topics.

Mr Farr used to be the Democratic Congressman in California whilst Dan Benisheck was the Republican Congressman for a district in the State of Michigan.

The series of events was organised in collaboration with The Eccles Centre for American Studies which hosted events at the British Library on Monday and Tuesday.

The US visitors then visited DMU on Tuesday evening for an open Question and Answer session centred around Donald Trump’s first year as President of the United States.

Dan Benishek, said he was excited to be part of the day.

“I always like to talk to young people, going to schools in my district at home was fun because they have a lot of young people who don’t know a lot about politics and they’re curious.

“It’s fun to talk to them to hear their perspective too. So, this is an opportunity to do that after I am out of Congress so I was happy to take time from my schedule to do it.”

One of the students who attended from all over Leicestershire was Katie Mills, an A level student studying Politics at Pingle Academy in Derbyshire, said: “It was amazing and I learnt a lot it was incredible to have the opinions of someone on congress.”

Jack Vines a second year Politics and International Relations student at DMU, said: “I found today to be particularly interesting. You get to find out very different sides of being a congressman and how different aspects of US politics affects them.”

Clodagh Harrington, one of the event organisers, said: “I think Congress to Campus 2017 has been a roaring success.

“I was very interested to see how the whole trump issue would be managed and discussed and I think that has worked really well in terms of we had some really meaningfully different world views from our two visitors a very progressive California democrat and a genuinely Conservative Michigan Republican.

“The purpose of it all is to get people speaking and talking and questioning their own views. In this era of partisan polarisation and Brexit and it’s kind of us and them. If people are actually thinking, okay there’s another way to view this, it might not be my way, at least now I’m thinking I might understand another person’s perspective a little bit better, then that is our job done here.”

Mr Benishek told the Leicestershire Press: “I like coming to the United Kingdom anyway, I am sort of a fan of the UK. My wife and I came here on holiday years ago and she didn’t have the opportunity to come this time but hopefully we will be back again. A chance to have a few beers in the pub and talk to some folks. It was a good opportunity for me.”

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