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US representative urges Nolan Middle School students to get involved

Students received encouragement from Congressman Vern Buchanan to be part of the political process.

Congressman Vern Buchanan talks to R. Dan Nolan Middle School students about what he does as a congressman.
Congressman Vern Buchanan talks to R. Dan Nolan Middle School students about what he does as a congressman.
Photo by Liz Ramos
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With children under 18 making up 22% of the U.S. population of more than 336 million people, Congressman Vern Buchanan let R. Dan Nolan Middle School students know they will be part of a powerful group in the future.

“They’re 100% of the future, so whatever we can do to encourage them to realize their full potential, that’s my mission,” Buchanan said.

Buchanan stood in front of students in Nolan Middle School’s Student Government Association as well as pre-Advanced Placement History students Feb. 9 and shared his story of how he went from a successful businessman to serving in Congress for 17 years.

For many of the students, Buchanan’s visit was the first opportunity they had to meet a politician.

Eighth grader Emilia Kulikowski said Buchanan’s talk was inspiring because he emerged from the local community.

Macoy Kmetz, a seventh grader who met Buchanan when he was 11 years old, said it was a privilege to have him at his school and to hear how the government works first-hand. Metz had a photo of him meeting the Congressman when he was younger, and Buchanan was happy to sign it.

Buchanan said he wasn’t invested in learning about politics and the government when he was the same age as the middle school students, but it’s important for them to eventually be involved in politics. He encouraged students, if they’re interested, to intern at his office in Lakewood Ranch or in Washington D.C. He said students can volunteer to help a politician during the campaign process.

He stressed that every vote counts, and noted he won his first election by 369 votes.

Students said they recognize the importance of their vote.

“I’s important we as citizens get to use our right to vote to make our country what we want,” said seventh grader Katie Kuhlmann.

Buchanan said his most important message was to let the students know they will have a plethora of opportunities and it’s their hard work that will make the best out of the “cards they are dealt.”

“Kids need to have a positive vision for the future," Buchanan said. "If they do, there’s a high probability they’ll be successful. If you don’t feel you will have a good future, you probably won’t do half of what you could do.”

Buchanan spent most of his visit answering questions, such as:

Do representatives of opposing parties work together or do they find it a difficult to progress in the law-making process?

“That’s the way it’s supposed to work, but it doesn’t necessarily work that way today. I’m probably one of the most bipartisan members because once you get elected, you work for everybody. Even though this district (16th Congressional District) might be half Democrats and half Republicans, I don’t even care whether they’re Democrats or Republicans. What I care about is helping them with their issue. You can only get things done with the other party. You can’t get anything done otherwise, especially under the current circumstances. That’s basically the attitude I have. I tell people I’m humbled as a blue collar kid to be a member of Congress but at the end of the day, I’m a Representative and I work for everybody. It’s not my agenda. It’s your agenda.”

What surprised you most about the job?

“I think it’s just how tough it is to get things done. The way they set up the Constitution, it’s very impossible to pass a bill because we have to get through the House and get it through the Senate and get the President to sign it. That being said, I’ve had, I think, 30-35 bills that I passed on a bipartisan basis, and most of them were signed into law.

How do you balance your personal beliefs with the opinions of the citizens?

“I try as best I can to focus on who I represent. I do polling every Sunday and I ask people their opinion. The polling we do is mainly Manatee and Hillsborough counties. Most people who vote for me, they know where I stand on a lot of the issues. I have to look at all the facts and different sources and try to make a decision.”



Liz Ramos

Liz Ramos covers education and community for East County. Before moving to Florida, Liz was an education reporter for the Lynchburg News & Advance in Virginia for two years after graduating from the Missouri School of Journalism.

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